John Kerry tells Donald Trump Americans want climate action amid worries he could pull US out of Paris deal

VIDEO: REUTERS
US Secretary of State John Kerry sends his congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump in Christchurch, New Zealand on Nov 10, 2016.
US Secretary of State John Kerry sends his congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump in Christchurch, New Zealand on Nov 10, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry made an impassioned plea Sunday (Nov 13) for America to maintain action on global warming, despite the election of climate-change denier Donald Trump.

While US President-elect Trump has labelled climate change a hoax and threatened to pull out of the Paris climate deal, Kerry said most Americans wanted the problem addressed.

"We will wait to see how the next administration addresses this but I believe we're on the right track and this is a track that the American people are committed to," Kerry told reporters on a trip to New Zealand.

"The majority of the American people believe that climate change is in fact happening and want to see us address it."

He was hopeful Trump would not follow through with his strong campaign rhetoric about ditching Washington's climate policies.

"Everybody knows that there's sometimes a divide between a campaign and the governing and I think the next administration needs to define itself on that subject," he said.

Kerry was speaking after an "awe-inspiring" visit to Antarctica, where he took a helicopter ride to view the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

"That ice sheet alone, should it break up and melt, as it is showing signs of doing now, would add some 3.7 metres or more to the current sea level," he said.

Washington's top diplomat said scientists in the frozen continent showed him the work they were doing to assess the impact of climate change.

He said it reinforced his conviction that action was needed and he would take that message to UN climate talks in Morocco next week.

"Until Jan 20, when this administration is over, we intend to do everything possible to meet our responsibility to future generations to be able to address this threat to life itself on the planet," he said.

Kerry said he first became involved in the climate issue in the early 1990s and had seen scientific evidence of change grow to a level that was now overwhelming.

He cited Pacific island nations threatened by rising seas, more intense and damaging storms, as well as greater frequency of wildfires and flooding.

"The evidence is mounting, in ways that people in public life should not dare to avoid accepting as a mandate for action," he said.