Kerry Hits Back at Florida's "˜Climate Change' Ban

"We literally do not have the time to debate whether we can say 'climate change. '"

Secretary of State John Kerry pushed back Thursday against reports that Florida Gov. Rick Scott had barred state officials from talking about "climate change," saying that future generations would judge inaction on the issue as a "moral failure."

In a speech at the Atlantic Council, Kerry didn't specifically name Scott or Florida, but he made reference to reports that state officials had been told not to use terms such as "climate change" or "global warming" in official documents. He blasted those who were "not willing to face the facts," saying it was time for climate action, not discussion.

"We literally do not have the time to debate whether we can say 'climate change.' We have to solve climate change," Kerry said. "When science tells us that our climate is changing and human beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people just stand up and say, 'I dispute that,' or 'I deny this elementary truth'?"

Scott, who is openly skeptical about the science of climate change, has denied the charges, detailed by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, that employees and contractors had been told by supervisors not to use specific terms. Scott told reporters this week that "there's lots of conversation about this issue" at the state's Environmental Protection Department.

Speaking as part of the Atlantic Council's Road to Paris series, Kerry also emphasized the importance of getting all countries and even the private sector on board with setting emissions-reduction goals at the United Nations talks in Paris at the end of the year. The agreement, he said, would be a "vital first step" and mark a breakthrough by getting all countries in the world to acknowledge the threat of climate change.

Agreements like the one between the United States and China, he said, were already pushing more developing countries to come to the table.

Kerry also took a hard stance against coal and oil, calling them "outdated energy sources" that were only good for "short-term" power for developing nations. He said it was time to stop sending federal money to support coal and oil, and he pressed the need for international banks to stop funding coal-fired power plants.

Ultimately, Kerry said, everyone needed to get serious about the threat of climate change, saying that "gambling with the future of the Earth itself" is "reckless" and "immoral."

"We need to face reality, there is no Planet B," Kerry said. "It is crunch time now—we've used up our hall passes."