Secretary of State
November 10, 2015
QUESTION: Right now at WNIS we welcome Secretary of State John Kerry to our microphones. Good morning, Secretary Kerry. How are you today, sir?
SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, Tony. I’m doing fine, thank you. How are you?
QUESTION: Outstanding, and a pleasure to have you here in Norfolk on this Marine Corps birthday and tomorrow Veterans Day. I would imagine you’ve been to Norfolk before?
SECRETARY KERRY: I have. I have indeed. A very impressive place, quite remarkable. I’ve been onboard Wisconsin and been down there a few times.
QUESTION: Now, when you were in the Navy, were you ever stationed in this area?
SECRETARY KERRY: No, I wasn’t. I was a west coast sailor. I was out in WESTPAC and mostly in San Diego and San Francisco, but it was pretty darn enjoyable. It was good.
QUESTION: Well, one of the things – we’re always interested in this whole debate about climate change and what is happening. Tell us a little bit about your presentation today, Secretary Kerry, at ODU.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you, Tony. Well, Norfolk is really right on the cusp of whatever happens with climate change because of the sea level rise, and the Navy based there is already making plans and being affected by it. I understand that if it’s raining and there’s a high tide, you get water into Norfolk already. There are major challenges of national security, which is why I’m coming to Norfolk.
The Old Dominion University has done some really terrific work on the subject of climate change, and we have a tremendous amount of input from the military regarding the threat multipliers that comes with climate change. If you have droughts, if you have huge glacier melting, water fights, battles, maybe major dislocation of people as a result of any of the effects of climate change, you could have mass migration. We’re already seeing the effect of mass migration as a result of conflict in the Middle East and what the impact is on Europe, but you could imagine what happens if food supplies are threatened, water supplies are threatened. And all of these are legitimate concerns about what is currently happening with the sea level rise, the challenge of drought, the challenge of increased flooding, major storms. Everybody understands there’s an impact from this already, and so we need to, obviously, prepare. And a lot of good work has been done at Old Dominion regarding all of this.
QUESTION: Now, Secretary Kerry, as you know, many people accept climate change as a scientific fact and they think that some of it are the consequences of human action. But as you know, this is a talk radio station and there are many hosts who will pooh-pooh that and say that’s not the case. What persuades you that climate change is real, is going to pose a security challenge to us, and is caused by human beings? What persuades you, sir?
SECRETARY KERRY: The science, very simply. I mean, we all learned in high school basic science and we learned about the Earth rotating on its axis. We learned about the sun rising in the east, setting in the west. We learned about the moon and sun and stars and laws of science, relative motion and so forth. Well, science is telling us, scientists all around the world are telling us, that this is happening, and it’s happening because life itself on Earth exists because of something called the greenhouse effect. You have this layer up in the atmosphere that contains a certain amount of heat, and as we are now filling that layer and thickening that layer with human – with gasses produced by human activity, coal-fired power plants and so forth, that’s thickening and that contains heat. And that’s what’s acting just like a greenhouse in somebody’s nursery or backyard, whatever. It has the same effect as a greenhouse.
Last year, a group of 16 retired three- and four-star flag and general officers from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps who make up CNA’s Military Advisory Board released a report saying that the accelerating national security impacts of climate change are something we all have to pay attention to and deal with. So it’s science and common sense that drive us on this, and people need to pay attention.
QUESTION: Secretary, I know we only have a limited amount of time, but I guess the question then is that – what are we going to do about it? How will it positively or negatively affect the economy of the United States, and how much can we do if we don’t have people like China and India also acting in good faith? We recently – I know you saw the reports about China kind of fudging the books as to what they were actually doing with coal. So what can we do without hurting the economy and getting these other actors on board, sir?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, actually, not to defend China because they do a lot of things that bother us, but the fact is China is the one that discovered this discrepancy and China reported it publicly. That never would have happened five years ago. But we’ve been negotiating with China, and China has come on board and has actually become a partner in helping to urge other countries to engage in countering climate change.
So you asked the big question: What do we do about it and what’s the impact on the economy? The answer is that all of the solutions to climate change are ready-made; they’re there and improving every day. It’s called clean energy. It’s alternative energy, renewable energy. And the United States is a leader in this. We are now – we’ve increased our wind production by threefold. We’ve increased our solar production by twentyfold. We’re the best technology innovators in the world.
And so if we grab this baton and run with it, we’re going to be able to actually lead the world in producing the technologies, selling them to other countries, and creating millions of jobs in the doing of this. And that’s happening now. The fastest-growing – one of the fastest-growing sectors of the American economy is in clean energy and alternative energy. And we have an amazing number of jobs and companies that are growing now as a consequence of this investment.
So the key is to transition away from carbon, from a carbon-based economy into a clean energy-based economy. That’s what other countries are trying to do, and we should be the world’s leader in that. And if we are, this is the largest market in the history of human beings. It’s bigger than the tech market of the 1990s, and we can create an unbelievable number of jobs, make a lot of people wealthy, create a lot of better options for people in the job market, and be the world’s leader at the same time.
QUESTION: We’ve been talking to Secretary of State John Kerry. Secretary of State Kerry, I, like you, am a Vietnam vet. And I just want to take this opportunity – I’ve never spoken to you before; I’ll probably never speak to you again – I want to thank you for all you did to end the war in Vietnam and all the lives you probably helped save. Thank you very much, sir.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Tony. Take care, thanks.
QUESTION: Have a good day, sir.