Kerry: 'Overwhelming Majority' of Americans 'Know Climate Change Is Happening'

Patrick Goodenough | November 16, 2016 | 5:46pm EST
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Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the COP22 climate change conference in Marrakesh on Wednesday, Nov 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Ralston, Pool)

( – Secretary of State John Kerry sought to assure anxious attendees at the U.N. climate megaconference in Morocco Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump will not hit the brakes on Paris climate accord.

“Some issues look a little bit different when you’re actually in office compared to when you’re on the campaign trail,” Kerry told the gathering in Marrakesh.

In a speech that did not include Trump’s name, he acknowledged that the U.S. election result “has left some here and elsewhere feeling uncertain about the future.”

“I obviously understand that uncertainty,” Kerry said. “And while I can’t stand here and speculate about what policies our president-elect will pursue, I will tell you this: In the time that I have spent in public life, one of the things I have learned is that some issues look a little bit different when you’re actually in office compared to when you’re on the campaign trail.”

Kerry won applause when he declared that “no one should doubt the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States who know climate change is happening and who are determined to keep our commitments that were made in Paris.”

The Paris accord, which entered into force in early November, aims to prevent global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, through massive shifts from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources. Global warming advocates say that climate change resulting from human activity is having potentially catastrophic effects on the earth, pointing to higher temperatures, drought and rising sea levels.

President Obama, who joined the Paris agreement by executive action, has committed the U.S. to reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” (GHGs) blamed for climate change by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels over the next decade.

He also pledged a contribution of $3 billion, over four years, for a global climate fund designed to help developing countries reduce GHG emissions and adapt to various phenomena attributed to climate change. The first $500,000 instalment was paid last March, angering critics in the U.S. Congress.

Trump pledged during the presidential campaign to withdraw from the Paris agreement, said he would dismantle Obama’s climate regulations designed to reduce GHG emissions, and vowed to “cancel billions in global warming payments to the United Nations.”

On Tuesday, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said in Marrakesh he was optimistic that Trump would reconsider his rejection of the Paris agreement.

‘A betrayal of devastating consequence’

The meeting in Morocco is known as COP22; it is the 22nd “conference of the parties” to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since the first one was held in Berlin in 1995.

Addressing his last COP as secretary of state, Kerry said the annual event has become “much more than just a gathering of government officials.”

“It’s really a yearly summit – 25,000 people-strong this year from all over the world – for all sectors to showcase their commitment to climate action and to discuss ways to expand shared efforts.”

The veteran climate change advocate used the speech to deliver a trademark impassioned plea for the planet.

“Time is not on our side. The world is already changing at an increasingly alarming rate with increasingly alarming consequences,” he said, pointing to a series of the hottest years on record over the past decade-and-a-half.

Kerry recalled the warnings of scientists he met with during a visit earlier this week to Antarctica where, he said, should the west Antarctic ice sheet “break apart and melt into the sea, it alone could raise global sea levels by four to five meters.”

“These scientists urged me to remind my own government and governments around the world and everyone here that what we do right now – today – matters, because if we don’t go far enough and if we don’t go fast enough, the damage we inflict could take centuries to undo – if it can be undone at all,” Kerry continued.

“I underscore today: We don’t get a second chance. The consequences of failure would in most cases be irreversible.”

Kerry said that if nations “fall short” in the aim of keeping temperature increase at below the two degrees Celsius target, “it will be the single greatest instance in modern history of a generation in a time of crisis abdicating responsibility for the future.”

“And it won’t just be a policy failure; because of the nature of this challenge, it will be a moral failure, a betrayal of devastating consequence.”

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