Environmental advocates have sounded an urgent alarm about the climate crisis for decades. In recent days, the business community voiced a similarly strident tone, as BlackRock (BLK) CEO Larry Fink warned climate change will reshape global finance and a World Economic Forum survey of hundreds of businesspeople put the issue at the top of a list of current economic risks.
In a newly released interview, longtime environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr. warns it’s nearly too late.
Kennedy Jr. castigates fossil fuel companies, throws his support behind the Green New Deal, and says that every Democratic presidential candidate has an environmental agenda better than that of President Donald Trump.
“There are going to be major disruptions not just to humanity, but ultimately to civilization,” says Kennedy Jr, the son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy. “This is part of the cost that we're paying for our longtime deadly addiction to coal and oil.”
“Right now, we have a market that is governed by rules that were written by the carbon incumbents to reward the dirtiest, filthiest, most poisonous, most toxic, most war-mongering fields from hell, rather than the cheap, clean, green, wholesome and patriotic fields from heaven,” Kennedy adds.
On climate change, Kennedy Jr. voiced his support for a Green New Deal proposal put forward by Queens Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but primarily called on governments to divest from fossil fuels and impose a tax for carbon emissions.
“I think the Green New Deal — and all that stuff — is important,” Kennedy Jr. says. “We ought to be pursuing it. My approach is more market-based than kind of top down dictates. You know, I believe that we should use market mechanisms like carbon taxes and the elimination of subsidies.”
Last October, a study released by the climate advocacy and research firm Climate Accountability Institute found that the 20 largest fossil fuel companies — among them Chevron (CVX), Exxon (XOM), and BP (BP) — have accounted for 35% of global carbon emissions since 1965. An International Monetary Fund report put out last year estimated a total of $5.2 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies distributed in 2017 alone.
17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who will speak at the World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland next week, called on all participating public and private sector institutions at the conference to divest from fossil fuels.
Kennedy Jr. made the comments during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
For over three decades, Kennedy Jr. served as a chief prosecuting attorney for top environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Riverkeeper, an organization dedicated to the protection of the Hudson river. More recently, Kennedy Jr. has questioned the safety of vaccines and campaigned against their use.
Kennedy Jr. sharply criticized the environmental record of President Donald Trump, calling it a “cataclysm” but attributing it to a shift within the Republican Party over the past several decades.
“He’s simply the radical step of a process that's been happening in our country and in the Republican Party from the past — really, since 1980 — which is a growing hostility towards the environment, a growing orientation to representing the concentrated corporate power and power, particularly of the oil industry and the chemical industry and some of the other large polluting industries.”
Each of the Democratic presidential candidates has a better environmental policy agenda than Trump, Kennedy Jr. said.
“All of them have a better environmental platform than the current president,” he says. “I think all of them would do well on the environment.”
“Most Democrats are just looking for a candidate who is able to beat Donald Trump, which is a very formidable task,” he adds.
Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Find him on twitter @MaxZahn_.