Scientists Step Up to Climate Change


National Academy of Sciences Members


Nobel Laureates

The tragedy of the current coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the inspiring capacity of humankind to adapt its behavior to address a world-wide threat to public health. That said, there is another disaster directly in front of us, looming larger with every passing day, that threatens our entire planet. That threat is global warming and its planet-wide effects on climate. The evidence is clear, and without any question, the most pressing crisis facing all people. It is not hyperbole to state that the future of the Earth as we know it is at stake and could become incapable of supporting the life of our own species among many other species. Human activities that result in the generation of greenhouse gases, and the ever-growing human population engaging in such activities, are unquestionably the primary drivers of global warming. The evidence for these conclusions is incontrovertible.

No return to normal

When we emerge from the coronavirus lock-down, there will be enormous pressure to “return to normal” and to resume “business as usual.” However, this pandemic-induced pause in the drumbeat of our lives has shown the possibility to stymie greenhouse gas emissions and to implement other appropriate actions that will begin to reverse global warming. Excessive air travel is one of the major ways in which scientists contribute as individuals to global warming, and there is a compelling need to strictly limit such behavior as we move forward. As participants in this behavior, we have a moral responsibility, as well as the capability, to provide leadership in establishing new paradigms for scientific connectivity. This letter is, therefore, a call to members of the major US scientific organizations and institutions that interface among biology, chemistry and physics to move forward in a sustainable and concerted manner.

Go remote!

In the short term, we ask all US scientific organizations to continue to cease in-person gatherings and to move to all-remote (i.e. electronic on-line) formats for research conferences, scientific symposia, local seminar series, meetings of your advisory boards, editorial committees, etc. For the longer term, rather than depending on every organization and institution to grapple with these issues on their own, we call for implementation of a remote summit meeting with representatives from the stakeholders to be held as early as possible in 2021. Such a gathering would address how best to restructure science-related meetings. It will permit an opportunity to share experiences and technologies for providing visually appealing and interactive remote venues for scientific exchange, using the expertise that has been emerging under Covid-19. In this way, we can productively and cooperatively mobilize our cumulative knowledge and best redefine how we interact with one another to promote science and the advancement of younger scientists.