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In final days as secretary of state, John Kerry presses for unity behind climate change issue

The secretary of state spoke at MIT about the issue and the future of clean energy.
State Department

Secretary of State John Kerry doesn’t think climate change should be a “partisan” issue.

With only two weeks left as the nation's top diplomat, the former Democratic senator from Massachusetts appeared at MIT on Monday, continuting to press his case.

Kerry spent most of his time talking about the importance of investing in clean energy technologies.

Afterward, he joinied Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and MIT faculty and researchers for a roundtable discussion to debate the future amid the next four years of a Donald Trump presidency. It was part of the State Department's Innovation Forum, which brings together senior policymakers and industry experts, according to an agency release.

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Trump, who takes office Jan. 20, promised back in September to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris Agreement if elected. The accord was signed by 197 members of the United Nations during its convention on climate change. In response, almost 400 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences wrote an open letter calling the move a “great concern."

Trump has also called global warming a “hoax,” though in November he said he would “keep an ‘open mind’” to the issue, according to New York Times reporters.

The issue is not up for debate, Kerry told the audience.

“Glaciers are melting at unprecedented rate, sea levels rising three times faster than in the 20th century," he said. "These are the kind of intense stories that used to happen only three times a millennia, now becoming normal. This is what scientists were warning us was going to happen for a long time.”

Massachusetts, he said, has "increased its clean energy economy by 75 percent in the last six years alone … Clean energy in the commonwealth is a perfect example of how quickly transformation can happen."

The question is not whether to transition to clean energy technologies, Kerry said, but how to accelerate those technologies into the market. Climate change “has already started,” he emphasized, no matter what some people believe.

Scientists have also warned us about President-elect Donald Trump’s stance on climate change.

“In less than two weeks, a new person will be in the Oval Office. I’m not going to speculate about the policies the president-elect will choose to pursue,” Kerry said. “But I will tell you this: In my time spent in public life the one thing I learned is some issues look a lot different when you’re actually in the office than when you’re on the campaign trail.”

During his campaign for president, Trump threatened to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency. Since the election, he has named Scott Pruitt to head the agency. Pruitt, now Oklahoma’s attorney general who has called President Obama's Clean Power Plan a "war on coal," has denied the existence of climate change.

Kerry said climate change is real, and should not divide Democrats from Republicans. “It’s an issue we should all care about regardless of affiliation.”

 
 
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