The destruction and loss of life caused by increasingly devastating weather patterns only depicts one side of climate change, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.
Just days before US President Joe Biden is set to convene world leaders to address the increasingly warming globe, Blinken framed the challenge as an opportunity for economic growth, saying the US must lead the global push in order to "capitalize on the greatest opportunity to create quality jobs in generations."
"Addressing climate change offers one of the most powerful tools we have to fight inequity and systemic racism," he said at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland.
"Every country on the planet has to do two things – reduce emissions and prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change. American innovation and industry can be at the forefront of both," he added.
Blinken noted, however, that the US is "falling behind" its near-peer competitor China, which is currently the world's largest "producer and exporter of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicles," and holds roughly one-third of the world's renewable energy patents.
"If we don’t catch up, America will miss the chance to shape the world’s climate future in a way that reflects our interests and values, and we’ll lose out on countless jobs for the American people," he added.
Biden is set to open a virtual summit with 40 world leaders beginning on Thursday that will come just days after the US and China, the world's top carbon emitters, announced they are committed to cooperating to combat the phenomenon.
"Moving forward, the United States and China are firmly committed to working together and with other Parties to strengthen implementation of the Paris Agreement," they said in a joint statement on Saturday.
Scientists have warned that global temperature increase needs to be limited to 1.5 degree Celsius in order to avert catastrophe, below the 2 degree Celsius goal established by the 2015 Paris agreement reference by China and the US.
Blinken said "the world has already fallen behind on the targets we set" in Paris while noting "those targets didn’t go far enough to begin with," a likely reference to the temperature increase limit scientists now say needs to be met.
"America has a key role to play in hitting that mark. We only have around 4% of the world’s population, but we contribute nearly 15% of global emissions," he said.
“Even if the United States gets to net zero emissions tomorrow, we’ll lose the fight against climate change if we can’t address the more than 85 percent of emissions coming from the rest of the world. Coming up short will have major repercussions for our national security,” he added.