Secretary of State John Kerry explained at the State Department’s Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum today why climate change is “certainly one of two of the defining issues of our generation and perhaps the defining issue of our generation, because of the stakes.”
“The other being the rise of radical extremism, sectarianism, and the failure of states simultaneously surrounding it, and vast populations of young people needing jobs instead of mind-bending theories of false assumptions about Islam and other things. Both are gigantic challenges,” Kerry acknowledged.
But “thankfully,” he said, “the solution to this particular challenge, climate change, is actually just as simple as the realization that it is the challenge that it is.”
“It is not that difficult to comprehend. It is not a mystery waiting to be solved. It is, put quite simply, energy policy — clean energy choices. And it’s staring us in the face.”
Kerry stressed to the investors at the conference that “achieving a global agreement on climate change at the Paris conference this December is an absolutely critical step and a major priority of President Obama, myself, and the rest of the administration.”
“So it’s becoming even more clear with every record-breaking drought, every record-breaking flood, every hottest month ever announcement, or every year — hottest year that we live through, with every peer-reviewed study that details the catastrophe that climate change could unleash and, frankly, that we’re seeing already in certain places,” he warned. “The canary in the gold mine — in the coal mine — indicators, which are many in various parts of the world, particularly the Arctic, Antarctic, and in some other places — they all begin to detail the catastrophe that climate change has the potential to unleash.”
Kerry told the investors — Google was one of the forum co-sponsors, for instance — that he wants to better “diversify the flows of public and private climate finance.”
“And today 90 percent of private climate finance is invested into projects in the same country from which the money originated. We need to develop better pathways to sustainable development into new and emerging markets, and we can’t solve climate change at home if you ignore what is happening abroad, because increasingly, it is developing countries that are coming online, and unfortunately, too many of them forced into a coal-fired power plant without any remediation whatsoever. And obviously, that’s a disaster,” he said.
The forum continues tomorrow at Georgetown University, another co-sponsor, featuring Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who spent lots of time with Kerry recently on the Iran nuclear deal negotiating team.
“In December, Ernie and I are going to join representatives from around the world in Paris. I think the longest that any secretary of State has ever been out of country in one place was my vacation in Vienna with the Iranians the 19-plus days that I was there,” Kerry said to laughter. “But next to that, I will be in Paris from almost November 30th through the end in order to try to help make sure we can achieve what we want to and close an ambitious and durable climate agreement.”
During the Q&A portion of the forum, Kerry said he was “absolutely astounded” to hear senators and presidential candidates not cast a verdict on climate change with the explanation that he or she is not a scientist.
“I mean, it’s incomprehensible that a grownup who has been to high school and college in the United States of America disqualifies themselves because they’re not a scientist when they’ve learned that the Earth rotates on its axis but they’re not a scientist; where they’ve learned that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and it does so 24 hours a day; and you can run the list of things that we know science tells us happens, and we accept it every single day,” he said.