JAKARTA, Indonesia — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is taking his case for action on climate change to Indonesia, where he urged governments across Asia and beyond to step up efforts to combat the phenomenon.
In a speech in Jakarta delivered on Sunday, Kerry argued that the cost of inaction to environments and economies will far outweigh the significant expense of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that trap solar heat in the atmosphere and contribute to the Earth’s rising temperatures, according to U.S. officials.
In the address, Kerry said climate change is real and is “pushing the planet toward a tipping point of no return, threatening not just the environment, but the global economy and our way of life,” a senior State Department official said.
Kerry says climate change may be the world’s “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction and urgent action is needed to combat it. He compares those who deny its existence or question its causes to people who insist the Earth is flat.
In his speech Sunday to Indonesian students, civic leaders and government officials in Jakarta, Kerry laid into climate change deniers. He says they use shoddy science to delay measures needed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases at the risk of imperiling the planet.
Kerry says — quote — “We simply don’t have time to let a few loud interest groups hijack the climate conversation.”
He argues the cost of inaction outweighs the expense of reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to the Earth’s rising temperatures.
The speech comes a day after Kerry won an agreement with China to cooperate more closely with the U.S. on combatting climate change. American officials hope will help encourage other nations, including developing countries like Indonesia and India, to follow suit.
Just after Kerry departed Beijing on Saturday, the U.S. and China issued a joint statement saying they had agreed on steps to carry out commitments to curb greenhouse gases, including reducing vehicle emissions, improving energy efficiency of buildings and other measures.
China and the United States are the biggest sources of emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that cause the atmosphere to trap solar heat and alter the climate. Scientists warn such changes are already leading to drought, wildfires, rising sea levels, melting polar ice, plant and animal extinctions and other extreme conditions.
The two governments will “contribute significantly to successful 2015 global efforts to meet this challenge,” the statement said, citing “overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its worsening impacts, and the related issue of air pollution from burning fossil fuels.”
Beijing and Washington launched the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group last year. They promised progress in five areas — reducing vehicle emissions, advanced electric power grids, capturing and storing carbon emissions, gathering greenhouse gas data and building efficiency.
Kerry is in Indonesia on the last leg of a three-nation tour of Asia that started in South Korea and then China. After leaving Indonesia on Monday, he will travel on to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates before returning home.
Before giving his climate change speech on Sunday, Kerry toured Jakarta’s massive Istiqlal Mosque, one of the largest in the world, to pay his respects to Indonesia’s Muslim majority population.