Scientists Urged to Spread Word on Global Warming
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Scientists urged to spread word on global warming
April 12, 2005
Global warming is real, dangerous and ignored at great risk to the
planet, a leading environmentalist told an audience of about 250 at
last week's inaugural MIT Environmental Fellows Invitational Lecture.
Professor James Gustave Speth, Dean of Yale University's School of
Forestry and Environmental Studies, urged the scientific community to
make its case to the public, which remains unconvinced of the crisis
despite decades of first-rate science and policy analysis, he
Temperatures at the Arctic are already climbing, and there will
be "irreparable damage in the decades ahead due to our negligence" in
addressing climate change. U.S. policy makers and citizens must be
spurred into action, Speth said in his talk, "Some Say by Fire:
Climate Change and the American Response," held Wednesday, April 6.
"If I had a hundred million dollars," Speth said, "I think I'd put
almost every penny of it into a public service advertising
because we've got to reach lots of people quickly with this issue."
Speth is a founder of the World Resources Institute, co-founder of
the Natural Resources Defense Council and former advisor to
Presidents Carter and Clinton. His lecture was sponsored by the
Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.
Climate-change research results and forecasts appear repeatedly in
the scientific literature--some information "startling in its
significance"--but Speth said good climate science rarely reaches the
public in a "forceful and meaningful way." Indeed, the mainstream
American press persists in portraying global change as controversial
and uncertain, he said.
There is now clear consensus among scientists that Earth's climate is
being affected by the greenhouse gases generated by human
activities. "We've seen these credible forecasts and credible
warnings coming from the scientific community for the better part of
three decades," Speth said. "But the influence of all the good
science on policy and action has been puny compared with the need."
Noting MIT's phenomenal capacity to help tackle this critical global
problem, Speth called for scientists at MIT and elsewhere to actively
engage in public policy debates and issues. "Only the scientific
community has the credibility to take the climate issue to the public
and to the politicians," he said.
Given the lack of action at the federal level, he called for building
a broad network of civic, scientific, environmental, religious,
business and other communities to demand action and to take concrete
steps to reduce emissions.
What can universities do? He recommended that they join together and
commit to reducing their own emissions, which are often significant.