Tone-Deaf ‘Climate Czar’ John Kerry Wrong Again, This Time on Refugees

Even as Russia’s war in the Ukraine kills thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children in bombed out hospital maternity wards, John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s special envoy on climate change, just can’t stop minimizing the impact of the war on real people today by comparing them to speculative impacts of climate change.

A Fox New story, titled “John Kerry: Ukraine crisis is bad, but ‘wait until you see’ flood of climate refugees,” reports that at a recent speaking event in Houston, Texas, Kerry said that although the Ukrainian refugee crisis created by the Russian invasion is a “problem,” it is nothing compared to the refugee crisis climate change is causing.

“We’re already seeing climate refugees around the world,” said Kerry. “If you think migration has been a problem in Europe in the Syrian War or even from what we see now, wait until you see 100 million people for whom the entire food production capacity has collapsed.”

Kerry’s claims are false. This is not the first time Kerry proved tone-deaf by comparing the real harms seen daily on the news arising from Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, to the theoretical, model simulated harms from climate change. As discussed at Climate Realism, here, just days before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, Kerry expressed his fear that a conflict in the Ukraine would divert peoples’ attention from the supposed climate crisis.

Data presented in multiple previous Climate Realism posts, here, here, here, and here, for instance, demonstrate Kerry’s claims that climate change is causing an immigration crisis are false.

Indeed, in 2021, Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei, chastised the Biden administration, in the form of Vice President Kamala Harris, for claiming illegal immigration from Guatemala and the southern Americas to the United States was being caused by climate change. Giammattei said the spike in illegal immigration to the United States in 2021 was not due to changed climate conditions in Guatemala but rather to the more welcoming message to migrants by the Biden administration.

Kerry’s claim that declining food production will cause an even greater crisis going forward, echoes similar claims that have been thoroughly refuted by data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, presented in Climate Realism posts concerning migration from Ethiopia, the Maldives, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, for instance.

Indeed, as discussed in more than 120 Climate Realism stories published over the past two years, claims that crop production is declining due to global warming are lies. The articles, covering a range of crops and regions of the earth, tell a consistent story of higher production and improved yields during the Earth’s modest warming.

For example, for the  “big three” staple cereal crops, corn, wheat, and rice, FAO data show between 1961 and 2020, the last year for which the FAO has final records (see the figure 1, below):

  • Corn production has increased by approximately 467 percent;
  • Rice production has grown by about 251 percent;
  • Wheat production has risen by more than 242 percent.

Figure 1: Corn, Rice, and Wheat Production 1961-2020

Agronomy explains why crop production is booming under changing climate conditions. As detailed by the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change in Climate Change Reconsidered: Biological Impacts and Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels, the carbon dioxide humans have been pumping into the air since the middle of the 20th century has enriched plant growth and improved plants’ water use efficiency, thereby contributing to record crop yields. This aided in bringing about the largest decline in hunger, malnutrition, and starvation in human history.

In short, nothing Kerry said, when he heartlessly downplayed the tragedy of the present Ukrainian forced immigration crisis by comparing it to the purported threat of climate refugees, is true. Climate change is not forcing people to flee their home countries and there is no evidence-based reason to believe it will do so in the future. Nor does climate change threaten a collapse of world food production, which is, in fact being enhanced by longer growing seasons, improved rainfall, and higher carbon dioxide concentrations.

The Biden administration needs to shut Kerry up, before he further undermines U.S.’s standing in the world by putting his gold-plated foot in his mouth yet again by harping on about the dangers from climate change being greater than the much more pressing real world crises raging in Ukraine and other areas around the world today.

H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News. In addition to directing The Heartland Institute's Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, Burett puts Environment & Climate News together, is the editor of Heartland's Climate Change Weekly email, and the host of the Environment & Climate News Podcast.

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