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February 18, 2014
Kerry Denounces Complacency on Climate Change Action
    by Robert Kropp

In a speech in Indonesia, the Secretary of State describes that country as one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and calls for a global commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.

In a speech on climate change in Indonesia, US Secretary of State John Kerry referred to climate deniers and skeptics by echoing the words delivered by President Obama in his most recent State of the Union address: “We do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society,” Kerry said.

After all, he continued, “Climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

The urgency of addressing climate change, Kerry told the audience of college students in Jakarta, requires a global commitment at least equal to those marshaled by governments against terrorism: “We don’t decide to have just one country beef up the airport security and the others relax their standards and let bags on board without inspection,” he said.

Detailing the many impacts of climate change already being felt—the melting of arctic ice and the sea level rise that results; mass extinction of species on an unprecedented scale; water shortages and drought; and extreme weather events, to name but a few—Kerry warned, “The window is closing.”

“There is still time for us to significantly cut greenhouse emissions and prevent the very worst consequences of climate change from ever happening at all,” he continued. “But we need to move on this, and we need to move together now. We just don’t have time to let a few loud interests groups hijack the climate conversation. And when I say that, you know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about big companies that like it the way it is that don’t want to change, and spend a lot of money to keep you and me and everybody from doing what we know we need to do.”

Kerry argued that due to Obama's Climat e Action Plan, unveiled last year, “The United States is well on our way to meeting the international commitments to seriously cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.” And he announced that as an outgrowth of the US-China Climate Change Working Group, the two countries recently agreed “on an enhanced policy of dialogue that includes the sharing of information and policies so that we can help develop plans to deal with the UN climate change negotiation that takes place in Paris next year, in planning for the post-2020 limit to greenhouse gas emissions.”

Yet Kerry has been an advocate for meaningful action on climate change for decades, and he realizes that the progress made thus far, incremental as it has been, is insufficient given the scope of the crisis. He quoted Maurice Strong, the Secretary General of a climate change conference held in 1992, as telling him at the time, “Every bit of evidence I’ve seen persuades me that we are on a course leading to tragedy.”

“It is stunning how little the conversation has really changed since then,” Kerry said in his speech.

Kerry also mentioned the role of investment in the transition to a low-carbon global economy, stating, “Between now and 2035, investment in the energy sector is expected to reach nearly $17 trillion.”

Echoing the argument of many sustainable investors, he continued, “Governments and international financial institutions need to stop providing incentives for the use of energy sources like coal and oil.”

“You have to factor in the long-term cost of carbon pollution,” he said.


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