Kerry made the comments at National Geographic Society’s Ross Sea Conservation Reception, where former New Zealand prime minister and current Ambassador Mike Moore and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr also spoke.
Kerry has spoken often about climate change in his first weeks at Foggy Bottom. He commented Monday that President Obama has put the topic “back on the front burner where it belongs.”
Kerry called the Ross Sea, a bay in Antarctica that runs into the South Pacific Ocean, a “natural laboratory” that is threatened by climate change.
He said Arctic ice melt and rising sea levels jeopardize the diverse set of species there, which have adapted to unforgiving conditions and proven a wealth of information for researchers.
Kerry referenced fossil-fuel energy and climate change in developments that are negatively affecting aquatic ecosystems. He pointed to ocean acidification, pollution, ice melt and sea level rises.
He noted the ecosystem is “interdependent,” and that “we toy with that at our peril” by failing to address climate change.
“We call this beautiful planet that we are privileged to inhabit for a short period of time, we call it Earth, but it could well have been called Ocean because three-quarters of it is ocean. And the oceans are responsible in many ways for life because of the cycle of rain and humidity and all of the protein and life that comes from the ocean. So we can’t be casual about it,” Kerry said.