Oct. 2, 1997 (Washington, DC - September 30) More than 1,500 of the world's most distinguished senior scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in science, have signed a landmark consensus declaration urging leaders worldwide to act immediately to prevent the potentially devastating consequences of human-induced global warming. The "World Scientists' Call for Action at Kyoto" was presented to the Clinton Administration today at a Science Summit on Climate Change in Washington, DC.
"Let there be no doubt about the conclusions of the scientific community: the threat of global warming is very real and action is needed immediately," said Nobel laureate Henry Kendall, Chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists and author of the scientists' statement. "It is a grave error to believe that we can continue to procrastinate. Scientists do not believe this and no one else should either."
Leading scientists came to the Science Summit to ensure that government leaders base their global warming policies on climate science, not politics. In December, world leaders will gather in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate final agreement on a treaty to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that are altering the climate. The White House has yet to announce its concrete proposals to limit global warming and has scheduled a conference on the subject for October 6.
The scientists' declaration urges all government leaders to demonstrate a new commitment to protecting the global environment for future generations. According to the scientists, a strong treaty will be the "first step to protect future generations from dire prospects that would result from failure to meet our responsibilities toward them. The stark facts carry a clear signal: There is only one responsible choice to act now."
"This is a wake-up call for world leaders. Never before has the senior scientific community spoken so boldly on the urgent need to prevent disruption to our climate," said Nobel laureate Dudley Herschbach, Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University. "Scientists and citizens around the world will hold leaders accountable if a strong climate treaty is not reached."
The "Call for Action" is notable in both the pedigree and cautious nature of its backers. The signers come from 63 countries and include leaders and senior members of national science academies from around the world, chief authors and the former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, National Medal of Science recipients, and winners of the Craaford Prize. A majority of the world's Nobel winners in science - 98 out of 171 - signed the statement.
The declaration points out that a strong climate treaty in Kyoto would address one of the most serious threats to the planet and future generations. The declaration states that:
* Global warming is underway and our overuse of fossil fuels is partly to blame.
* Climate change is projected to raise sea levels; increase the likelihood of more intense rainfall, floods, and droughts; and endanger human health by greater exposure to heat waves and encroachment of tropical diseases to higher latitudes.
* Climate change is likely to exacerbate food shortages and spread undernutrition by adversely affecting water supplies, soil conditions, temperature tolerances, and growing seasons.
* Climate change will accelerate the appalling pace at which species are now disappearing, especially in vulnerable ecosystems. Possibly one-third of all species may be lost before the end of the next century.
* Continued destruction of forests will undermine the environment's natural ability to store carbon, thereby enhancing global warming.
The scientists note that leading economists have identified viable policies for reducing global warming and urge government leaders to enact sound energy policies that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, like solar and wind power.
"We need to speed the transition away from oil and coal while developing cutting-edge technologies involving wind, biomass, and solar power," said Kendall. "A move to clean energy and energy efficiency will bring major benefits to both industrial and developing nations."
The world's scientists believe that completion of a strong Climate Treaty would set a "landmark precedent for addressing other grave environmental threats, many linked to climate change. It would demonstrate that the world's leaders have now recognized, in deeds and words, their responsibility for stewardship of the earth."
The Union of Concerned Scientists organized the scientists' statement and summit. Established in 1969, UCS is a national non-profit organization dedicated to advancing responsible public policies in areas where science and technology play a critical role.
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