Kerry says Earth has 9 years to avert worst consequences of climate crisis

Credit: CBSNews
Credit: CBSNews

▶ Watch Video: Biden administration officially rejoining Paris climate accord

The wild winter weather this week has been called historic and unprecedented, and John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, wants to stop it from becoming typical.

“Obviously we want to prevent this from becoming the new normal to the degree that we can,” Kerry told CBS News’ Ben Tracy.

Many people wrongly believe that climate change only relates to temperatures increasing, not decreasing.

Kerry said it threatens all weather patterns.

“I think it’s a very appropriate way to think of it, so it is directly related to the warming, even though your instinct is to say, wait a minute, this is the new Ice Age. But it’s not,” Kerry said. “It is coming from the global warming and it threatens all the normal weather patterns.”

The planet is warming in large part because of greenhouse gas emissions that are pumped into the sky from power plants, cars, planes and industry. It even comes from the way we raise and grow our food. America is the second-largest emitter behind China of greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

That warming is believed to make storms stronger, droughts drier and oceans higher. That means certain places on Earth where people currently live will become unlivable. In fact, it is already happening.

Kerry said we have only a few years left to avoid a climate catastrophe.

“Well, the scientists told us three years ago we had 12 years to avert the worst consequences of climate crisis. We are now three years gone, so we have nine years left,” he said.

That’s where the Paris accord, a climate treaty dedicated to lowering greenhouse gas emissions in more than 180 countries around the world, comes in. It was named after the City of Light, where it was agreed to back in 2015. But the pledges made then by nearly every country on Earth to cut their planet-warming emissions will no longer cut it.

“Even if we did everything that we said we were going to do when we signed up in Paris we would see a rise in the Earth’s temperature to somewhere around 3.7 degrees or more, which is catastrophic,” Kerry said.

When Kerry was secretary of state in 2016 he signed the Paris climate accord. A year later he watched his signature accomplishment erased by then-President Trump. In 2017, Mr. Trump announced he was pulling out of the landmark deal. His administration rolled back more than 100 environmental regulations. 

But renewable energy like wind turbines and solar panels are now much cheaper and are providing record amounts of energy in the U.S., putting some coal plants out of business.

Automakers like Tesla that make luxury cars that run on batteries have inspired other car manufacturing companies to do the same. General Motors announced in January it will go mostly electric by 2035. Kerry said that’s great news, but the country will need to transition to clean energy much faster and this will both create and cut jobs. He also said there’s been too little action and too much hot air.

“There is no room for B.S. anymore. There’s no faking it on this one,” Kerry said.

The Biden administration has now rejoined the Paris Agreement and is expected to announce a much more ambitious emissions target by Earth Day in April. Then later this year all the countries that signed the Paris accords will meet again and formalize their new targets. The overall goal is to get to net-zero emissions by 2050.

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