John Kerry, Wife Take on Environmental Issues

April 8, 2007 — -- In January, 2004 Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and his wife Teresa decided against another White House run. Instead, the Kerrys are campaigning for the cause that first brought them together -- the environment. The couple's new book, "This Moment on Earth," highlights ordinary people from a New Mexico rancher to an artist raised in the South Bronx who are confronting the challenge. The couple is out to prove that environmentalism is not elitist.

"This Week"'s George Stephanopoulos met them at their Washington home.

John Kerry: The environment movement's been viewed by a lot of Americans as not being "about me." What this book tries to do is point out the ways in which it's about everybody and that it's not sort of a small group and some niche in some community where you have the time or the money to care about it. This is about everyday America. This is about moms and pops in North Carolina and Mississippi and places where people may be breathing bad air or getting sick from wells that are polluted or losing their fish in their lakes and their backyard playground because of what's happening.

Stephanopoulos: You've gone out and found individuals all across the country who've made this their fight. How did you find them?

Teresa Kerry: We've met a lot of people during the campaign, of course, in a variety of fields. I particularly, because of my interests, I was mostly in health, environment and health, cancer, et cetera, toxins, water, as well as some green building spaces, indoor design, as well as outdoor, meaning indoor health, as well as outdoor health.

Stephanopoulos: And one of the women you've written about, Dr. Devra Davis.

Teresa Kerry: Devra Davis.

Stephanopoulos: In Pittsburgh. She found that these kind of everyday products [nail polish, personal and hair care products] may be causing cancer.

Teresa Kerry: Those things are bad for you and everyone will say, in defense of their product, "Well, it's not the main ingredient. It's not the active ingredient. It's just an additive."

Well, if you think of, say, 50 or 100 products that one may use in a week and they all have a little bit, what does that cocktail do to Jenny versus to Max versus to Linda?

John Kerry: There's a study that we wrote about, George, in the book, Teresa actually, in her chapter, wrote about it, about children and their blood was tested during pregnancy and then at birth.

During pregnancy, they found as many as 400 trace chemicals in their blood and at birth about 200 body burden chemicals, including things from fire retardants and other kinds of things that they've come in contact with.

John Kerry: The important thing is not to get bogged down into one particular ingredient like this or something but to look at the big picture, which is what we're trying to show in the book.

There are farming practices in America today that are killing fish and destroying rivers and lakes.

Example, there's a story we write about, a 67-year-old Marine, Rick Dove.

Stephanopoulos: Rick Dove, North Carolina.

John Kerry: He's retired as a Marine, wanted to be out there fishing and suddenly, when he was there with his son, he bought three boats, they're out fishing.

Lo and behold, he develops sores, open sores. They begin to have memory loss. They see thousands of fish floating by them dead with the same kinds of sores. What was happening is the massive amounts of wastes from the confined animal farm operations, the hog farming, was pouring out into this water body and killing everything in it and people were getting sick from it. These individuals had to go fight.

Stephanopoulos: You mentioned the chapter that Teresa wrote. How did this work? How did you write the book?

John Kerry: we read everything we both wrote and worked on everything, but she's done a lot of work with women's health issues, a lot of work on cancer, chemicals, toxins and so forth, and a lot of work on greening, greening of cities.

So that was really her bailiwick and I've done a lot of work through the years as one-time chairman of the fishery subcommittee and so forth and other things, on oceans and water bodies and Clean Air Act.

So we sort of took what we knew and what we've worked on and we developed it and worked on it. We hired a researcher. We worked very hard sort of pulling this together.

Stephanopoulos: And you edit each other?

John Kerry: We actually did and we still talk to each other.

Stephanopoulos: More power to you.

Teresa Kerry: It's very hard to do something like this, it really is.

Stephanopoulos: I believe it.

John Kerry: It was a great experience, actually. I didn't tell Teresa, but one night, while it was happening, but she woke up in the night and said, "Oh, my god," she woke up saying, "I don't want to do this book." She was sort of --

Stephanopoulos: It is all done now. You come to this naturally, though, from growing up in Africa.

Teresa Kerry: Well, I do. I think caring, specifically, I learned from my father, caring for his patients, observing why they got sick.

He used to take me on rounds in our little place in the bush. I began to understand early on why people got sick, why people got killed. ... And so my whole tendency in life is you prevent things, you prevent disaster, you prevent illness, you prevent disastrous environmental problems, as well.

Stephanopoulos: It's too late for that, for prevention, on the issue of climate change and global warming. And I know the book emphasizes what people can do, what average people can do, but a big issue like that is still it's a global problem.

John Kerry: Absolutely.

Stephanopoulos: It's going to take a global solution.

John Kerry: Yes, it is.

Teresa Kerry: It is.

John Kerry: It does take a global solution, but the key point to focus on is -- Jim Hansen, leading climatologist of the United States at NASA, says we have about a 10-year window to be able to prevent absolute catastrophe.

When I see thousands upon thousands of scientists coming together in consensus warning us, "You've got to do this, i.e., cap carbon, you've got to reduce emissions or else," I hear it. I listen.

And I think we need leadership now that makes the United States the world's leader in the efforts to develop the technology and respond to this.

Stephanopoulos: And you've now got Democrats in control of the Senate, Democrats in control of the House. Can you take the majorities you now have and actually pass something?

John Kerry: Well, we're going to put that to the test. I've talked to Senator Reed, Barbara Boxer is leading on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Jeff Bingaman on the Energy Committee.

We're trying to pull everybody together and come up with a plan and we're reaching out to the Republicans. We're meeting with individual Republicans.

We have to do this, George, and this isn't a matter of Chicken Little and sort of crying wolf or something. This is the most compelling issue that I've seen other than war, the most compelling issue.

* * *

Stephanopoulos: You want to stay in the Senate, but how do you respond to those who say the cost, the cost of meeting these goals is simply too high?

John Kerry: It's not and that's the bottom line. It's less expensive than waiting and less risk than waiting and, more importantly, if you do respond now, we will create jobs, we'll develop the technologies, and we will all benefit in ways that, to some degree, you can't measure.

Stephanopoulos: And even your allies, though, on this issue, some, suggest that a simple carbon tax is the cleanest, most transparent way to address this problem, much cleaner than the cap and trade.

John Kerry: Well, some people have. Al Gore, for instance, is suggesting they need the cap and trade and the carbon tax.

I think that if you create the market, I personally believe that you, in effect, when you put a cap on it, you are pricing carbon. It is, in effect, putting a premium on the cost of carbon, at which point the market is going to say, "OK, now we've got to respond and meet this target" and, therefore, they're going to develop the technologies.

Stephanopoulos: Al Gore took some heat when he went up to Capitol Hill from Sen. Inhofe.

[Inhofe: In terms of changing the way you live, I think it is very difficult for you to ask other people to do it unless you are willing to do it. Are you willing to do it?]

Teresa Kerry: We don't have a roadmap. We're trying to figure out how to be more responsible and I think that we'll have to be something people have to figure out for their lives, depending on where it is they think they expand more energy or whatever.

I think my biggest problem is going to try to curb the amount of flying I do and so I've tried to plan and do about a third of the flying I was doing.

Stephanopoulos: And it's like doubling up trips and things like that.

Teresa Kerry: And getting teleconferencing capacity in my office in Pittsburgh, here getting my boys, my sons to be able to pitch in and do that, so we don't move so much.

John Kerry: I understand that argument, it's legitimate, but on the other hand, there are all kinds of ways in which we call can contribute and will contribute.

We've done a lot of different things and we're still discovering things, George. We're all new to this. It's only the last few years we've said, "God, how do we respond to this appropriately?"

So we now have hybrid vehicles, which we're transitioning to. ... I wanted to give a $4,000 per automobile tax credit to people who go out and buy a hybrid.

If we did that, you'd have enormous demand increase and Detroit would begin to become more competitive.

I mean, there are all kinds of things that we can do. We've changed our light bulbs. We are on at the house and figure out how can we be more energy efficient in the house.

Stephanopoulos: And that's something everybody can do.

John Kerry: Everybody can do that. Now, you know, we buy the carbon offsets, because we think we ought to and it's a difference. Obviously, people with more money pay more taxes and should, in my judgment, and we ought to pay more for the additional carbon use.

Ultimately, if you price carbon, people are going to make those kinds of choices for themselves. They'll go out and buy a car that is less costly. They'll go out and build in a more effective way.

Stephanopoulos: But should that be mandated by the government?

John Kerry: It's preferable not to mandate, but it isn't happening automatically otherwise. So what we need to do is put the incentives and the enticements into the system so people will choose. We won't dictate this technology or that technology, but we do draw people to a particular choice.

Stephanopoulos: You said that one of the reasons you chose not to run for president this year was to focus on this issue and the war. You're about three months away from that choice. Still feel good?

John Kerry: Yeah. I mean, look, I think it's important to be candid and candor requires me to say there are mornings when you wake up --

Stephanopoulos: Sometimes you get antsy ...

John Kerry: And you see the fray going on and you miss it, in a sense, because it's a different platform. But on the other hand, this book, for instance, would be viewed exclusively through the prism of a presidential race. I think people would discount it. Hopefully, now I have a chance to talk about these things and people know it's coming from my heart and my gut, not from a political strategy.

Stephanopoulos: Which of the candidates this time who are in right now or are about to be in do you think have most effectively grabbed this issue?

John Kerry: I don't think anybody yet, to be honest with you. I think this issue is waiting for a full definition and full-throatedness, if you will, in this campaign and I'm going to watch carefully and see who does articulate it, because to me it's a critical component of leadership.

Stephanopoulos: [To Teresa Kerry] You are nodding your head.

Teresa Kerry: I just don't think any one of the candidates -- they all have their merits. I don't think any of them have had this resume on the field of the environment.

Stephanopoulos: And you're going to be pushing this.

John Kerry: Well, it's a critical issue, George. I'm confident they will. I know the people that are running.

Teresa Kerry: Yes. They're not there yet.

John Kerry: I mean, I know Joe Biden and Hillary and Chris Dodd and folks understand these issues and they've seen them out there and I'm confident they're going to talk about them. But at the moment, it's not front and center the way I think some of us would like it to be.

Stephanopoulos: Are you going to endorse anyone?

John Kerry: I probably will at the right point, but I just haven't -- I haven't made 100 percent commitment to that and I haven't certainly decided who or when.

Stephanopoulos: Thank you both very much.

John Kerry: Thanks. Good to be with you.