Kerry Warns College Grads of 'Immediate Threat' From Climate Change

Photographer: Matt Dunham-WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a press conference on May 15, 2014 in London. Close

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a press conference on May 15, 2014 in London.

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Photographer: Matt Dunham-WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a press conference on May 15, 2014 in London.

Bloomberg BNA — Secretary of State John Kerry said climate change poses immediate risks to security around the world but solutions already exist to address the risks.

Speaking May 19 at Boston College commencement ceremonies, Kerry said solutions to the problem could spur technological innovations and a trillion-dollar industry, but there is a lack of “willpower” among politicians to confront the problem.

Failure to act on climate change in light of uncertainty would risk “nothing less than the future of the entire planet,” according to Kerry.

“You might not see climate change as an immediate threat to your job, your community, or your families,” Kerry said. “But let me tell you, it is.”

Kerry called on graduates to fight back against what he called the “Flat Earth Society” of those who deny climate change is caused by human activities and spur innovations in clean energy that could generated trillions annually.

“This is not a matter of politics or partisanship,” Kerry said. “It's a matter of science and stewardship. And it's not a matter of capacity; it's a matter of willpower.”

Two Reports Cited

Kerry pointed to the release of two recent reports—one from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and another from a panel of retired military experts—as evidence that the impacts of climate change were already being felt around the world.

The report from the UN panel concluded there are multiple pathways that would help keep the worldwide temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, but countries around the world must act decisively.

Meanwhile, the panel of retired military experts said climate change could serve as a future “catalyst of conflict” across portions of the world and was already causing significant national security problems.

Kerry also highlighted the fact that 97 percent of scientists believe human activity is partially responsible for climate change as justification for action, but said the benefits from action would be realized even in the unlikely event they were wrong.

“Supposing they are [wrong], what's the worst that can happen?” Kerry said. “We put millions of people to work transitioning our energy, creating new and renewable and alternative. We make life healthier because we have less particulates in the air and cleaner air and more health. We give ourselves greater security through greater energy independence. That's the downside.”

Prior to becoming secretary of state in February 2013, Kerry served as senator for Massachusetts and championed congressional action to address the risks of climate change.

Kerry told a House panel in March that “life on the Earth could literally end” if action was not taken quickly to address the implications of climate change and raised eyebrows during a February trip to Asia when he said climate change ranked among weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and poverty as a top-tier global threat.

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