Climate change is "perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday during one of the most charged political speeches about global warming in recent years.

The speech, given in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Feb. 16, reflects a renewed focus on the effects of climate change by the Obama administration, and Kerry said he will be discussing the topic often in the coming months. "This year, as Secretary of State, I will engage in a series of discussions on the urgency of addressing climate change — particularly on the national security implications and the economic opportunities," he said during the speech. The setting in Indonesia, he said, was important because the nation — which is made up of more than 17,000 low-lying islands — is particularly vulnerable to global warming and sea-level rise. "Because of climate change, it is no secret that today, Indonesia is also one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth," Kerry said. "I wanted to start right here, in Jakarta, because this city, this country, this region — is really on the front lines of climate change."

The threat of climate change "ranks right up there" with other global threats such as terrorism, epidemics, poverty and weapons of mass destruction, Kerry said. He said he will address the challenge in almost every country that he visits as Secretary of State.

Kerry took the opportunity to attack those who deny climate change: "When 97 percent of scientists agree on anything, we need to listen and we need to respond." He said the first course of action to fighting climate change is to "not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact." He called climate-change deniers the equivalent of the Flat Earth Society, which still believes that the Earth is not a globe, and said "those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand."

He also criticized those who said fighting climate change is too expensive. "We certainly should not allow more time to be wasted by those who want to sit around debating whose responsibility it is to deal with this threat, while we come closer and closer to the point of no return."

Kerry touched on a lot of topics in his speech, including deforestation, species extinction, food security, drought, extreme weather and famine, all of which he said could impact his listeners in Jakarta.

But despite the many threats of climate change, Kerry ended on an encouraging note, saying "If we come together now, we can not only meet the challenge, we can create jobs and economic growth in every corner of the globe." He called on Indonesia and the other nations of the world to work with the United States to meet "the greatest challenge of our generation" and to "create the future that everybody dreams of."

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John Kerry: Climate change is a 'fearsome weapon of mass destruction'
In a speech in Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry also derided "head in the sand" climate change deniers.