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JAKARTA — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Indonesians on Sunday that man-made climate change could threaten their entire way of life, deriding those who doubted the existence of "perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction."
Kerry described those who do not accept that human activity causes global warming as "shoddy scientists" and "extreme ideologues", and said big companies and special interests should not be allowed to "hijack" the climate debate.
Aides said Kerry had chosen Indonesia for the first of what is to be a series of speeches on the topic this year partly because, as an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, it is particularly at risk from rising sea levels.
"Because of climate change, it's no secret that today Indonesia is ... one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth," Kerry told an audience of students at a high-tech U.S.-funded cultural center at a Jakarta mall.
"It's not an exaggeration to say that the entire way of life that you live and love is at risk."
In the middle of a trip to Asia and the Middle East, Kerry argued that it made no sense for some nations to act to stem climate change while others did nothing.
"Think about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It doesn't keep us safe if the United States secures its nuclear arsenal while other countries fail to prevent theirs from falling into the hands of terrorists," he said.
"The bottom line is this: it is the same thing with climate change. In a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction."
Kerry's public push takes place against a backdrop of a negotiation among nearly 200 nations about a possible new global treaty on climate change that is scheduled to be agreed next year and to address greenhouse gas emissions from 2020.