AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, Pool
Secretary of State John Kerry gestures during a speech on climate change on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Jakarta.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a stern warning in a speech Sunday, calling climate change "perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction" and saying that those who "refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand."
"When I think about the array of global climate – of global threats – think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them," said Kerry. "This is not opinion. This is about facts. This is about science. The science is unequivocal. And those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand."
Kerry went a step further with his assaults on climate change deniers, likening them to members of the Flat Earth Society, adding that "we should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact."
"And let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain," said Kerry. "It’s something that we understand with absolute assurance of the veracity of that science."
The strong remarks came from the third of a series of diplomatic visits to countries in Asia with personal ties to climate change. The diplomatic tour is part of Kerry's larger effort to try to convince developing nations, particularly those in Asia, that they too have a stake in combating climate change. Kerry hopes to assuage lingering animosity from fledgling Asian economies towards the United States ahead of United Nations climate change negotiations in 2015, reports The New York Times.
So it was fitting that Sunday's speech was given from a pulpit in Jakarta, Indonesia, the world's third largest contributor of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States, reports The New York Times. Before stopping in Jakarta, Kerry traveled to China where he and Chinese leaders came to an agreement to work together to curb GHG emissions ahead of the United Nations negotiations.
But Kerry's speech took on a decidedly dire tone regarding Indonesia, which he called "one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth."
"But I wanted to start right here, in Jakarta, because this city – this country – this region – is really on the front lines of climate change," said Kerry. "It’s not an exaggeration to say to you that the entire way of life that you live and love is at risk."
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Kerry went on to use the island nation as a microcosm for climate change as a whole. The Secretary of State said that residents of the low-lying island nation could experience devastating sea-level rises, more extreme weather — akin to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines — and a substantial reduction in fisheries, which are a vital source of business and food for the country.
Throughout the speech Kerry hammered home a sense of urgency, repeatedly stressing the lack of time diplomats, and the world as a whole, had remaining to continue a debate he viewed as fruitless.
"We do not have time to have a debate about whose responsibility this is. The answer is pretty simple: It’s everyone’s responsibility," said Kerry "....But, ultimately, every nation on Earth has a responsibility to do its part if we have any hope of leaving our future generations the safe and healthy planet that they deserve."
MORE: Alaskan Glaciers in Retreat
Muir Glacier and Inlet (1895)
In the photo above, the west shoreline of Muir Inlet in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is shown as it appeared in 1895. Notice the lack of vegetation on the slopes of the mountains, and the glacier that stands more than 300 feet high. See the glacier as it looked in 2005 on the next page. (USGS/Bruce Molnia)