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John Kerry warns climate change poses threat greater than ‘WMDs’

Secretary of State tells audience in Indonesia unlimited carbon emissions could create a ‘fearsome’ weapon

By Ed King

Unchecked climate change could be the world’s most “fearsome weapon of mass destruction”, UN Secretary of State John Kerry has told an audience in Indonesia.

In a powerful 45-minute address clearly aimed at a global audience, Kerry said he and President Obama had decided addressing rising levels of carbon emissions should be a “priority”.

“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,” he said.

“And it is a challenge that I address in nearly every single country that I visit as Secretary of State, because President Obama and I believe it is urgent that we do so.”

Addressing the significant levels of climate scepticism in the USA, Kerry said it was not acceptable to ignore the warnings of 97% of the world’s leading scientists.

He said: “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.

“Now, President and I – Obama and I believe very deeply that we do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society.”

“I saw with my own eyes what the Philippines experienced in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan and I will tell you it would be absolutely devastating if that kind of storm were to become the normal thing that happens every single year in many places,” he added.

Kerry acknowledged the role the USA – the world’s second largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases after China – would have to play in developing a solution.

And while admitting that industrialised countries will have to take a significant share of the burden in reducing carbon pollution, he said this did not mean emerging economies and the developing world could take a “free pass”.

“They don’t have a right to go out and repeat the mistakes of the past. It’s not enough for one country or even a few countries to reduce their emissions when other countries continue to fill the atmosphere with carbon pollution as they see fit,” he said.

“At the end of the day, emissions coming from anywhere in the world threaten the future for people everywhere in the world, because those emissions go up and then they move with the wind and they drop with the rain and the weather, and they keep going around and around and they threaten all of us.”

The Secretary of State used the speech to highlight a new agreement with China aimed at helping both countries use energy more efficiently. He also revealed he has asked chiefs of US missions all over the world to make climate change a top priority.

And in what many may think is an interesting development in US policy, Kerry issued a strident call for an end to fossil fuel subsidies from governments and international organisations.

“The solution to climate change is as clear as the problem. The solution is making the right choices on energy policy. It’s as simple as that. And with a few smart choices, we can ensure that clean energy is the most attractive investment in the global energy sector,” he said.

“Human ingenuity has long proven its ability to solve seemingly insurmountable challenges. It is not a lack of ability that is a problem. It is a lack of political resolve that is standing in our way.”

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