Kerry at Climate Change Meeting in Peru: transcript
11 December 2014
And this is not just another policy issue. Measured against the array of global threats that we face today – and there are many – terrorism, extremism, epidemics, poverty, nuclear proliferation – all challenges that know no borders – climate change absolutely ranks up there equal with all of them. And I challenge anyone who has thought about the science or listened – actually listened carefully to national security experts tell us that these dangers are real – I challenge them to tell us otherwise and to show us otherwise. I might add that we have, as Todd mentioned, the distinguished former Vice President of the United States and Nobel Prize winner who was the leader with all of us on this issue, but the first among equals, believe me, in his passion and commitment to this. And I’ve often heard him reciting the numbers of studies and the amazing amount of evidence that has been tallied up versus the paucity of a few usually industry-paid-for false analyses that try to suggest otherwise. And while no one here believes that a global climate agreement is going to be the silver bullet that eliminates this threat, I think everybody here can agree that we certainly won’t eliminate it without an agreement.
Now I know that everybody in this room is committed, all of us, but I think when you’re among the committed, you have a responsibility to be particularly candid. It seems that every time I speak at an event about climate change, someone introducing me, as Todd did today, said, “John Kerry’s been to every major gathering since Rio,” and it’s true. But I’ll tell you something, that’s kind of troubling. Because it was in Rio, as far back as 1992, when I heard the secretary-general, as Al did when we were there, declare, “Every bit of evidence I’ve seen persuades me that we are on a course leading to tragedy.”
...This morning, I woke up in Washington to the television news of a super-storm rainfall in California and Washington State – torrential, record-breaking rain in record-breaking short time. It’s become commonplace now to hear of record-breaking climate events. But this is 2014, 22 years later, and we’re still on a course leading to tragedy. So this is an issue that’s personal for me, just as it is for you, absolutely.
The truth is we will have no excuse worth using.
The science of climate change is science, and it is screaming at us, warning us, compelling us – hopefully – to act. Ninety-seven percent of peer- reviewed climate studies have confirmed that climate change is happening and that human activity is responsible. And I’ve been involved, as many of you have, in public policy debates for a long time. It’s pretty rare to get a simple majority or a supermajority of studies to say the same thing, but 97 percent over 20-plus years – that is a dramatic statement of fact that no one of good conscience or good faith should be able to ignore.
...And they agree that if we continue down the same path that we are on today, the world as we know it will change profoundly and it will change dramatically for the worse.
Now you don’t need a Ph.D. to be able to see for yourself that the world is already changing. You just need to pay attention. Thirteen of the warmest years on record have occurred since 2000, with this year, again, on track to be the warmest of all. We’re getting used to every next year being the warmest year of all. It seems almost every year that happens now.
...if we continue down the current path, the impacts are expected to increase exponentially.
For example, scientists predict that by the end of the century, the sea could rise a full meter.
Scientists also predict that climate change could mean even longer, more unpredictable monsoon ceilings – seasons and more extreme weather events. And while we can’t tell whether one particular storm is specifically caused by climate change, scientists absolutely do predict many more of these disastrous storms are likely to occur unless we stop and reverse course.
And what is particularly frustrating about the real-life damage that’s being done – and the threat of more to come – is that it doesn’t have to be inevitable. Nothing suggested this is inevitable. Human cost. There’s nothing preordained about the course that we’re on, except habits – bad habits. The challenge that we face may be immense, but I can’t underscore enough: This is not insurmountable.
I urge you to think about the economic impacts related to agriculture and food security – and how scientists estimate that the changing climate is going to yield – is going to reduce the capacity of crops to produce the yields they do today in rice or maize or wheat, and they could fall by 2 percent every single decade.
...we have to factor in the cost of survival itself. And if we do, we will find that the cost of pursuing clean energy now is far cheaper than paying for the consequences of climate change later.
Ask yourself, if Al Gore and Dr. Pachauri and Jim Hansen and the people who’ve been putting the science out there for years are wrong about this and we make these choices to do the things I’m talking about, what’s the worst thing that can happen to us for making these choices? Create a whole lot of new jobs. Kick our economies into gear. Have healthier people, reduce the cost of healthcare. Live up to our environmental responsibilities. Have a world that’s more secure because we have energy that isn’t dependent on one part of the world or another. That’s the worst that can happen to us.
But what happens if the climate skeptics are wrong? Catastrophe.