Secretary of State John Kerry sought to sound the alarm on climate change Monday, telling Arctic-nation leaders that a warming Earth is already threatening the world.
Kerry’s message opening a State Department conference on Arctic policy in Anchorage, Alaska, was a call for global action to fight climate change for the sake of the world as a whole and the Arctic specifically.
“It is now. It is happening now.”
The State Department is hosting the conference — titled Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience — to gather diplomats from nations in the Arctic and countries with heavy Arctic interests and discuss climate change, security and related questions.
President Obama will speak later Monday at the conference as part of his first visit to Alaska.
Kerry focused his speech heavily on the effects of climate change that Alaska and the rest of the Arctic are currently seeing, including rising sea levels, melting permafrost and dramatically changing ecosystems.
But what happens in the Arctic affects the rest of the globe, he said.
“The Arctic is so important for us to visit and understand because the Arctic is, in many ways, a thermostat, a computerized system, if you will, where we don’t even understand fully what the algorithm is, and yet we already see it’s having a profound impact on the rest of the planet,” Kerry said.
"The temperature patterns, the weather patterns, what happens in the ocean, in the Arctic, can in fact, we know, though we don’t understand fully the ways in which it will happen, but we know it has this profound impact on habitat everywhere, on breeding grounds everywhere, on the ecosystem itself,” he continued.
Kerry said he hoped the conference would be a “stepping stone” to the United Nations’ climate meeting in Paris, where leaders plan to write a global pact to cut greenhouse gases.
He called for the world to unite around climate change in the same way that leaders got together to start the U.N. in the 1940s to clamp down on war and unrest.
“If we commit ourselves to climbing this mountain together, then I am absolutely convinced that we will meet the obligation we have to future generations,” he said.