CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - Work to avert the problems caused by climate change should not be a partisan issue, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry told students at an elite U.S. engineering school on Monday, in one of his final speeches as the nation's top diplomat.
Kerry noted U.S. officials from military and intelligence leaders to the mayors of coastal cities agree the problem of rising sea levels and erratic rainfall is one that they want to take action on, and he urged the incoming administration of Republican President-elect Donald Trump to tackle head on.
Trump, a New York real estate developer who has never held elected office, has described climate change as a hoax and vowed to pull the United States out of the deal negotiated in Paris in 2015 to cut global greenhouse gas emissions. But in an interview with the New York Times in November, Trump said he was keeping an open mind on whether to pull out of the accord.
"I'm not going to speculate about the policies that our President-elect and his Secretary of State will choose to pursue, but I will tell you this ... some issues look a lot different when you're actually in office compared to when you're on the campaign trail," Kerry said at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
"The truth is that climate change shouldn't be a partisan issue. It's an issue that all of us should care about, regardless of political affiliation."
The U.S. Senate this week is due to begin the process of confirming Trump's political appointments, including proposed Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, who has repeatedly challenged the agency's authority in the courts.
Many Republicans in Congress argue environmental regulations slow business growth and job creation, both expected to be top priorities for the Trump administration.
Kerry referenced a U.S. intelligence report published on Monday that listed climate change among the factors that could raise the risk of conflict between nations.
Obama on Monday echoed the message in an article published in Science magazine.
Kerry called on researchers and students at MIT to keep up their work on improving energy efficiency and inventing new energy sources, regardless of government policies.
"It's going to be innovators, researchers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders ... who will continue to create the technological advances that forever revolutionize the way we power our world," Kerry said. "Every person in this room – indeed, every person on the planet – has an interest in making sure that transition happens as quickly as possible."
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Alistair Bell