Unsustainable plunder of the planet represents a serious threat to humanity
FRISCO — When several dozen of the world’s smartest people — all recognized as Nobel Laureates — gather on an island and declare that climate change and the unsustainable plunder of natural resources are a serious threat, it might be time to listen.
That’s what happened this week during the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, as physicists, chemists and many Nobel Prize winners ended their conference by signing a declaration on climate change, urging nations of the world to “take decisive action to limit future global emissions.”
The declaration reinforces the recent message presented by Pope Francis environmental- and climate-themed “Laudato si” encyclical, as well as the latest climate policy resolutions adopted by the G7 states and marks yet another urgent warning of the consequences of climate change.
“If left unchecked, our ever-increasing demand for food, water, and energy will eventually overwhelm the Earth’s ability to satisfy humanity’s needs, and will lead to wholesale human tragedy,” the declaration states.
The Mainau Declaration 2015 is the result of an initiative on the part of Nobel Science Laureates who took part in the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. The signatories to the declaration have all been awarded Nobel Prizes in physiology or medicine, in physics or in chemistry. Some of the laureates who have not attended the final day of the meeting had already put their names to the declaration earlier at Lindau.
The spokesperson for the initiators is US astrophysicist Brian Schmidt who in 2011 was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in figuring out how fast the universe is expanding.
The 2015 conference is the first time since 1955 that Nobel laureates use the platform of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting to take a stand on social policy issues. The first Mainau Declaration signed on that occasion by a total of 51 Nobel laureates on the initiative of physics laureate Otto Hahn contained an appeal for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and warned of the dangers inherent in its application for military purposes.
The total of 65 laureates taking part in the 65th Lindau Meeting was the highest number ever assembled here. In addition to the numerous laureates of the medicine, physics or chemistry Nobel Prizes, the speakers also included Indian Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and Nigerian Nobel Literature Laureate Wole Soyinka.
The week-long conference annually provides an opportunity for an inter-generational and an inter-cultural exchange of ideas: Over 650 young scientists from 88 countries successfully passed the multi-stage selection process to take part in this interdisciplinary anniversary meeting.
The Lindau Meetings were established in 1951 by Lennart Count Bernadotte af Wisborg and the Lindau city councilors Franz Karl Hein and Gustav Wilhelm Parade. Ever since, the final day of the meeting has traditionally been held on Mainau Island.
Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change
We undersigned scientists, who have been awarded Nobel Prizes, have come to the shores of Lake Constance in southern Germany, to share insights with promising young researchers, who like us come from around the world. Nearly 60 years ago, here on Mainau, a similar gathering of Nobel Laureates in science issued a declaration of the dangers inherent in the newly found technology of nuclear weapons—a technology derived from advances in basic science. So far we have avoided nuclear war though the threat remains. We believe that our world today faces another threat of comparable magnitude.
Successive generations of scientists have helped create a more and more prosperous world. This prosperity has come at the cost of a rapid rise in the consumption of the world’s resources. If left unchecked, our ever-increasing demand for food, water, and energy will eventually overwhelm the Earth’s ability to satisfy humanity’s needs, and will lead to wholesale human tragedy. Already, scientists who study Earth’s climate are observing the impact of human activity.
In response to the possibility of human-induced climate change, the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide the world’s leaders a summary of the current state of relevant scientific knowledge. While by no means perfect, we believe that the efforts that have led to the current IPCC Fifth Assessment Report represent the best source of information regarding the present state of knowledge on climate change. We say this not as experts in the field of climate change, but rather as a diverse group of scientists who have a deep respect for and understanding of the integrity of the scientific process.
Although there remains uncertainty as to the precise extent of climate change, the conclusions of the scientific community contained in the latest IPCC report are alarming, especially in the context of the identified risks of maintaining human prosperity in the face of greater than a 2°C rise in average global temperature. The report concludes that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the likely cause of the current global warming of the Earth. Predictions from the range of climate models indicate that this warming will very likely increase the Earth’s temperature over the coming century by more than 2°C above its pre-industrial level unless dramatic reductions are made in anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases over the coming decades.
Based on the IPCC assessment, the world must make rapid progress towards lowering current and future greenhouse gas emissions to minimize the substantial risks of climate change. We believe that the nations of the world must take the opportunity at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 to take decisive action to limit future global emissions. This endeavor will require the cooperation of all nations, whether developed or developing, and must be sustained into the future in accord with updated scientific assessment.