U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that climate change now ranks alongside terrorism, nuclear proliferation and epidemics as a threat to global security.
Speaking at the U.N.-sponsored climate change negotiations in Lima, Peru, Kerry warned that like those disasters, the cost of not acting to slow climate change now would pale in comparison to the economic toll cleaning up its aftermath.
"People of good conscience and good faith should not be able to ignore it," he said.
Kerry's remarks came as climate negotiators continue to draft a set of non-binding emissions reductions commitments. With just one day left in the current talks, progress on an agreement remains difficult to quantify. But some attendees are noting a shift among developing countries toward making their own emissions reductions pledges, instead of simply waiting on the world's largest CO2 emitters to pledge first.
This movement, by the "most vulnerable countries" bloc is being led by the Philippines, where Typhoon Hagupit, the country's second major storm event in as many years, has left 27 dead.
"It's powerful to see countries like the Philippines stepping up and not only demanding emissions reductions, but pledging to take action themselves," Jamie Henn, communicators director for climate group 350.org, told Fusion in an email. "Poor countries have done practically nothing to cause the climate crisis — as they step up, it puts far more pressure on rich countries to do more."
The UN also announced this week that its Green Climate Fund, designed to finance low-carbon-emitting power sources, now tops $10 billion after Australia — ranked the West's worst performer on address climate change — pledged a fresh $200 million.
Earlier in the day, Kerry met with former Vice President Al Gore.
In his remarks, Gore recited poetry that spoke to his hopes for reaching a deal.
“After the final no, there comes a yes. And on that yes, the future world depends,” he said, quoting from Wallace Stevens' The Well Dressed Man With a Beard.
Kerry tallied the cost climate change has already exacted, noting that in 2012, U.S. weather-related disasters caused $110 billion-worth of damage. In the future, he said, global crop yields are expected to decline 2 percent each decade as a result of rising temperatures, a price that will prove far larger than the investments required to curb fossil fuel use.
"It's time for countries to do some real cost accounting," he said.
But he also painted climate change as an economic opportunity, saying that energy markets are projected to be worth $17 trillion by 2035.
"The solution to climate change is clear: The solution is energy policy," he said, pointing out that the Obama administration has presided over a ten-fold growth in America's solar energy sector.
However, he stopped short of committing the U.S. to new green energy investments.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.