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Key Words: ‘We are actually living through the consequences’ of the climate-change crisis with Russia’s attack of Ukraine, Kerry says

“‘Instability, conflict, death [and] destruction’ in Ukraine takes place in the context of the ‘global existential crisis’ of global warming.”

That’s U.S. climate envoy, onetime secretary of state and former presidential candidate John Kerry, speaking to global security leaders Wednesday, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stretched into a second week.

“We are actually living through the consequences of that [climate-change] crisis,” Kerry said.

Russia’s “illegal, unprovoked” and “cruel” war against Ukraine, an extension of a conflict from 2014, is underscoring the several ways in which peace, security and a stable climate are linked, Kerry said. He was virtually addressing an informal U.N. Security Council meeting on Climate Finance for Sustaining Peace.

“The crisis in Ukraine really does underscore the risks that we face in the current volatile and uncertain energy markets,” Kerry said.

Read: Wartime market volatility on display as stocks surge, dollar and oil plunge

Kerry has been criticized by Republicans and others for painting the Ukraine conflict with the broad stroke of climate change, with his detractors saying the more immediate energy crisis calls for more U.S. drilling of oil and gas in order to retain U.S. energy independence.

The average retail price for gasoline in the U.S. has soared to a record well above $4 a gallon and oil futures prices
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+0.85%

hit 14-year highs.

Republicans on congressional energy panels have been emboldened to suggest that drilling more traditional sources, such as oil
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-11.41%

and natural gas
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on U.S. land and water is the key to energy independence and geopolitical security. Fossil-fuel combustion for energy accounts for 74% of total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, government data shows.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., didn’t mince words late last month as the Russian invasion appeared imminent. “Who the hell does John Kerry think he is? And, more importantly, is he unaware that widespread war is now possible in Europe for the first time in 77 years? This man is not the secretary of defense; he’s not the secretary of state. John Kerry has a made-up position as International Climate Scold. Now’s not a great time, John,” Sasse said in a statement provided to the National Review.

Read: Gasoline vouchers worth $300 a month? Some economists back new government aid as prices at the pump soar

For now, the U.S. is responding by banning the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal.

“And many other nations are now rethinking their reliance on Russian energy sources,” Kerry said Wednesday.

The European Union has leaned on Russia for 40% of the natural gas that remains a popular heating/cooling and electricity source, replacing coal in particular.

Read: ‘Want to stop making Putin rich… renewables is the answer’: Does the Russia-Ukraine crisis speed up or slow Europe’s green energy push?

Kerry has also faced criticism from elected Republicans for prioritizing cooperation with China on climate change despite that nation’s human-rights record.

Republicans, even those who embrace climate-change science, have said that the U.S. cannot carry all the weight of cutting emissions if other big polluters do not. China is responsible for the most atmosphere-warming greenhouse-gas emissions, with the U.S. in second and India third.

Read: Biden’s EPA restores waiver for California and other states to set tougher vehicle tailpipe standards

The Associated Press contributed.

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