. . .In times of crisis, violence, strife, epidemic, and instability – believe me – the world still looks to the United States of America as a partner of first resort. People aren’t worried about our presence; they’re worried about our leaving. One of the great privileges of being Secretary of State is getting to see that firsthand.
In December, I walked through the devastation left behind by the typhoon in the Philippines. The U.S. military and USAID had arrived on the scene before countries that are much closer than we are.
This month in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I saw how the United States is supporting surgeons and Catholic nuns helping victims of violence and abuse.
And just a few weeks ago in Ethiopia, I saw what our sustained commitment to combating AIDS is achieving. Local doctors and nurses are making possible the dream of an AIDS-free generation. We’re on the cusp of achieving that.
And what we have done to turn back the armies of defeatism and indifference in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and even polio – this work should give every one of you confidence to confront another cross-border, cross-generational challenge, the challenge of a changing climate. If we’re going to live up to our values, this is a test that we have to meet.
Now look, I know this is hard, because I spent almost 30 years in the United States Senate pushing this issue, trying to get colleagues to move. We got up to maybe 55 votes, couldn’t quite get to 60. And I know it’s hard to feel the urgency. As we sit here on an absolutely beautiful morning in Boston, you might not see climate change as an immediate threat to your job, your community, or your families. But let me tell you, it is.
Two major recent reports, one from the UN and one from retired U.S. military leaders, warn us not just of the crippling consequences to come, but that some of them are already here. Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent. Why? Because if crops can’t grow, there’ll be food insecurity. If there’s less water because of longer droughts, if there are stronger and more powerful storms, things will change in a hurry and they will change for the worse.
Climate change is directly related to the potential of greater conflict and greater stability – instability. I’m telling you that there are people in parts of the world – in Africa today, they fight each other over water. They kill each over it. And if glaciers are melting and there’s less water available and more people, that is a challenge we have to face. And guess what? It is the poorest and the weakest who face the greatest risk. As Father Drinan would say, we should be in anguish over this. (Applause.). . .