By Laura Barron-Lopez - 02/21/14 10:34 AM EST
Two Democratic lawmakers are defending Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryWhite House strikes 'Israel' from transcript of Jerusalem speech UN to investigate Syria aid convoy bombing WATCH: Impatient Obama waits for Bill Clinton to board Air Force One MORE's remark likening climate change to a weapon of mass destruction.
Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseAnti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP Overnight Energy: SEC begins probing Exxon Senate Dems unveil new public option push for ObamaCare MORE (R.I.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.) said Sen. John McCainJohn McCainGOP lawmakers slam secret agreement to help lift Iran bank sanctions Kerry: US 'on the verge' of suspending talks with Russia on Syria Trump, Clinton to headline Al Smith dinner MORE (R-Ariz.) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) were wrong to criticize Kerry's speech on the consequences of climate change.
"Secretary Kerry needs allies in this fight for the future of our planet," the Democrats wrote in a letter to McCain and Gingrich. "History will not look back and fault him for leading the charge to prevent the worst impacts of climate change while we still have time."
"But history may question why Republican leaders who were once their party's champions on climate change fled the field at a crucial moment," they add.
McCain also faulted Kerry for comparing climate change to terrorism, poverty and epidemics, asking "on what planet does his reside?"
Kerry's speech took a harder line on climate change than the Obama administration has before, signaling a shift in strategy. He plans to put the issue front and center during all U.S. diplomatic efforts.
The letter from Whitehouse and Waxman included a list of national security experts who have made similar comments to Kerry's about climate change.