Kerry: Climate Change an ‘Elementary Truth’ – Like the Laws of Gravity

Patrick Goodenough | March 12, 2015 | 6:50pm EDT
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Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on climate change at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Thursday, March 12, 2015. (Screenshot: Atlantic Council)

( – That climate change is happening and that humans are largely responsible should be as universally accepted as the law of gravity, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Thursday.

“When an apple falls from a tree, it will drop toward the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics,” he said in a speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “Science tells us that gravity exists, and no one disputes that.”

“So when science tells us that our climate is changing and humans beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, ‘Well, I dispute that’ or ‘I deny that elementary truth?’ ”

Any yet some do, Kerry said, pointing – without naming the state – to recent reports claiming that state officials in Florida had banned the use of the term “climate change” in official documents. (Florida Gov. Rick Scott has denied the claim.)

“Literally a couple of days ago, I read about some state officials who are actually trying to ban the use of the term ‘climate change’ in public documents because they’re not willing to face the facts,” he said.

Kerry’s global warming activism goes back decades, predating his almost three-decade Senate career. He told Thursday’s audience it went “back to Earth Day when I’d come back from Vietnam.” (Kerry returned from active service in Vietnam in 1969; the inaugural Earth Day was in 1970.)

As a senator he participated in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and was a delegate to other major climate conferences, including those in Kyoto in 1997 and The Hague in 2000.

His frustration with those who challenge climate change dogma was again evident in the speech:

--“Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say ‘climate change.’ We have to talk about how we solve climate change. Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

--“Future generations will judge our effort not just as a policy failure but as a collective moral failure of historic consequence. And they will want to know how world leaders could possibly have been so blind or so ignorant or so ideological or so dysfunctional and, frankly, so stubborn that we failed to act on knowledge that was confirmed by so many scientists, in so many studies, over such a long period of time, and documented by so much evidence.”


As he explained his views on climate change, Kerry later in his speech said he did not “mean to sound haughty.”

“Last year was the warmest of all. And I think if you stop and think about it, it seems that almost every next year becomes one of the hottest on record. And with added heat comes an altered environment,” he said.

“It’s not particularly complicated – I don’t mean to sound haughty, but think about it for a minute.”

Elsewhere in the speech Kerry reprised themes he has visited repeatedly in speeches as secretary of state and in the Senate, such as the view that climate change is at least as serious as other major current global threats.

“Terrorism, extremism, epidemics, poverty, nuclear proliferation, all challenges that respect no borders – climate change belongs on that very same list,” he said. “It is, indeed, one of the biggest threats facing our planet today.”

Kerry also repeated his argument that if climate change advocates are wrong, the world will still benefit from their efforts – in the creation of jobs, economic growth, better health and greater security – whereas if skeptics are wrong, the result will be “catastrophe.”

“What will happen if we do nothing and the climate skeptics are wrong and the delayers are wrong and the people who calculate cost without taking everything into account are wrong?” he asked.

“The answer to that is pretty straightforward: utter catastrophe, life as we know it on Earth.”

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