After completing an "awe-inspiring" trip to Antarctica, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that he believed a majority of Americans realize climate change "is in fact happening" and want the issue to be addressed.
Kerry, who has long championed action on climate change, said in Wellington, New Zealand, that he would continue efforts to implement the landmark Paris agreement on climate change until President Barack Obama leaves office on January 20.
President-elect Donald Trump has said he believes climate change is a hoax, and he pledged during his election campaign to "cancel" U.S. participation in last year's agreement, in which nearly 200 countries agreed to place limits on global greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris agreement went into effect this month after enough governments formally accepted its terms.
"We will wait to see how the next administration addresses this, but I believe we're on the right track, and this is a track that the American people are committed to," Kerry told reporters Sunday, according to the French news agency AFP.
"Everybody knows that there's sometimes a divide between a campaign and the governing," he said of Trump's campaign promises, "and I think the next administration needs to define itself on that subject."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry inspects marine life at the Crary Science Center in McMurdo Station in Antarctica, Nov. 12, 2016.
Kerry returned Sunday to New Zealand, which had been his departure point for a flight to Antarctica on Friday, ahead of an international climate change conference in Marrakech next week.
After an early morning departure from Christchurch, Kerry flew to McMurdo Station, the base of U.S. operations in Antarctica. He then traveled from McMurdo to a small U.S. research station near the South Pole, where he spoke with scientists before returning to McMurdo for the night.
Kerry called the visit to Antarctica "awe-inspiring." He took a helicopter ride to view the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
"That ice sheet alone, should it break up and melt, as it is showing signs of doing now, would add some 12 feet [3.7 meters] or more to the current sea level," he said, according to AFP.
From New Zealand, Kerry travels to the Middle East for talks and then on to Marrakech, Morocco, for the U.N. climate talks.