Kerry: Climate change, food security key to global stability

MILAN: The stability of the world is directly linked to climate change and its impact on food security for billions of people, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday.

In a speech to the Milan Expo, Kerry argued that unrest tied to climate change-induced agricultural failure poses an international threat. The Milan Expo is focused on food security, and Kerry urged attendants to act quickly against climate change.

"Make no mistake: The implications here extend well beyond hunger," Kerry said. "This isn't only about global food security; it's about global security period."

He said drought-spawned mass urban migration in Syria up to 1.5 million people from rural areas to cities exacerbated political tensions ahead of the start of that country's civil war, which has contributed to the world's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

"I'm not suggesting the crisis in Syria was caused by climate change obviously, it wasn't," Kerry said. "It was caused by a brutal dictator who barrel-bombed, starved, tortured and gassed his own people. But the devastating drought clearly made a bad situation a lot worse."

Kerry urged world government to act quickly against climate change because without such action, he said, "the horrific refugee situation we're facing today will pale in comparison to the mass migrations that intense drought, sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change are likely to bring about."

"The hard truth is that unless the global community comes together to address climate change, every one of these challenges — droughts, floods, extreme weather, ocean acidification, hunger and malnutrition — will only become more pronounced," he said.

In addition to dealing with the broader global security challenges of climate change, Kerry said the immediate issue of hunger among large segments of the world's fast-growing population must be addressed. That requires urgent action to regulate fishing, make agriculture sustainable, eliminate waste and bring food to where it is needed.

Kerry is in Italy on the first leg of a three-nation tour of Europe that will also take him to France and Spain.