The PJ Tatler

Kerry: Climate Change Hurting Food Production, and Food Production Hurting Climate

Secretary of State John Kerry told a climate-change reception at the Waldorf Astoria in New York yesterday that the climate change has our food production stuck in a no-win cycle.

“I was chairman of the fisheries, oceans subcommittee for a long period of time in the Senate, and I saw what has been happening in the major fisheries of the world,” he told the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture. “Even as we went and tried to ban driftnet fishing and rewrite the Magnuson laws and do all these things – still overfished, still too much money chasing too few fish, still major shifts in the ecosystem as the result of increases in acidity, the acidification of the oceans, the changes in ocean currents, what’s happening with the melting of the icecaps and so forth has a profound impact on the future of food.”

“And all you have to do is talk to farmers or even talk to garden club members in America and they will tell you how things that used to grow in certain places don’t grow anymore, how there’s been a migration of certain species and capacities for growth, a band in the center of America that’s moved north and south,” Kerry added.

“So the link is clear: Climate change affects how much food we’re able to produce, and it affects – and how much food we produce actually affects climate change at the same time. Now we see this drought that’s hitting in various parts of the world, but particularly in Central America.”

Kerry was late to the reception because of a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “This city during these days of UNGA does not lend itself well to diplomatic speed dating, and unfortunately, I sort of scheduled one too many,” he quipped while apologizing for his tardiness.

He told the crowd that he had been involved in “this nexus between climate change and food security” since the 1970s.

“The first thing I did when I returned from Vietnam was not protest the war, which I shortly did, but become active in Earth Day 1970, the first Earth Day, and helped to organize it in my home state of Massachusetts, when 20 million Americans came out and said we don’t want to live next to toxic waste sites, we don’t want to be getting cancer from Woburn dump, things like that in Massachusetts. Particularly we had the Cuyahoga River that lit on fire, literally,” Kerry said.

“And those 20 million people ultimately engaged in a way that became very political. They targeted the 12 worst voters in Congress, labeled them the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and in the very next election beat seven of the 12. That is what brought us the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and actually created the Environmental Protection Agency we didn’t have when that first took place.”

Kerry called it “a hell of a journey from there to here.”

“And I went to Rio and the Earth Summit in the 1990s and so forth. Unfortunately, it was a voluntary process. It didn’t work and we now are where we are, the hottest year in history last year, the last ten years have been the hottest ten years in history. I mean, it’s an extraordinary statement about the lack of willpower of governments on a global basis, ours included, to have been able thus far to be able to do what we need,” he continued.

“I’m proud to say that President Obama is changing that. We are moving rapidly now. We have ten times the amount of solar power in place that we had five years ago. We have three times the amount of renewables in place that we had. We have new automobile standards, new building standards, so forth and so on.”