John Kerry kicked off the USC’s Climate Forward conference on Thursday morning with a jab at President Donald Trump.
“It is imperative that the United States gets a president who understands the science of climate change and is prepared to do something about it,” he said.
In his speech to an enthusiastic crowd in Bovard Auditorium, Kerry went on to describe the state of the planet in dire terms and emphasized the urgency of the situation.
"Science has been screaming at us, exhorting us to act," he said.
Kerry, who represented Massachusetts for 28 years in the U.S. Senate, highlighted his track record advocating policies that combat climate change, from organizing the first Earth Day in 1970 to leading the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016.
He also articulated his vision of building incentives into the economy that would push us closer to being carbon fee, including a carbon tax that would protect low and middle class families.
“We are looking at the greatest market opportunity ever,” Kerry said. “But time is running out.”
Despite that warning, Kerry was also unequivocal about his view for the United States' carbon future.
“I have no doubt that the United States will eventually be a virtually carbon-free economy; the question is whether we will get there fast enough,” he said.
Kerry spoke for nearly an hour before Professor Bob Shrum joined him on stage to ask a short series of questions.
What individual citizens can do to combat climate change? “Vote to hold our politicians accountable and join local activist groups.”
What should the U.S. response be to the recent U.N. report on global warming? “Enact a series of policies such as carbon pricing and emission innovation.”
You can watch Kerry's full speech here.
Other speakers at the daylong conference included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The Climate Forward conference was organized by USC’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, the Center for the Political Future, and the Schwarzenegger Institute. Professor Shrum is the founder and director of the Center for the Political Future.