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U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry waded into treacherous waters with comments about how much new tech is needed to fight global warming.

Driving the news: In part of a BBC interview that aired Sunday, Kerry said, "I am told by scientists ... that 50% of the reductions we have to make to get to net-zero, by 2050, or 2045, as soon as we can, 50% of those [emissions] reductions are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have."

Why it matters: That irked some activists and experts, who see it at odds with what's possible with the aggressive deployment of mature tech.

It's the latest flare-up of climate-world tensions over how much innovation is needed (though Kerry also pushes accelerated steps with existing tools).

Driving the news: Influential activist Greta Thunberg and prominent climate scientist Michael Mann were among several who criticized Kerry's comments.

  • "Great news! I spoke to Harry Potter and he said he will team up with Gandalf, Sherlock Holmes & The Avengers and get started right away!," Thunberg tweeted.
  • Mann lamented "pernicious technophilia" he blames on Bill Gates and spoke with BBC for a subsequent segment (47 minutes in here).

The other side: Jason Bordoff, who heads a Columbia University energy think tank, said people are "way overreacting."

  • If Kerry had simply added that more tech was needed "at commercial scale," the comment would have been spot-on, he argues.
  • "[W]e need innovation, lots of it, to get anywhere close to net zero," Bordoff tweeted.

The big picture: A Kerry aide noted to Axios his remarks are consistent with International Energy Agency findings.

IEA head Fatih Birol said last month: "IEA analysis shows that about half the reductions to get to net zero emissions in 2050 will need to come from technologies that are not yet ready for market."

Go deeper

Internet response to dire UN climate report was muted vs. 2018

Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

This week's UN IPCC report made a bigger splash online than a special report the panel issued in 2019, but one that was well below 2018's examination of the feasibility of holding global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), according to exclusive data provided by NewsWhip.

Why it matters: The data shows that the shock factor needed to jolt the public into demanding — and taking — action to curb the effects of climate change may be wearing off. It may also show that the report, or the media coverage of the findings, was too alarming and turned people off from engaging with it, given the headlines it generated.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.