Slash Global Warming Gases Now Urge 1,700 Scientists, Economists

WASHINGTON, DC, June 2, 2008 (ENS) – Hundreds of the nation’s most prominent scientists and economists have issued a first-ever joint statement calling on policymakers to require immediate, deep reductions in heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming.

“Failure to act now is the most risky and most expensive thing we could do,” warns statement co-author James McCarthy, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The coal-fired Bruce Mansfield power
plant in Pennsylvania, like all
coal-burning power plants, releases
greenhouse gases into the
atmosphere. (Photo by Kiyo Komoda)

Issued just before the U.S. Senate begins debate on the Warner-Lieberman climate bill, the statement marks the first time U.S. scientists and economists have joined together to make such an appeal.

The more than 1,700 signatories, compiled by Union of Concerned Scientists, include six Nobel Prize winners in science or economics, 31 National Academy of Science members, and more than 100 authors and editors of the 2007 climate reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who all shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

“Economists now join climate scientists in a unified call for action to address the causes of climate change,” said McCarthy, a professor of biological oceanography in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University.

Dr. James McCarthy (Photo courtesy AAAS)

McCarthy served as co-chair for the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and lead author of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.

“There is a strong consensus that we must do something about reducing the emissions that cause global warming,” he said. “The debate right now is about how much we need to cut.”

The statement proposes that the United States should reduce global warming pollution “on the order of 80 percent below 2000 levels by 2050″ and that the first step should be reductions of 15 to 20 percent below 2000 levels by 2020. It calls on the United States to set an example and bring nations together to meet the climate challenge.

“The fact that so many scientists and economists have spoken out and signed this letter should give policymakers the confidence that we can avert serious adverse climate impacts,” McCarthy said.

The statement’s co-authors include Mario Molina, co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in discovering the threat to the Earth’s ozone layer of chlorofluorocarbon gases, or CFCs, becoming the first and only Mexican citizen to ever receive a Nobel Prize for science.

Dr. Mario Molina
(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

“The United States worked with other nations to take on the ozone threat; so, too, must we lead the international effort to reduce heat-trapping emissions that cause climate change,” said Molina, who now serves as professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the Center for Atmospheric Sciences in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California-San Diego.

One of the co-authors is Geoff Heal, an economist at Columbia University’s Business School. “Preventing dangerous climate change is a great investment. It will cost between one and two percent of GDP, and the benefits will be between 10 and 20 percent. That’s a return of 10 to 1 – attractive even to a venture capitalist,” said Heal.

The statement affirms the scientific evidence for global warming, saying, “the strength of the science on climate change” compelled the signers to warn policymakers of climate change’s growing risks, including “sea level rise, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, snowmelt, floods and disease, as well as increased plant and animal species extinctions.”

Acting quickly to cut global warming pollution would be the most cost-effective way to limit climate change, the scientists and economists state. If the United States delays taking action, they say, future cuts would have to more drastic and would be much more expensive.

And those costs would come in addition to the increased cost of adapting to more climate change.

On the other hand, the scientists and economists advise, smart reduction strategies would allow the economy to grow, generate new domestic jobs, protect public health, and strengthen energy security.

“The consequences of global climate change constitute one of the most serious threats facing humanity,” warned Jagadish Shukla, professor of earth sciences and global change and chair of the Climate Dynamics Program at George Mason University.

President of the Institute of Global Environment and Society, Shukla was a lead author of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007

“While the poor and the impoverished will suffer the most,” said Shukla, “the potential for catastrophic climate change that can adversely affect the habitability of the entire planet is quite real.”

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