Editorial | John Kerry’s speech addresses climate

February 20, 2014 

The following editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday.

Secretary of State John Kerry, during a visit Sunday to Jakarta, Indonesia, addressed the increasingly pressing issue of climate change.

He was speaking to Indonesians, but he could have just as easily — given the relevance and importance of his remarks — been speaking to Americans.

China and the United States accounted for 40 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere that last year made the level of carbon dioxide the highest in recorded history.

Indonesia, surprisingly, is third among the world’s carbon pollution producers. Its emissions come from deforestation and agriculture rather than from burning oil and coal.

Kerry walked his audience through the familiar sequence of events.

Temperatures increase, glaciers and other ice formations melt, sea levels rise and, if the phenomenon continues uninterrupted, by the end of this century half of Jakarta will be under water.

He did not spare the guns on the skeptics of climate change, either.

The science of climate change, he said, is “absolutely certain” and is accepted by 97 percent of scientists.

Taking dead aim at Americans who oppose action on climate change, he said the rest of the world’s population should not be diverted from dealing with the problem by a tiny minority of “shoddy scientists” and extreme ideologues.

He pledged President Barack Obama’s attention to the matter and said he had taken his just-completed visit to China as an opportunity to engage its leaders on the issue. He said governments should stop giving incentives to the coal and oil industries and take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by a rapidly expanding global energy market and by renewable-energy technology.

Kerry, who has been concentrating most of his energy on Middle East negotiations — between the Israelis and Palestinians, over Iran’s nuclear program and economic sanctions, and regarding the Syrian conflict — addressed in Jakarta what he considers to be an equally urgent global issue.

He ranked climate change alongside epidemics, poverty, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as a global priority requiring attention and action.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility,” he said, and “lack of political resolve” is the problem. History and future generations will not forgive lack of action by today’s leaders.

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