A time for global action on global warming

16 May 2007

The Royal Society and leading scientists from around the world have demanded that governments put aside short-term squabbling to unite in action, including on energy policy, to help reduce the damage of climate change.  This must combine investment to harness the power of science with regulation to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The call comes in a joint statement presented to Angela Merkel, the German Prime Minister, ahead of the G8 summit to be held in Germany in June.  The statement is signed by the national science academies of the G8 nations and China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa. 

Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society said: "Meeting the challenge of climate change demands cooperative action by all the G8 countries - along with India, China, and other rapidly-developing nations.  Limiting global warming to 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, without impeding the advance of the developing world, is a very demanding goal and that level of warming would still be likely to have some severe impacts.

"The urgency of the situation means tough decisions need to be taken now to provide disincentives to carbon emissions.  Much can then be done through positive changes such as developing new technology or making more efficient use of the systems already in place.  The UK government has helped greatly to put climate change high on the international agenda. There are now opportunities for this country to gain a lead in spearheading new energy technologies. 

"The amount of research and development - by governments and by private industry worldwide - is far too small, given the scale and urgency of the challenge.  Whether it is the development of cleaner fuels or the introduction of more efficient household electrical equipment, changes can be a spur for economic growth and can reduce the needs of individuals for electricity and heating.  To tackle climate change need not inhibit economic advance, but requires us to accelerate and redirect some of our efforts.

The Joint science academies' statement on growth and responsibility: sustainability, energy efficiency and climate protection highlights the weight of scientific evidence that points to the role of man made greenhouse gas emissions in recent global warming. 

The scientists have issued the following challenges to governments:

  • Set standards and promote economic instruments for efficiency and promote energy efficiency in buildings, electrical devices, transport and the energy sector itself
  • Encourage people to change their behaviour
  • Take action to reduce global deforestation
  • Work with developing countries to leapfrog cleaner and more efficient technologies
  • Invest in science and technology to realise greater efficiency, zero-carbon energy resources and carbon-removing technology.

The Joint science academies also issued a statement on innovation and the need to balance promotion and protection.  The statement calls for investment and international cooperation alongside a need to balance protection of intellectual property rights with free access to knowledge and information.

Joint science academies' statement: sustainability, energy efficiency and climate protection

Joint science academies' statement: the promotion and protection of innovation