US Secretary of State John Kerry gave one of the most important speeches this morning during the Major Economies Forum of the UN’s climate change conference (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco. Kerry drew attention to melting glaciers, stronger storms, and record-breaking droughts as incontrovertible evidence of climate change.
“At some point, even the strongest skeptic has to acknowledge that something disturbing is happening,” Kerry said.
The secretary spoke of the “overwhelming majority” of Americans who acknowledge climate change and support the international agreement forged in Paris last December and ratified this year.
He presented COP22 with what the Associated Press has referred to as “a stirring appeal Wednesday to all countries — including his own” — to consult scientists, economists, business leaders, and other experts about climate change. “I ask you on behalf of billions of people around the world … do your own diligence before making irrevocable choices.”
Kerry received strong support from Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International:
“Secretary Kerry´s speech was a clear call to action. The global energy revolution is indeed irreversible and we will be the generation that ends fossil fuels. No nation can succeed that tries to ignore the direction in which the arc of history is bending…. Governments should react to Secretary Kerry´s call and continue to increase ambition. Climate change is personal to everyone, and that is why people in the United States and all over the world, as Secretary Kerry notes, are demanding urgent action.”
The recent US election has raised doubt among delegates in Marrakesh and heads of state worldwide about Americans not fulfilling our international Paris Agreement commitment to cut global greenhouse gas emissions. Many have viewed Kerry’s remarks at COP22 as an unstated but pointed challenge to US President-elect Donald Trump and his unofficially selected Cabinet members to recant their reactionary fringe views on climate change. Kerry sees climate change as an issue beyond partisan debate. He also noted that US military and intelligence leaders have recognized it as a potential “threat-multiplier.”
Kerry pointed out that what US policy now constitutes (a 26–28% drop in the nation’s emissions from 2005 levels by 2025) is locked in for at least the next three years. Other estimates place the time at one to four years.
“I can tell you with confidence that the United States is right now today on our way to meeting all of the international targets we have set. Because of the market decisions that are being made [the current American clean energy transition], I do not believe that that can or will be reversed.”
It seems that Kerry is urging detractors to bow to the inevitable. In other words, objectors should accept the domestic and worldwide consensus that the world as we know it faces imminent change detrimental to all of us. AP reports:
“It is unclear what Trump will do on climate policy. On other issues, he has made contradictory statements and has said unpredictability is an asset in international negotiations. Trump denied during a debate with his election rival Hillary Clinton that he had called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, but in speeches and on Twitter he has repeatedly called it a hoax.”
The rest of the world fears having to proceed without us with a headier financial burden and at only 80% of the already pledged mitigation and adaptation speed.
China, the biggest greenhouse gas emitter (slightly ahead of the United States), repeats at COP22 that it will honor its promises to limit climate change. Liu Zhenmin of the Chinese delegation told the press in Marrakesh:
“As the largest developed economy in the world, US support is essential. We have to expect they will take a smart and wise decision.”
Twice in the week preceding the US election, China warned Trump that he should reconsider his positions. India has also warned the US about being unfaithful to its commitments as well. Both the EU and Japan have affirmed their own climate policies. Even Russia has come in on the side of current US leadership. Says Russia’s lead negotiator, Oleg Shamanov:
“We’re talking about the big challenge of climate change. This issue is bigger than life. This is a long-term issue, longer than any mandate of any president of country X or Z, even if that country is a big one.”
President-elect Trump would be wise to adopt the international cause of restraining climate change as his own mantra. In doing so, he would respect both the will of the American people and the proven science. He would retain the primacy of the US and China as the acknowledged world leadership team in the effort to limit further disruption.
Trump would also gain himself worldwide applause rather than universal condemnation. And he might just give humans a chance for an orderly retreat from our now-destructive allegiance to fossil fuels and a successful reach for sustainability and climate survival instead.
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