Climate change poses a “grave threat” and an “existential” menace over the long-term to all Americans, similar to acts of aggression by China and Russia and the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared Monday.
While delivering a speech on the “climate crisis” from the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, Blinken said:
I spend a great deal of my time focused on threats to America’s security and interests – aggressive actions by Russia or China, the spread of COVID-19 [coronavirus disease], the challenges facing democracies. But an equally grave threat to the American people – and an existential one over the long term – can be seen right here, on the Chesapeake Bay, where the costs of climate change are already manifesting themselves.
Climate change would hit poor minority communities “the hardest,” Blinken proposed, adding that addressing the issue “offers one of the most powerful tools we have to fight inequity and systemic racism.”
The top U.S. diplomat predicted:
More frequent and more intense storms; longer dry spells; bigger floods; more extreme heat and more extreme cold; faster sea level rise; more people displaced; more pollution; more asthma. Higher health costs; less predictable seasons for farmers. And all of that will hit low-income, black and brown communities the hardest.
Meanwhile, Blinken admitted some American workers “would be hit hard” by the Biden administration’s response to the “climate crisis.”
However, he promised, “We won’t leave those Americans behind. We’ll provide our fellow Americans with pathways to new, sustainable livelihoods and support as they navigate this transition.”
Blinken warned the United States is “falling behind” China as the global leader of the renewable energy industry, adding climate change could serve as an economic “opportunity” for America.
The secretary noted:
It’s difficult to imagine the United States winning the long-term strategic competition with China if we cannot lead the renewable energy revolution. Right now, we’re falling behind. … If we don’t catch up, America will miss the chance to shape the world’s climate future in a way that reflects our interests and values, and we’ll lose out on countless jobs for the American people.
Now, let me be clear: Goal number one of our climate policy is preventing catastrophe. … But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a stake in America developing these innovations and exporting them to the world.
The top U.S. diplomat conceded if America, the world’s second-biggest greenhouse gas emitter after China, tackles climate change alone, it “won’t be enough” to solve the “crisis.”
“Even if the United States gets to net zero emissions tomorrow, we’ll lose the fight against climate change if we can’t address the more than 85 percent of emissions coming from the rest of the world,” he acknowledged.
Echoing other Democrats, Blinken went on to say that coming up short in the fight against climate change will have “major repercussions for our national security.”
The secretary of state pointed out Biden has directed his department to put “the climate crisis at the center of our foreign policy and national security.”
“That means taking into account how every bilateral and multilateral engagement – every policy decision – will impact our goal of putting the world on a safer, more sustainable path,” he explained. “It also means ensuring our diplomats have the training and skills to elevate climate in our relationships around the globe.”
Blinken painted a doomsday scenario if America fails to act to combat climate change, sounding an alarmist tone that scientists have begun to criticize more openly.
“If America fails to lead the world on the climate crisis, we won’t have much of a world left,” he said, later adding, “The climate crisis we face is profound. The consequences of not meeting it would be cataclysmic.”
“The costs – in monetary damage, livelihoods, human lives – keep going up,” he added. “And unless we turn this around, it’s going to get worse.”
He noted that President Joe Biden had taken steps to rejoin the Paris Agreement after the previous administration pulled out.
However, he failed to point out that U.S. emissions had continued to decline even after the U.S. left the pace under former President Donald Trump.
Biden has invited 40 world leaders to Washington this week for a summit on climate.
“The Biden-Harris administration will do more than any in history to meet our climate crisis,” Blinken asserted.