Kerry: Climate Change More Serious Threat Than Terrorism, Poverty, WMD

Brittany M. Hughes | September 23, 2014 | 4:55am EDT
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Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a Climate Week event  in New York City on Monday, September 22, 2014 (Screenshot: State Dep't video)

( -- During his opening remarks at the NYC Climate Week event on Monday, a summit coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change the “most serious challenge we face on the planet,” claiming the threat beats out other international concerns such as terrorism, poverty and weapons of mass destruction. He spoke just hours before the U.S. bombed Syria.

“And when you think about terrorism, which we think about a lot today; poverty, which is linked obviously to the levels of terror that we see in the world today; and, of course, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all of these are challenges that don’t know any borders,” Kerry told government leaders and representatives from around the world.

“And that’s exactly what climate change is,” he said.  “Importantly, climate change, without being connected in that way to everybody’s daily thinking, in fact, ranks right up there with every single one of the rest of those challenges. You can make a powerful argument that it may be, in fact, the most serious challenge we face on the planet because it’s about the planet itself."

Kerry also deviated from calling climate change an “environmental challenge,” choosing instead to classify it as an “international security threat.”

“As everybody here knows, too often climate change is put into an ‘environmental challenge’ box, when in fact it’s a major set of economic opportunities and economic challenges,” Kerry said. “It’s a public health challenge, and it’s also unquestionably – and this is something that the American Security Project is deeply focused on – an international security challenge.”

Kerry’s speech also included a plea to other international leaders to help combat climate change and stop the “worst impacts” of carbon emissions. At one point, he appealed to the assembly to help prevent the crisis he claims is “already happening.”

“In 2013, last year, we witnessed the largest single-year increase in carbon pollution that causes climate change – the largest single increase in 20 years. So it is about time that world leaders come to the United Nations to recognize this threat in the way that it requires and demands, and it gives me hope that this global summit may actually produce the leadership that is necessary to try to come together and move the needle, to take advantage of the small window of time – and I mean that – the small window of time that we have left in order to be able to prevent the worst impacts of climate change from already happening.”

“You don’t have to take my word for it. You don’t have to take Al Gore’s word for it,” he added. “You can just wake up pretty much any day and listen to Mother Nature, who is screaming at us about it.”

On top of efforts to cut carbon emissions and increase national solar and wind-powered energy production, Kerry added the United States will be making a $15-million contribution to the World Bank to create a program encouraging developers around the world to limit their methane production.

“I’m pleased to announce today that the United States will be contributing $15 million to kick-start the World Bank’s new pilot auction facility,” Kerry said. “This initiative will set up a guaranteed price for each ton of methane that project developers are able to cut from their facilities, which means that these developers, we hope, will be much more inclined to cut methane from livestock, landfills, waste treatment facilities, because they’ll be able to do so with the confidence that they’re going to be able to get an adequate if not better return on their investment.”

Kerry also challenged global leaders to help address the natural causes of methane production.

“There are places in the world you can go where the methane is bubbling up through the ocean, that you can take a match and light it and it will ignite,” Kerry said. “And we have serious methane challenges, how do you capture this methane, in various parts of the world.”

According to the State Department’s website, Sec. Kerry will spend the next two days highlighting climate change during the U.N. General Assembly in an effort to raise global awareness of environmental concerns. His schedule includes a discussion on the effects of climate change on agriculture on Tuesday, as well as a session on ocean conservation, marine life and climate change on Wednesday.

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