U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday urged participants at a U.N.-backed climate change conference in Peru to demand accountability from their countries’ elected officials.
Kerry petitioned the diplomats, scientists, economists and other officials at the Conference of the Parties to make climate change “an issue that no public official can ignore.”
Kerry offered a dire prediction at the conference in Lima: “If we continue down the same path that we are on today, the world as we know it will change profoundly and will change dramatically for the worse.”
He cited examples of extreme weather that have occurred within the past two years.
“In Brazil, they saw the first, worst drought in half a century," he said. "New Zealand recently experienced a drought so bad that farmers had to slaughter their dairy cattle and sheep because they did not have enough food and water to keep the animals alive. And the historic droughts of the world are matched only by historic floods in other parts.”
Negotiators have been trying to craft an agreement that addresses concerns like rising greenhouse gas emissions in time for a Paris summit in 2015.
Kerry acknowledged that there are skeptics, even in the United States. “This is pretty logical stuff, and it is astounding to me that even in the United States Senate and elsewhere, we have people who doubt it.”
He said the solution to climate change is good energy policy.
“What we don’t hear enough of is the most important news of all — that climate change presents one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time on Earth.”
Kerry said those who think world economies cannot afford the costs of clean energy alternatives should consider the costs of damage from extreme weather events.
The secretary also said that every nation on Earth has a responsibility to fight climate change, not just big polluters like the United States and China.
Developing nations at the conference insisted that wealthy ones must bear the burden of fighting climate change, but Kerry said that more than half of the carbon emissions that are causing the Earth to warm come from poorer countries. He said it was imperative that they act, too, and embrace what he called the energy sources of the future, rather than the ones of the past.