"Mother Nature ... is screaming at us about" climate change, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the crowd at the opening event of Climate Week NYC 2014. While Kerry used a more measured tone than that which he attributed to Mother Nature, the apocalyptic nature of his warnings were in keeping with her purported sentiment. Using projections that appear hyperbolic, even compared to the worst case scenarios presented in the latest United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Kerry said that "we’re on track to warm at at least 4 degrees over the course of the next 20, 30, 40 years, and by the century, even more." Kerry linked the increase to more severe effects of "greenhouse gas levels" than scientists originally figured:
When we began this discussion a number of years ago, we were warned by the scientists that you had to keep the greenhouse gas levels about 450 parts per million in order to be able to hold to the 2 degree centigrade possible allowable warming taking place. Then, because of the rate at which it was happening, the scientists revised that estimate and they told us, “No, no, no, you can’t do 450 anymore. It’s got to be 350 or we’re not going to meet the standard.” And I, unfortunately, tell you that today not only are we above 450 parts per million, but we are on track to warm – having already warmed at 1 degree – we’ve got 1 degree left – we’re on track to warm at at least 4 degrees over the course of the next 20, 30, 40 years, and by the century, even more.
Kerry then invoked Al Gore, the IPCC, and Mother Nature to back him up:
[I]t is absolutely imperative that we decide to move and to act now. You don’t have to take my word for it. You don’t have to Al Gore’s word for it. You don’t have to take the IPCC’s word and the Framework Convention, all those people who are sounding the alarm bells. You can just wake up pretty much any day and listen to Mother Nature, who is screaming at us about it.
The IPCC report, however, does not say that a four-degree increase is only 20, 30, or 40 years away. The scenarios emphasized in the IPCC report project an increase of 1.5 or 2 degrees, though some scenarios do project an increase as high as 4 degrees. But all of those projections are by the year 2100, not 2034 to 2054 as Kerry's words suggest. In fact, the summary of the report states that "globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend, show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C, over the period 1880 to 2012." Kerry's numbers would require more warming in each of the next four decades than has taken place in the entire previous 130 year period.
An email inquiry to the State Department regarding the source of Kerry's claim, which was forwarded to the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs for a response, has gone unanswered.
Earlier this week, the State Department said that Secretary Kerry would be making "climate change … a foreign policy priority" at this week's session of the General Assembly. However, according to his public schedule, Kerry will not be attending Tuesday's United Nations Climate Summit at UN headquarters in New York.