Secretary of State John Kerry derided people who brand climate change as all about “butterflies or polar bears – as some people try to mock it – as serious as those effects might be.”
In the Tuesday remarks at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., he stressed “very clearly, because I’m proud of it: I am an environmentalist.”
“I came to the table as an environmentalist long before I became lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, let alone senator. I’ve been an environmentalist all my life,” he said. “But the reason I have made climate change a priority in my current role as Secretary of State is not simply because climate change is a threat to the environment. It’s because – by fueling extreme weather events, undermining our military readiness, exacerbating conflicts around the world – climate change is a threat to the security of the United States and, indeed, to the security and stability of countries everywhere.”
“…Long story short, climate change is not just about Bambi; it’s about all of us in very personal and important ways.”
Kerry noted officials who’ve linked climate change and national security have gotten labeled “tree-huggers.”
“Now, believe me, I wish I were wrong about this. It would be better for all of us if I was exaggerating the urgency of this threat. But the science tells us unequivocally: Those who continue to make climate change a political fight put us all at risk,” he said. “And we cannot sit idly by and allow them to do that.”
“…Now, there are some – there are some running around this country campaigning even now – who refuse to acknowledge the human cause and effect on climate change because they say they themselves are ‘not scientists.’ Well, a lot of us went to high school and learned that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and the Earth revolves around its axis, and we believe it but we’re not scientists.”
He stressed that “as any sailor, marine, soldier, airman, or coastguardsman will tell you: You don’t have to wait until you’re 100 percent certainty of an imminent threat before you take action to prevent it.”
Kerry told the crowd that the upcoming climate change dangers are “going to be like Mother Nature on steroids.”
“If our military vehicles are unable to move anywhere in the region here or elsewhere because they’re up to their axles in water and all the roads leading into and out of the base here are flooded, that affects military readiness. Similarly, if the high risk of wildfires prevents our troops somewhere from training with live ammunition, that affects readiness. If the permafrost our Alaska bases are built on begins to thaw out, as it is in some places, and then becomes less stable, that affects military readiness,” he said. “And the direct impacts on our military’s ability to defend our nation are not the end of the peril that climate change could pose to our national security; they’re just the beginning.”
He even linked the war in Syria, which began when citizens inspired by the Arab Spring protested the abuses of dictator Bashar al-Assad, to climate change.
“It’s not a coincidence that immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced its worst drought on record. As many as 1.5 million people migrated from Syria’s farms to its cities, intensifying the political unrest that was just beginning to roil and boil in the region,” Kerry said.
“Again, I am not suggesting that climate change was the primary reason for the crisis in Syria – obviously, it wasn’t. The war was launched by a brutal dictator who began attacking, torturing, and barrel-bombing his own people. But the drought that devastated communities across the country exacerbated instability on the ground and made a bad situation worse and forced people to migrate, so you had a mixing in a very sectarian place, where, at a sectarian time of definition, where people were exploiting that sectarianism, that made a ready pool of recruits.”