At Glacier conference Kerry calls climate change a “seismic challenge” and warns of the potential threat of refugees caused by rising waters.
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA, UNITED STATES (AUGUST 31, 2015)(STATE TV) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change a “seismic challenge” on Monday (August 31) and compared the danger it poses to the threat humanity faced from World War Two.
Addressing attendees at an international conference on climate change in the Arctic in Anchorage, Alaska, Kerry called for increased global cooperation to curb the causes of global warming, such as carbon emissions.
He also warned that climate change could lead to a refugee crisis that would dwarf the present influx of migrants now seeking to enter Europe because of instability in the Middle East.
U.S. President Barack Obama is to address the conference on Monday evening.
A series of speakers at the conference talked about the disproportionate price that residents of Alaska and the Arctic are paying for climate change, with their livelihoods and communities threatened by erosion, warmer temperatures and disrupted ecosystems.
Kerry told attending Foreign Ministers and dignitaries at the Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) that climate change was already impacting millions of people.
“The bottom line is that climate change is not a distant threat for our children and their children to worry about. It is now, it is happening now. And I think anybody running for any high office in any nation in the world should come to Alaska or to any other place where it is happening and inform themselves about this. It is a seismic challenge that is affecting millions of people today. Villages in Alaska are already being battered by the storms and some have had to move,” he said.
Climate change, Kerry said, is as much of a threat to humanity as World War Two.
“The threat posed by climate change is obviously entirely different in character [to World War II]. But it is not different in its global reach or in its potential to do harm. And the urgent need for global cooperation, for global commitment, for global choices, is exactly the same as it was in the 1930s and 40s and 50s,” he said.
Among the potential outcomes, Kerry said, is a refugee crisis that would far outstrip the current influx of migrant to Europe from the Middle East.
“But global climate change now threatens life in this region in a way that it hasn’t been threatened for all of those 10,000 years that chief Stephan talked about. And unless the global community comes together to address this challenge the dramatic climate impacts that we’re seeing in this part of the world will be a harbinger for every part of the world. And we as leaders of countries will begin to witness what we call ‘climate refugees’ moving – you think migration is a challenge to Europe today because of extremism, wait till you see what happens when there’s an absence of water, or an absence of food, or once tribe fighting against another for mere survival,” he said.
Obama sets off for a three-day tour of Alaska on Monday.
With 16 months left in office, Obama is trying to build support for tough new rules on carbon emissions from power plants ahead of a hoped-for international climate deal later this year that could cement his legacy on the issue.
The hype for the tour began on Sunday with an announcement that Obama would rename North America’s tallest mountain as Denali, restoring the traditional Alaska native name to what maps and tourists currently call Mount McKinley.
Alaska’s Deputy Governor, Byron Mallot, thanked Obama as well as United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell for the change.
“And yesterday we learned that she has the extraordinary power, as validated by the President of the United States to rename – no, no, no, no – to bring back the ancient Dena’inan name, Athabascan name, Denali, to the mountain that was for too long, with due deference to President McKinley and the people of Ohio, was too long named Mount McKinley. And we thank you so much for that,” he said.
The White House has said that in Anchorage, Obama will announce new policies to help communities adapt to climate change and deploy renewable energy. But the main purpose of his trip is to use the media attention on his tour to convince Americans to take action.
Environmental groups hope he will announce new reforms or restrictions for resource extraction while he is on the trip.