(CNSNews.com) – If he and “97 percent” of scientists are wrong on climate change, efforts to mitigate it will at worst have brought millions of jobs, better health and energy security, Secretary of State John Kerry told Boston College graduates Monday.
“But if we do nothing, and it turns out that the critics and the naysayers and the members of the flat earth society – if it turns out that they’re wrong, then we are risking nothing less than the future of the entire planet,” he said.
Delivering the commencement speech at his Chestnut Hill, Mass. alma mater – he graduated from Boston College Law School in 1976 – Kerry characterized climate change as “a test we have to meet.”
“I know it’s hard to feel the urgency. As we sit here on an absolutely beautiful morning in Boston, you might not see climate change as an immediate threat to your job, your community, or your families. But let me tell you, it is,” he said.
“Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent,” Kerry said, citing fears of food security if crops can’t grow, less water due to longer droughts, and greater instability and conflict over resources.
“If we make the necessary efforts to address this challenge – and supposing I’m wrong or scientists are wrong, 97 percent of them all wrong – supposing they are, what’s the worst that can happen?” he asked.
“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. This is not a matter of politics or partisanship; it’s a matter of science and stewardship. And it’s not a matter of capacity; it’s a matter of willpower,” Kerry said.
“But if we do nothing, and it turns out that the critics and the naysayers and the members of the flat earth society – if it turns out that they’re wrong, then we are risking nothing less than the future of the entire planet,” he added.
“This is not a hard choice, frankly. But still, let me tell you we need the help of every single one of you to make it.”
Kerry has been outspoken on the climate issue since becoming secretary of state last year, but his activism goes back years. He participated in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and was a delegate to various other climate conferences, including those in Kyoto in 1997 and The Hague in 2000.
During his presidential campaign a decade ago, the League of Conservation Voters called him an “environmental champion” who “strongly advocated for U.S. participation in the Kyoto accords [the global treaty that required industrialized countries to reduce “greenhouse gases” emissions] and other international environmental initiatives.”
In the U.S. Senate in 2012, Kerry said climate change was as dangerous as the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons, or the breaking out of a war between the U.S. and Iran, and during his confirmation hearing for secretary of state early last year he called it “life threatening.”
In the first part of its latest three-part report, released last September, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that global warming is “unequivocal” and that it is “extremely likely” that human activity has been the main cause.
Part three of that report, released last month, warned that unless steps are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions the planet’s temperature will rise by more than two degrees celsius, after which the effects of climate change will be more unpredictable and harder to deal with.
Despite claims of scientific consensus, skepticism and doubts remain.
For instance, after more than 1,000 professional engineers and geoscientists were surveyed on the issue, a study found that only 36 percent fitted into a group that “express[ed] the strong belief that climate change is happening, that it is not a normal cycle of nature, and humans are the main or central cause.”
The rest of the respondents expressed skepticism – in varying degrees – about the causes of climate change, the scale of the risk, and the accuracy of IPCC modeling. The survey results were published last year in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.