“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”

Richard Feynman


Nobel Laureates Call for Action on Global Warming at the Kyoto Climate Summit

Five years ago, in the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, 1600 of the world’s senior scientists sounded an unprecedented warning:

Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms.

Addressed to political, industrial, religious, and scientific leaders, the Warning demonstrated that the scientific community had reached a consensus that grave threats imperil the future of humanity and the global environment. However, over four years have passed, and progress has been woefully inadequate. Some of the most serious problems have worsened. Invaluable time has been squandered because so few leaders have risen to the challenge.

The December 1997 Climate Summit in Kyoto, Japan, presents a unique opportunity. The world’s political leaders can demonstrate a new commitment to the protection of the environment. The goal is to strengthen the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change by agreeing to effective controls on human practices affecting climate. This they can and must do, primarily by augmenting the Convention’s voluntary measures with legally binding commitments to reduce industrial nations’ emissions of heat-trapping gases significantly below 1990 levels in accordance with a near-term timetable.

Over time, developing nations must also be engaged in limiting their emissions. Developed and developing nations must cooperate to mitigate climatic disruption.

The biosphere is a seamless web. Completion of an effective treaty at Kyoto would address one of the most serious threats to the planet and to future generations. It 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 stark facts carry a clear signal: There is only one responsible choice — to act now.

We, the signers of this declaration, urge all government leaders to demonstrate a new commitment to protecting the global environment for future generations. The important first step is to join in completing a strong and meaningful Climate Treaty at Kyoto.


Leaders must take this first step to protect future generations from dire prospects that would result from failure to meet our responsibilities toward them.

The Web of Environmental Effects

Atmospheric Disruption

Predictions of global climatic change are becoming more confident. A broad consensus among the world’s climatologists is that there is now “a discernible human influence on global climate.”

Climate change is projected to raise sea levels, threatening populations and ecosystems in coastal regions. Warmer temperatures will lead to a more vigorous hydrologic cycle, increasing the prospects for more intense rainfall, floods, or droughts in some regions. Human health may be damaged by greater exposure to heat waves and droughts, and by encroachment of tropical diseases to higher latitudes. The developing world is especially vulnerable to damage from climatic disruption because it is already under great stress and has less capacity to adapt.

Climate Change: Linkages and Further Damage

Destructive logging and deforestation for agriculture continue to wreak havoc on the world’s remaining tropical forests. The burning of the Amazonian rain forests continues largely unabated. Other forests in developed and developing nations are under heavy pressure.

Destruction of forests greatly amplifies soil erosion and water wastage, is a major source of loss of species, and undermines the environment’s natural ability to store carbon. It releases additional carbon to the atmosphere, thereby enhancing global warming.

Fossil-fueled energy use is climbing, both in industrial nations and in the developing world, adding to atmospheric carbon. Efforts to enhance energy conservation and improve efficiency are much hindered by low energy costs and by perverse incentives that encourage waste.

Without firm commitments, most industrial nations will not meet the carbon-emission goals they agreed to at the 1992 Rio conference. The transition to renewable, non-fossil-carbon-based energy sources is feasible but is not in sight for lack of aggressive political will.

The insurance industry has recognized the risks posed by climate change. Leading economists have identified viable policies for reducing these risks. Markets undervalue ecosystems worldwide and inflict few penalties against practices that do long-term environmental and resource damage. Political leadership must introduce incentives that reward sound practices.

Water Scarcity and Food Security

Humanity now uses over one-half of the total accessible freshwater runoff. Freshwater is the scarcest resource in the Middle East and in North Africa. Efforts to husband freshwater are not succeeding there, in East Asia, or in the Pacific.

Global food production now appears to be outpaced by growth in consumption and population. There is broad agreement that food demand will double by 2030. Most land suitable for agriculture is already in production. Sub-Saharan Africa’s increase in agricultural production is one-third less than its population growth. The region now produces 80 percent of what it consumes, and per capita production is declining. Projections indicate that demand for food in Asia will exceed the supply by 2010. Thus, food consumption levels in many countries are likely to remain totally inadequate for good nutrition. Widespread undernutrition will persist unless extraordinary measures are taken to ensure food for all, measures not now even contemplated by governments. Climate change is likely to exacerbate these food problems by adversely affecting water supplies, soil conditions, temperature tolerances, and growing seasons.

Destruction of Species

Climate change will accelerate the appalling pace at which species are now being liquidated, especially in vulnerable ecosystems. One-fourth of the known species of mammals are threatened, and half of these may be gone within a decade. Possibly one-third of all species may be lost before the end of the next century. Biodiversity gives stability to the ecosystems that we are so dependent on, enhances their productivity, and provides an important source of new foods, medicines, and other products.

Selected Prominent Signatories to the World Scientists’ Call for Action at the Kyoto Climate Summit


* Philip W. Anderson, USA. Physics 1977

* Kenneth J. Arrow, USA. Economics 1972

* Julius Axelrod, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1970

* David Baltimore, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1975

* Georg J. Bednorz, Switzerland. Physics 1987

* Baruj Benacerraf, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1980

* Hans A. Bethe, USA. Physics 1967

* J. Michael Bishop, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1989

* James W. Black, UK. Physiology/Medicine 1988

* Konrad E. Bloch, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1964

* Nicolaas Bloembergen, USA. Physics 1981

* Thomas R. Cech, USA. Chemistry 1989

* Stanley Cohen, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1986

* Elias James Corey, USA. Chemistry 1990

* John W. Cornforth, UK. Chemistry 1975

* James W. Cronin, USA. Physics 1980

* Paul J. Crutzen, Germany. Chemistry 1995

* Jean Dausset, France. Physiology/Medicine 1980

* Hans G. Dehmelt, USA. Physics 1989

* Johann Deisenhofer, USA. Chemistry 1988

* Peter C. Doherty, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1996

* Renato Dulbecco, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1975

* Christian R. de Duve, Belgium. Physiology/Medicine 1974

* Manfred Eigen, Germany. Chemistry 1967

* Gertrude B. Elion, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1988

* Richard R. Ernst, Switzerland. Chemistry 1991

* Leo Esaki, Japan. Physics 1973

* Edmond H. Fischer, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1992

* Ernst Otto Fischer, Germany. Chemistry 1973

* Val L. Fitch, USA. Physics 1980

* Jerome I. Friedman, USA. Physics 1990

* Donald A. Glaser, USA. Physics 1960

* Sheldon L. Glashow, USA. Physics 1979

* Herbert A. Hauptman, USA. Chemistry 1985

* Dudley Herschbach, USA. Chemistry 1986

* Antony Hewish, UK. Physics 1974

* Roald Hoffmann, USA. Chemistry 1981

* Godfrey Hounsfield, UK. Physiology/Medicine 1979

* David H. Hubel, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1981

* Robert Huber, Germany. Chemistry 1988

* Jerome Karle, USA. Chemistry 1985

* Henry W. Kendall, USA. Physics 1990

* John Kendrew, UK. Chemistry 1962

* Klaus von Klitzing, Germany. Physics 1985

* Aaron Klug, UK. Chemistry 1982

* Arthur Kornberg, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1959

* Edwin G. Krebs, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1992

* Harold Kroto, UK. Chemistry 1996

* Leon M. Lederman, USA. Physics 1988

* David M. Lee, USA. Physics 1996

* Yuan T. Lee, Taiwan. Chemistry 1986

* Jean-Marie Lehn, France. Chemistry 1987

* Wassily Leontief, USA. Economics 1973

* Rita Levi-Montalcini, Italy. Physiology/Medicine 1986

* Edward B. Lewis, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1995

* William N. Lipscomb, USA. Chemistry 1976

* Rudolph A. Marcus, USA. Chemistry 1992

* Simon van der Meer, Switzerland. Physics 1984

* R. Bruce Merrifield, USA. Chemistry 1984

* Hartmut Michel, Germany. Chemistry 1988

* Cesar Milstein, UK. Physiology/Medicine 1984

* Mario J. Molina, USA. Chemistry 1995

* Ben Mottelson, Denmark. Physics 1975

* Joseph E. Murray, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1990

* Daniel Nathans, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1978

* Louis Neel, France. Physics 1970

* Erwin Neher, Germany. Physiology/Medicine 1991

* Marshall W. Nirenberg, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1968

* Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, Germany. Physiology/Medicine 1995

* Douglas D. Osheroff, USA. Physics 1996

* George E. Palade, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1974

* Max F. Perutz, UK. Chemistry 1962

* John Polanyi, Canada. Chemistry 1986

* Ilya Prigogine, Belgium. Chemistry 1977

* Norman F. Ramsey, USA. Physics 1989

* Burton Richter, USA. Physics 1976

* Richard J. Roberts, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1993

* Martin Rodbell, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1994

* Heinrich Rohrer, Switzerland. Physics 1986

* Joseph Rotblat, UK. Peace 1995

* F. Sherwood Rowland, USA. Chemistry 1995

* Bengt Samuelsson, Sweden. Physiology/Medicine 1982

* Frederick Sanger, UK. Chemistry 1958, 1980

* Arthur L. Schawlow, USA. Physics 1981

* Glenn T. Seaborg, USA. Chemistry 1951

* Herbert A. Simon, USA. Economics 1978

* Richard E. Smalley, USA. Chemistry 1996

* Michael Smith, Canada. Chemistry 1993

* Jack Steinberger, Switzerland. Physics 1988

* Henry Taube, USA. Chemistry 1983

* Richard E. Taylor, USA. Physics 1990

* E. Donnall Thomas, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1990

* Samuel C. C. Ting, USA. Physics 1976

* James Tobin, USA. Economics 1981

* Susumu Tonegawa, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1987

* Charles H. Townes, USA. Physics 1964

* Desmond Tutu, South Africa. Peace 1984

* John Vane, UK. Physiology/Medicine 1982

* Thomas H. Weller, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1954

* Torsten N. Wiesel, USA. Physiology/Medicine 1981

* Robert W. Wilson, USA. Physics 1978

* Rolf M. Zinkernagel, Switzerland. Physiology/Medicine 1996


* Vladimir I. Arnold, France. Mathematics 1982

* Paul R. Ehrlich, USA. Biosciences 1990

* Daniel H. Janzen, USA. Biosciences 1990

* Eugene P. Odum, USA. Biosciences 1987

* Edward O. Wilson, USA. Biosciences 1990


* Carlos Aguirre, President, Bolivian Academy of Sciences

* Jorge Eduardo Allende, Former President, Chilean Academy of Sciences

* A. Andreev, Vice-President, Russian Academy of Sciences

* Sir Michael Atiyah, Former President, The Royal Society (UK)

* Francisco J. Ayala, Former President, American Association for the Advancement of Science

* Carl Gustaf Bernhard, Former President, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

* Bert Bolin, Former Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Paulo C. Campos, Former President, Philippines National Academy of Science and Technology

* Carlos Chagas, Former President, Latin American Academy of Sciences

* Satish Dhawan, Former President, Indian Academy of Sciences

* Johanna Dobereiner, Vice-President, Brazilian Academy of Sciences

* Mahdi Elmandjra, Vice-President, African Academy of Sciences

* T. Geoffrey Flynn, Vice-President, Royal Society of Canada

* Fran?ois Gros, Permanent Secretary, French Academy of Sciences

* Lars Gyllensten, Former Chair, The Nobel Foundation

* Mohammed H. A. Hassan, Executive Director, Third World Academy of Sciences

* Robert Heap, Vice-President, The Royal Society (UK)

* Gunnar Hoppe, Former President, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

* Sir John Horlock, Vice-President, The Royal Society (UK)

* Carl-Olof Jacobsen, Former Secretary-General, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

* Alf Johnels, Former President, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

* Triloki Nath Khoshoo, Former President, Indian National Academy of Sciences

* Sir Aaron Klug, President, The Royal Society (UK)

* Gustavo Kouri, Vice-President, Cuban Academy of Sciences

* Torvard Laurent, Former President, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

* N. P. Laverov, Vice-President, Russian Academy of Sciences

* Jane Lubchenco, Chair, American Association for the Advancement of Science

* Digby McLaren, Former President, Royal Society of Canada

* Hubert Markl, President, Max Planck Society

* M. G. K. Menon, Former President, International Council of Scientific Unions

* G. A. Mesiatz, Vice-President, Russian Academy of Sciences

* Harold A. Mooney, Secretary General, International Council of Scientific Unions

* Lawrence A. Mysak, Former President, Academy of Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada

* Jan S. Nilsson, President, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

* Erling Norrby, Secretary General, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

* Thomas Odhiambo, President, African Academy of Sciences

* Gideon Okelo, Secretary General, African Academy of Sciences

* Cyril Agodi Onwumechili, Former President, Nigerian Academy of Sciences

* Yuri S. Osipov, President, Russian Academy of Sciences

* Abed Peeraly, Vice-President, African Academy of Sciences

* Chintamani Rao, Vice-President, Third World Academy of Sciences

* Peter H. Raven, Home Secretary, US National Academy of Sciences

* R. S. Reneman, Chair, Science Division, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

* Igor Saavedra, Former President, Chilean Academy of Sciences

* Gian Tommaso Scarascia Mugnozza, Chair, Italian National Academy of Sciences

* Arun Kumar Sharma, Founding President, Federation of Asian Scientific Academies and Societies

* Jose Israel Vargas, President, Third World Academy of Sciences

* Henrik Wallgren, President, Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters

* Richard Willems, Vice-President, Estonian Academy of Sciences

* Dongsheng Yan, Senior Adviser, Chinese Academy of Sciences

* Guang-Zhao Zhou, President, Third World Academy of Sciences

Contact: Rich Hayes


Union of Concerned Scientists