THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
||September 15, 1999
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
THE PEOPLE OF NEW ZEALAND
Christchurch, New Zealand
1:38 P.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. Prime
Minister Shipley, to Burton and Anna and Ben; and Sir Edmund Hillary and Lady
Hillary; Ambassadors Beeman and Bolger, and their wives; to Mayor Moore: Dr.
Erb, Dr. Benton, Mr. Mace, Dr. Colwell; to all of those who have made our visit
here so memorable.
Let me begin on behalf of my family and my party by
thanking the officials and the people of New Zealand for giving us five
absolutely glorious days in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We are
very grateful. (Applause.)
I hope you will all indulge me just one moment. This is my
only chance to speak not only to you, but to the people of the United States
today. And since we're here to talk about the weather, you should know that my
country is facing one of the most serious hurricanes ever to threaten the
United States if the predictions of its force and scope hold true.
This morning I signed an emergency declaration for the
states of Florida and Georgia to provide for assistance for emergency
protective and preventive measures. I have been in close contact with our Vice
President, Al Gore, and our Director of Emergency Management, James Lee Witt.
They are working around the clock to prepare for the storm. I ask all of you
here to remember my fellow Americans, and after we finish the state dinner
tonight I am going to fly home and we will make the best job of it we can.
Let me say I am particularly honored to be here with Sir
Edmund Hillary, referred to in our family as my second favorite Hillary.
(Laughter.) I read that when Sir Edmund turned 50 he resolved to do three
things: to build a house on the cliffs above the Tasman Sea; to become a better
skier; to do a grand traverse up the peaks of Mt. Cook. I'm wondering what he
resolved to do when he turned 80. I hear the All Blacks may have a new
I wish you a happy 80th birthday, sir, and I wish all of us
might lead lives half so full and productive as yours. (Applause.)
I come here to this beautiful city and to this place to
deepen a partnership between the United States and New Zealand that is already
long and strong. In this century, young Americans and New Zealanders have
fought again and again side by side to turn back tyranny and to defend
democracy. We have worked together on peacekeeping missions. We have stood
together for expanded opportunity for our people through trade. We even let you
borrow the America's Cup from time to time. (Laughter.) We hope to reverse our
generosity shortly. (Laughter.) We are grateful for your friendship and we
thank you for it.
This magnificent center stands as a symbol of what we can
accomplish when we work together, and I would argue is a symbol of what will be
most important about our cooperation in the 21st century.
You heard Sir Edmund talk about his trip across Antartica.
We he started it, some people called it the last great journey on Earth. As I
was reading about it, I understand that he actually overheard one farmer ask
another, "that there Antartica, how many sheep do they run to the acre?"
But America believed in his mission and has long been
fascinated with Antarctica. Way back in 1820, Nathaniel Brown Palmer was one of
the first people to sight it. A few years later, an American exploring
expedition mapped more than 1,500 miles of the Antarctic coast, ending a
centuries-old debate over whether a big land mass, in fact, existed around the
Forty years ago, inspired in part by Sir Edmund's
expedition, the United States convened a meeting in Washington to preserve the
Antarctic forever as a haven for peace and scientific cooperation. Today, we
can all be proud that not a single provision of the Antarctic Treaty has ever
been violated. Forty-three nations, representing two-thirds of the world's
population, adhere to the treaty. And the Antarctic is what it should be -- a
treasure held in trust for every person on the planet.
We are working together to preserve the pristine waters
surrounding the continent, and fighting illegal fishing that threatens to
destroy species in the southern ocean.
For the United States and New Zealand, our commitments to
Antarctica are based right here in Christchurch. Nearly 7 out of 10 United
States expeditions to the Antarctic are staged from here. And let me say, the
only disappointment I have about this trip is that I didn't stage an expedition
from here. (Laughter.) So I want you to know, I expect that you will let me
come back one more time, so I can fulfill my lifelong desire to go to
I think, of all the work being done here, perhaps the most
important to us and to the young people here, particularly, over the next 20
years will be the work that tells us about the nature of climate change and
what it is doing to the ice cap here, to the water levels around the world, and
to the way of life that we want for our children and our grandchildren.
The overwhelming consensus of world scientific opinion is
that greenhouse gases from human activity are raising the Earth's temperature
in a rapid and unsustainable way. The five warmest years since the 15th century
have all been in the 1990s; 1998 was the warmest year ever recorded, eclipsing
the record set just the year before, in 1997.
Unless we change course, most scientists believe the seas
will rise so high they will swallow whole islands and coastal areas. Storms,
like hurricanes, and droughts both will intensify. Diseases like malaria will
be borne by mosquitoes the higher and higher altitudes, and across borders,
threatening more lives -- a phenomenon we already see today in Africa.
A few years ago, hikers discovered a 5,000-year old man in
the Italian Alps. You might think someone would have noticed him before. They
didn't because the ice hadn't melted where he was before -- in 5,000 years. If
the same thing were to happen to the west Antarctic ice sheet, God forbid --
it's a remote threat now, but it could occur one day -- and if it did, sea
levels worldwide would rise by as much as 20 feet. If that happens, not even
Augie Auer will be able to save us from the weather. (Laughter.) Now, I want
you to laugh about it because I figure when people laugh, they listen. But this
is a very serious thing.
In 1992, the nations of the world began to address this
challenge at the Earth Summit in Rio. Five years later, 150 nations made more
progress toward that goal in Kyoto, Japan. But we still have so much more to
do. America and New Zealand, in no small measure because of our understanding,
which the Prime Minister so eloquently articulated a few moments ago, because
of our understanding of the significance of Antarctica and the work we have
done here to make this a refuge of scientific inquiry, have special
responsibilities in this area.
Of course, we have a big responsibility because America
produces more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world. I have
offered an aggressive program to reduce that production in every area. We are
also mindful that emissions are growing in the developing world even more
rapidly than in the developed world, and we have a responsibility there.
But I wanted to say today -- and if you don't remember
anything else I say, I hope you will remember this -- the largest obstacle to
meeting the challenge of climate change is not the huge array of wealthy vested
interests and the tens of thousands of ordinary people around the world who
work in the oil and the coal industries, the burning of which produce these
greenhouse gases. The largest obstacle is the continued clinging of people in
wealthy countries and developing countries to a big idea that is no longer true
-- the idea that the only way a country can become wealthy and remain wealthy
is to have the patterns of energy use that brought us the Industrial Age. In
other words, if you're not burning more oil and coal this year than you were
last year, you're not getting richer; you're not creating more jobs; you're not
lifting more children out of poverty. That is no longer true.
We now know that technologies that permit breathtaking
advances in energy conservation, and the use of alternative forms of energy,
make it possible to grow the economy faster while healing the environment, and
that, thank God, it is no longer necessary to burn up the atmosphere to create
We have somehow got to convince a critical mass of
decision-makers and ordinary citizens in every nation of the world that that is
true. It will help to concentrate their attention if the people who know about
Antarctica can illustrate, year in and year out, in graphic terms, the
consequences of ignoring climate change and global warming.
We are committed to doing more at home and to do more to
help developing nations bring on these technologies, so they can improve living
standards and improve the environment. We can do this. We can do it in the same
way that progress is being made in dealing with the ozone layer. Consider that
example -- something again which we know more about thanks to the work of
Because of chemicals we produced and released into the
atmosphere over the past 50 years, every spring a hole appears in the ozone
layer above Antarctica. You already heard, and you know more about it than any
country in the world, about the unhealthy levels of ultraviolet radiation which
pass through. Now, ever Kiwi school child who has participated in Block Day
knows what it means, why you have to have sunscreen and a hat.
But in 1987, the international community came together in
Montreal and agreed to stop the use of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer.
Experts tell us that if we keep going the ozone hole will shrink, and by the
middle of the next century the ozone hole could actually close, so that,
miracle of miracles, we would have a problem created by people solved by
people, and their development. This is the sort of thing we have to do with
climate change -- and the stakes are even higher.
The Antarctic is a great cooling tower for our planet, a
great learning tower for our planet's scientists. What happens to it will
determine weather all over the globe, and will determine the patterns of life
of the children here in this audience and certainly of their children and
grandchildren. It is a bridge to our future and a window on our past.
Right now, the ice is two miles thick and goes back more
than 400,000 years. By studying the patterns of the past, scientists will be
able to tell us what will likely happen in the future and how we are changing
the future from the past based on what we are doing.
So much of what we know today from global climate patterns
comes also from satellite images. But scientists have never had detailed images
of key parts of the Antarctic to work with until today. So I wanted to come
here with one small contribution to the marvelous work that all of our people
are doing here. Today America is releasing once classified satellite images of
the Antarctic's unique dry valleys. The pictures provide two sets of images
taken 10 years apart and provides some of the most detailed and important
information we've ever had on these ecological treasures.
Last month, Vice President Gore did the same thing for the
Arctic. Both these releases will help scientists understand changes taking
place at the poles, and help us take another step toward meeting the challenge
of a warming planet.
This is a special challenge for our young people. We have
used the Internet, through and initiative called the Globe program, to teach
students in more than 50 countries that a grasp of science and ecology is the
first step toward a cleaner world. I am pleased that, working with Prime
Minister Shipley, we are also going to establish a new Globe program for
children right here in New Zealand.
When Sir Edmund Hillary made his trek, the Antarctic was
the last new place humanity looked before turning its attention to the stars.
In less than four months, all humanity will be looking forward to the promise
of a new century and a new millennium. When the dawn breaks on January 1st, the
international timeline tells us that New Zealand literally will lead the world
into a new age.
Let us vow, in this place of first light, to act in the
spirit of the Antarctic Treaty, to conquer the new challenges that face us in
the new millennium. Let us work with the determination of Sir Edmund Hillary to
strengthen our partnership, to keep our air and water clean and our future
alive for our children. We owe it to the children of New Zealand, the children
of the United States and the children of the world. And we can do it.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:56 P.M. (L)