Speaking to a young audience at an urban shopping mall, Kerry made an impassioned argument that the archipelago’s economy and physical survival is threatened as temperatures and water levels rise. He urged ordinary Indonesians to apply political pressure on leaders who, by overwhelming margins, still doubt the threat will affect their interests.
Calling climate change “the greatest threat the planet has ever seen,” Kerry warned that climate change will raise sea levels by 1 meter by the end of the century, enough to put half of Jakarta underwater. Climate change also threatens fish species that account for 40% of the sales of Indonesian fisheries, he said, in a speech webcast throughout the country and abroad.
Kerry argued that Indonesia’s economy would be hurt more by doing nothing than by accepting the costs of cutting emissions and shifting to cleaner energy. He said storms produced by climate change were “perhaps even the world’s most fearsome WMD,” or weapon of mass destruction.
“Make climate an issue no public official can ignore another day,” Kerry said.
Developing countries have argued that the problem is largely the responsibility of wealthier countries that use more energy, adding that they need to focus instead on stepping up their economies to lift their populations from poverty.
Indonesia is rated the third-largest generator of greenhouse gases, after China and the United States.
Kerry, who believes the developing world’s resistance has become a major obstacle to progress on the issue, made a similar address in June in India. He has also been pushing China, now the No. 1 producer of greenhouse gases, to step up its efforts, a development officials hope could motivate other developing nations.
As he has before, Kerry lambasted climate-change skeptics as “a few loud interest groups … shoddy scientists and extreme ideologues.”
Long active on the issue, Kerry has made climate change one of his top priorities as secretary of State. He hopes to play an important role next year, when the United Nations launches negotiations aimed at setting emissions targets for post-2020.
Kerry faces a difficult decision in the coming weeks on whether to give his blessing to the Keystone XL pipeline project, a $5.4-billion venture that climate activists seek to stop. The State Department last month released an assessment concluding that the project would have a limited impact on the climate.
Kerry visited Indonesia as part of a week-long visit to Asia that has also included stops in Beijing and Seoul. A meeting scheduled for Monday with Indonesian President Bambang Yudhoyono was canceled, however, because the president said he needed to attend to the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.