John Kerry

Warning of climate change as weapon of mass destruction

Action on climate change has always been one of foreign affairs, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. The current US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been especially vocal on the topic in recent months, including underlining Obama’s recent domestic push on climate as a signal to the global community. And if we can expect to see more of Kerry, he may well be joined by his opposite numbers. The UK’s William Hague and France’s Laurent Fabius were also nominees of this list.

What’s especially interesting about Kerry is the frame of national security he takes to the topic. Analogies to war are nothing new in global warming, and environmental science has long been of military interest. But when Kerry described climate change as “another weapon of mass destruction” during a speech in Jakarta last February, he made headlines across the world. For one thing, it explicitly offered a new response to people arguing action on climate change is too expensive (funds for war often being politically different in favour than those for environmental projection). Kerry’s statements also sit within a larger set of voices increasingly expressing concerns over how climate change can cause global conflicts, as well as immigration. If foreign ministers are coming to climate change a bit late, they’ll find a lot more than just UNFCCC talks are on the table.