John Kerry: 'Climate Change Is Not Just About Bambi,' It Threatens All of Humanity
U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry delivered a speech on Climate Change and National Security this morning at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Old Dominion and the city of Norfolk are in a strategic location for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Norfolk is a coastal community that is already dealing with the consequences of sea level rise, and it's home to the largest Navy base in the world—Naval Station Norfolk.
.@JohnKerry: #climatechange is a threat to the security of the U.S and to security and stability everywhere. https://t.co/8LCMLwh0CM— Department of State (@Department of State)1447175450.0
Kerry, a former member of the Navy, said the future of coastal communities—and indeed all communities—will depend on whether or not we as a global community can come together to address climate change. In his time as Secretary of State, Kerry has repeatedly emphasized the threat of climate change.
He said in his speech that he has made climate change such a major priority in his time as Secretary of State not "simply because climate change is a threat to the environment. It's because by fueling extreme weather events, undermining our military readiness, exacerbating conflicts around the world, climate change is a threat to the security of the United States and indeed to the security and stability of countries everywhere."
Citing impacts of extreme weather events, including flooding, drought and rapid sea level rise, Sec. Kerry said climate change will affect people in dramatic ways. He was deeply critical of those who deny climate science and challenge climate change policies by invoking the "I'm not a scientist" argument. "Those who continue to make climate change a political fight put us all at risk," he warned.
Kerry asked those in the audience who are 29 or younger to raise their hands. He told them, "you haven't lived through a single month that was cooler than its 20th century average. Think about that. It means what used to be normal no longer is. The past decade was the hottest on record, the one before that was the second hottest on record and the one before that was the third hottest on record."
"Three decades in a row—19 of the 20 warmest years in recorded history—have occurred in the past two decades," said Kerry. "This year is on track to be the warmest of all."
But the Secretary of State was not all doom and gloom. "The worst impacts" of climate change "are not inevitable," says Kerry. "We still have time to transition to a global clean energy economy and put the world on a much safer, much more sustainable path. And believe me, if we let the opportunity to do so pass us by, it may be the primary thing that our generation is remembered for."
You can watch Kerry's entire speech here:
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Seven day rolling average of number of people confirmed to have COVID-19, per day (not including today). This chart gets updated once per day with data by Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins university doesn't provide reliable data for March 12 and March 13. Johns Hopkins CSSE Get the data
To Have a Second Wave, the First Wave Needs to End.<p>A wave of an infection describes a large rise and fall in the number of cases. There isn't a precise epidemiological definition of when a wave begins or ends.</p><p>But with talk of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave" target="_blank">second wave in the news</a>, as an <a href="https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/mhawkins.cfm" target="_blank">epidemiologist and public health researcher</a>, I think there are two necessary factors that must be met before we can colloquially declare a second wave.</p><p>First, the virus would have to be controlled and transmission brought down to a very low level. That would be the end of the first wave. Then, the virus would need to reappear and result in a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.</p><p>Many countries in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0908-8" target="_blank">Europe and Asia have successfully ended the first wave</a>. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/08/new-zealand-abandons-covid-19-restrictions-after-nation-declared-no-cases" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> and <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">Iceland</a> have also made it through their first waves and are now essentially coronavirus-free, with very low levels of community transmission and only a handful of active cases currently.</p>
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What Could a Second Wave Look Like?<p>It is possible – though at this point it seems unlikely – that the U.S. could control the virus before a vaccine is developed. If that happens, it would be time to start thinking about a second wave. The question of what it might look like depends in large part on everyone's actions.</p><p>The <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1086%2F592454" target="_blank">1918 flu pandemic</a> was characterized by a mild first wave in the winter of 1917-1918 that went away in summer. After restrictions were lifted, people very quickly went back to pre-pandemic life. But a second, deadlier strain came back in fall of 1918 and third in spring of 1919. In total, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm" target="_blank">more than 500 million people were infected</a> worldwide and upwards of <a href="https://theconversation.com/compare-the-flu-pandemic-of-1918-and-covid-19-with-caution-the-past-is-not-a-prediction-138895" target="_blank">50 million died</a> over the course of three waves.</p><p>It was the combination of a quick return to normal life and a mutation in the flu's genome that made it more deadly that led to the horrific second and third waves.</p><p>Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be much more <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104351" target="_blank">genetically stable</a> than the influenza virus, and thus less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant. That leaves human behavior as the main risk factor.</p><p>Until a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-needs-to-go-right-to-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine-in-12-18-months-136816" target="_blank">vaccine or effective treatment is developed</a>, the tried-and-true public health measures of the last months – <a href="https://theconversation.com/this-simple-model-shows-the-importance-of-wearing-masks-and-social-distancing-140423" target="_blank">social distancing,</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">universal mask wearing</a>, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – are the ways to stop the first wave and thwart a second one. And when there are surges like what is happening now in the U.S., further reopening plans need to be put on hold.</p>
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