Press release by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
60 Nobel Laureates: Copenhagen must be a Turning Point towards Global Sustainability
60 Nobel Laureates are calling on world leaders for a global deal on climate change that matches the scale and urgency of the human, ecological and economic crises facing the world today. Political leadership is now more necessary than ever. The call comes in a Memorandum signed by Laureates from across the disciplines, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Mikhail Gorbachev, his Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mohamed el-Baradei, chief of the IAEA, and winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature Doris Lessing, John Coetzee and Wole Soyinka.
In the run up to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen the St. James’s Palace Memorandum, drawn up earlier this year at a Symposium held in London under the patronage of HRH The Prince of Wales, is being sent to political decision makers from around the world. The Memorandum urges governments, scientists, the business community and civil society to seize the historic opportunity that Copenhagen represents to transform our carbon-intensive economies into sustainable and equitable systems.
Last May, more than twenty Nobel Laureates met with a group of experts including leading scientists, high-level business leaders and politicians in St James’s Palace in London to discuss the most effective strategies to tackle the climate and sustainability crisis. Steven Chu, Nobel Laureate in physics and United States Secretary of Energy, was one of the participants. Since then, numerous other Nobel Laureates have signed the Memorandum, among them German Laureates like Harald zur Hausen or Gerhard Ertl.
“There can hardly be another initiative on the climate and sustainability problem that displays such an intellectual vigour as this memorandum,“ says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The widely spread belief in industrialized and newly industrializing countries that an ambitious deal on climate change would be a losing deal is not only false but is actually jeopardizing a necessary agreement in Copenhagen. “It is indispensible that in such a critical situation the finest independent minds of the scientific community raise their voices,” he adds.
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Hideki Shirakawa says: “I believe that not only scientists but also many ordinary people worry about climate change, but I am afraid that their view has not been articulated strongly enough because it is difficult to bring people together across the globe in order to express these concerns. I hope the St. James’s Palace Memorandum will be a strong voice which unites and affects international society.”
The St. James’s Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium is part of an interdisciplinary series on global sustainability initiated by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber in October 2007 in Potsdam, Germany. The first symposium in Potsdam was held under the auspices of German chancellor Angela Merkel. This year’s symposium was convened by the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The St. James’s Palace Memorandum builds on the Potsdam Memorandum, issued at the first Nobel Laureate Symposium in October 2007, and on recent advances in climate change science.
Weblink to press release
Download St. James’s Palace Memorandum (together with more statements and a list of signatories) [pdf-file, 1.1MB]
PIK press release (May 2009) on Nobel Laureate Symposium “Nobel Laureates call for a global deal on climate change”
Website of the St James’s Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium
Website of the First Interdisciplinary Symposium “Global Sustainability – A Nobel Cause”
Prince’s Rainforests Project
Comments of participants of the St James’s Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium and/or of signatories of the Memorandum:
Nature has granted us a limited carbon credit. Now we have to make every effort to manage this budget as economically and as equitably as we possibly can.
Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and initiator of the Nobel Cause Symposium Series.
I support the memorandum because I believe that firm preventative action is necessary to limit the risks of provoking climate-induced disruption of our supplies of food and water, of exacerbating social tensions and instabilities worldwide, and of bequeathing future generations the consequences of substantial sea level rise.
Prof. Chris Rapley, Director of the Science Museum, London
Astonishingly, there are still many influential people out there who devote huge amounts of time and energy to undermining global efforts on climate change. Nobel Laureates command huge respect – and we must hope that their wise words will help counter some of that negativity.
Jonathon Porritt, Member of St. James’s Palace Symposium Advisory Group and Founder Director, Forum for the Future
The world now faces several massive challenges – all of which must be confronted with serious effort if we are to survive into the next century. The Rainforest challenge is a key one that will require a coordinated response from all citizens on the planet.
Professor Sir Harold Kroto (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1996)
Of the doomsday clocks that tick toward midnight climate change is the most fearful, whose ticking should be audible to every inhabitant of the globe.
Professor John Polanyi (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1986)
I would say that I consider global warming to be the most serious hazard facing mankind, in the 21st century. At the same time, I worry that this is such a complex issue and one that will require such substantial resources and changes in our behavior and attitudes, it may well be an issue which is too easy to ignore than to confront in a timely manner. It is indeed the immediacy of the required response that worries me, for every year we wait, seeking a clearer view of what the dangers are and what actions are needed, the more painful will be the consequences and the more drastic will be the required response.
Professor Douglas Osheroff (Nobel Prize in Physics 1996)
I first encountered the concept of anthropogenic global warming when training to be a weather officer in World War II. To illustrate the role of trace gases in determining atmospheric temperature, the professor noted that the increases in carbon dioxide due to industrialization would lead to warming. When the topic came up in public discussion twenty-five years later, I felt I understood it well. The subsequent scientific discourse has only made the analysis clearer and shown that the dangers of global warming are greater and more imminent than had been previously realized.
The countries of the world are increasingly interrelated, but no issue manifests this more than climate change. Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases affect the entire world with a day or so, and, once in the atmosphere, remain there for a century or more. The conflict between individual and collective advantage is sharp, and the need for global action intense. The lead has to be taken by the countries that have gained from the use of carbon-based fuels in the past, but it has to be followed by the countries emerging to higher levels of consumption and production.
Professor Kenneth J. Arrow (Nobel Prize in Economics 1972)
Professor Shirakawa expressed his hope that the Memorandum would help articulate the very widespread concerns of people around the world: “I believe that not only scientists but also many ordinary people worry about climate change, but I am afraid that their view has not been articulated strongly enough because it is difficult to bring people together across the globe in order to express these concerns. I hope the St. James’ Palace Memorandum will be a strong voice which unites and affects international society.”
Professor Hideki Shirakawa (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2007)
For further information please contact the PIK press office:
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