He may have his hands more than full dealing with an Islamic State overrunning the Middle East, Russia, China, ebola, and trouble all over the world, but Thursday Secretary of State John F. Kerry was back in Boston to take a longer view – big threats to Earth from climate change and big economic potential in attacking them.
"Climate change is already impacting the world," Kerry said in remarks after a tour of the Wind Blade Test Facility on the working port of Charlestown, an example of the “green energy” future Kerry calls critical to rolling back rising seas, soaring temperatures, and dramatic weather disasters he contends are signs of man-made climate change.
"We still have, in our hands, the window of opportunity to be able to make the difference … It’s very simple: Clean energy. The solution to climate change is energy policy," Kerry said.
While a clear believer that the climate is changing and human-caused pollution is driving the world towards as much as three feet of sea-level rise by 2100 that would deluge Boston and cause over $100 billion in damage, Kerry was willing to acknowledge scientific disagreement and debate about what’s really happening to the planet’s climate and how best to respond.
"If we’re wrong about this future, what's the worst that could happen to us from making these choices?" Kerry said. "The worst that could happen to us is we create a whole lot of new jobs. We kick our economies into gear. We have healthier people, healthier children, because we have cleaner air."
"If they’re wrong," Kerry said, "catastrophe. Life as you know it on Earth ends."
For all the dire and apocalyptic warnings, Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who accompanied him and Governor Deval L. Patrick, stressed that responding aggressively to the threat of climate change does not mean a future of shivering in the dark. Rather, they asserted it can lead to a net gain of new jobs and creation of vast and vibrant new industries, like the wind test center, where turbine blades up to half a football field in length are made to shake, rattle, and roll to test how they will perform on real-world turbines. Patrick’s administration said the state now produces 35 times more wind power than it did in 2006 and 200 times more solar energy, and the broadly defined "clean energy" sector, which includes energy efficiency and conservation companies, now employs close to 100,000 people in the state.
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"The technological transformation that is required will provide a greater stimulus than the space program did 50 years ago," Hammond said.
"We do not accept that we have to choose between our prosperity and the future of the planet," Hammond added. "Indeed, we are demonstrating across the world, here in Massachusetts, the U.K., that the response to climate change can be a generator of economic growth and innovation and quality jobs."
With videographer Abbas T. Sadek