Obama Must Show More Personal Leadership on Climate Change: 20 Leading Scientists Say in Open Letter

barack obama photo

photo: Anna via flickr.

If there's one thing that continues to stand out to me in the politics of climate change is the yawning chasm between what scientists say is needed in terms of emissions reductions to prevent catastrophic climate change and what politicians are proposing. Finally though, scientists are speaking up; 20 of the United States' leading climate and environmental scientists have written an open letter to President Obama and Congress highlighting the gap between what science says is necessary and what politics deems feasible. The full letter is available from The Woods Hole Research Center, but here's the gist of it:Waxman-Markey is Just a Small First Step
Waxman-Markey can only be viewed as first step, and must be enacted this year. However, the bill needs to be strengthened wherever possible (and certainly not weakened). Furthermore, the President must show personal leadership to "lead the American public into recognition of the scale of climate disruption so that the US will embrace still stronger policies to do what we know from scientific investigation is necessary to prevent disastrous climate alteration."

450ppm is Not Enough to Prevent "Ruinous Climate Change"
The scientists also expressed that the international political consensus that constraining atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of 450ppm is adequate, is far from that. Without going so far as James Hansen, Bill McKibben and others in specifically saying that we really should be reducing CO2 levels to 350ppm, the scientists urged stronger action on the part of the United States:

We and many other are of the view that these objectives [holding CO2 to 450ppm] are inadequate to sustain the integrity of global climate and to hold the risk of ruinous climatic change to an acceptably low level. United State policy must provide a fully satisfactory US contribution to global greenhouse gas reductions that move beyond these inadequate international limits.

Signing the letter: Dean Abrahamson, Univ. of Minnesota; Robert Costanza, Univ. of Vermont; Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute; Richard Houghton, The Woods Hole Research Center; Ralph Keeling, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Donald Kennedy, Stanford Univ.; Thomas Lovejoy, Heinz Center for Science, Economics & the Environment; Michael MacCracken, Climate Institute; Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State Univ.; Michael McElroy, Harvard; Steve Running, Univ. of Montana; William Schlesinger, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Stephen Schneider, Stanford University; Richard Somerville, Scripss Institution of Oceanography; James Gustave Speth, Yale University; Lonnie Thompson, Ohio State University; Warren Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research; Richard Williams, The Woods Hole Research Center; Timothy Worth, The United Nations Foundation; George Woodwell, The Woods Hole Research Institution.

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