Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) kicked off the new campaign on Thursday to create a national security push to pass climate change legislation. Climate change, Kerry argued, will likely trigger some of the most critical threats to national security in the future, and should be addressed with aggressive action this year.
His speech was the keynote address at a conference that the American Security Project, a bipartisan national security think tank, hosted at The George Washington University. The event was titled, not so subtly, “The Day Before,” and marks the eve of the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is working with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to coauthor a Senate climate bill this year.
“Eight years ago today, on September 10th, 2001, America experienced one last moment of complacency before plunging into crisis,” said Kerry. “That day, the world was already being transformed, but too few knew or understood the new era we were about to enter.”
“Once again the world is being upended, and too few are taking action,” he continued. “The latest science warns that we have a ten-year window — at most — to prevent catastrophic, irreversible climate change. That means we are once again living in a ‘day before’ moment that cries out for action.”
Kerry outlined the threats that climate change poses to national security, from increased drought, severe storms and rising sea levels in the United States to strains on resources, population displacement and increased international conflict abroad. The impacts will strain the United States’ military and humanitarian capacities, he said.
The real lesson of “the day before,” ladies and gentlemen, is that when we see a threat on the horizon, we can’t afford to wait until it arrives. Unless we take dramatic action — now — to restrain global climate change, we risk unleashing an aggressive new challenge to global stability, to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions, and yes, to America’s national security.
You know, the 9/11 Commission report found that in the lead-up to the attacks, we suffered from a “failure of imagination.” We need to close the “imagination gap” on climate change and help people to envision a new kind of threat.
Kerry’s speech is just one component of a greater, organized push to connect climate and national security concerns on the eve of 9/11. We’ll have more on other events to come.
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