Politics & Policy

Kerry Warns College Students: Climate-Policy Critics ‘Put Us All At Risk’

Secretary of State John Kerry warned that opponents of his views on climate change policy “put us all at risk,” as he painted a grim portrait of environmental disaster on Tuesday.

“It would be better for all of us if I was exaggerating the urgency of this threat,” Kerry said at Old Dominion University. “But the science tells us unequivocally: Those who continue to make climate change a political fight put us all at risk. And we cannot sit idly by and allow them to do that.”

Kerry’s comments continue the rhetorical campaign he’s been advancing at college campuses in recent months; he reiterated his belief that even Biblical texts ratify the Obama administration’s views. There were also signs that Kerry hopes these speeches will mobilize young voters in the 2016 presidential elections as well.

The former Massachusetts senator didn’t mention Republicans by name, but took a clear shot at the GOP presidential field. “Now, there are some — there are some running around this country campaigning even now — who refuse to acknowledge the human cause and effect on climate change because they say they themselves are ‘not scientists,’” he said. “Well, a lot of us went to high school and learned that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and the Earth revolves around its axis, and we believe it but we’re not scientists.”

Having dismissed such skepticism, he argued that climate policy has immediate national-security implications. “For example, in Nigeria, climate change didn’t lead to the rise of the terrorist group Boko Haram,” he said. “But the severe drought that that country suffered – and the government’s inability to cope with it — helped create the political and economic volatility that the militants exploited to seize villages, butcher teachers, and kidnap hundreds of innocent school girls.”

Kerry delivered that warning in Virginia, of course – a battleground state in the last two presidential elections. In October, he delivered a similar warning to college students in Indiana, a state that President Obama carried in 2008 that also features a campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2016. He shied away from the most explicit of political calls, but still reminded students to vote. 

“If we got one really good public benefit to come out of some of the choices you have to vote on sometimes, that was a big deal,” Kerry said. “Hard choices sometimes. This is — should be — a no-brainer because the benefits we get are living up to our legacy and living up to our obligation to be caretakers of the planet given to us, incidentally, by the scriptures of every major religion and every major philosophy of life.”

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