Climate

Kerry: Ignoring Climate Change Is ‘Just Plain Immoral’

CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about climate change to the Atlantic Council in Washington, Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Sec. of State John Kerry accused climate deniers of gambling with the well-being of future generations in a speech Thursday to the Atlantic Council.

“It is just plain immoral,” Kerry said. “And it is a risk that no one should take. We need to face reality. There is no planet B.”

The speech was part of the Atlantic Council’s Road to Paris series, in advance of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. The Paris conference is expected to be the first time that each individual country commits to a domestic plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement may also include a goal on global emissions reductions, as ThinkProgress reported in December.

The President can sign onto to a non-binding agreement, as he did in Copenhagen, but would need the Senate to ratify any binding treaty that emerged from the Paris talks.

In the current Congress, 56 percent of Republicans deny or question the science behind human-caused climate change, according to recent analysis by CAP Action.

“When an apple falls from a tree, it will drop toward the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics,” Kerry said. “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?'”

Nationally, 88 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans say climate change is caused at least in part by human activities, according to a poll conducted by the New York Times, Stanford University, and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future.

Kerry ridiculed the “I am not a scientist” trope that some high-profile, climate-denying Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and former science major and current Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have trotted out.

“You don’t need to be a scientist to see that the world is already changing… Just look around you,” Kerry said. “Fourteen of the 15 warmest years on record in all of history have occurred since 2000.”

In a not-so-veiled barb at Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Kerry said, “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.”

Comparing climate change to gravity seems to be part of a new Obama Administration effort solidify mainstream acceptance of the science. In a preview for the third season of VICE on HBO, Vice President Joe Biden said, “It’s almost like denying gravity now… the willing suspension of disbelief can only be sustained for so long.”

Still, in its U.K. election coverage, the Telegraph recently polled readers on “Does climate change really exist?” At publication time, 81 percent of respondents had clicked ‘yes’.

It’s hard to imagine any self-respecting news outlet asking the same of gravity.