By Wendy Laursen 2015-08-31 19:23:55
“You think migration is a challenge to Europe today because of extremism. Wait until you see what happens when there’s an absence of water, an absence of food or one tribe fighting against another for mere survival.” These are the words of John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, talking about the potential for climate refugees.
Kerry made the remark at the conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, and Resilience (GLACIER) during the opening plenary session in Anchorage, Alaska on August 31.
“The Arctic has never been, we know, an easy place to survive let alone to raise a family or make a living. The story of Arctic communities is inherently one of resilience, adaptation, and survival from one generation to the next. But global climate change now threatens life in this region,” said Kerry. “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.”
Kerry cited the problem of permafrost melting and releasing methane which is about 30 times on average more damaging than CO2. He also cited Alaskan fires covering five million acres.
“The bottom line is that climate 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 word 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.”
The Energy Market
For Kerry, there are many ways of responding to the challenges posed by climate change and, ironically, respond to it in a way that creates millions of jobs, improves the U.S. economy and improves health – renewable energy.
Speaking at the conference, he cited a small Alaskan village, Igiugig, that is now using wind turbines, and, through a partnership with the Ocean Renewable Energy Company, is generating a third of their energy needs using a river-based hydrokinetic power technology.
“Energy policy is the solution to climate change – and the energy market, if people make the right choices, is the largest market the world has ever seen. The market that drove the great wealth creation in the United States of the 1990s was a $1 trillion market with one billion users: technology, computers, personal computers, et cetera. The market that’s staring at us today is already a $6 trillion market with four to five billion users, and it will grow to nine billion users as the population of the planet increases in the next 30, 40 years. It is the biggest market ever, and it’s waiting to be grabbed.
“So we need to move to reducing carbon pollution, including emissions of short-lived climate drivers like soot and methane, and begin to factor carbon dioxide and its cost into the actual accounting of business and of our economies.”
The White House has said that Barack Obama, also attending the GLACIER conference, will announce new policies to help communities adapt to climate change and deploy renewable energy.