Is it appropriate for them to act as political advocates?
Over on Prometheus, Roger Pielke Jr. reports that "national science academies from Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States" have jointly signed a letter (PDF) sent to "world leaders, including those meeting at the Gleneagles G8 Summit in July 2005," advocating the following:
- Acknowledge that the threat of climate change is clear and increasing.
- Launch an international study to explore scientifically informed targets for atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, and their associated emissions scenarios, that will enable nations to avoid impacts deemed unacceptable.
- Identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions. Recognise that delayed action will increase the risk of adverse environmental effects and will likely incur a greater cost.
- Work with developing nations to build a scientific and technological capacity best suited to their circumstances, enabling them to develop innovative solutions to mitigate and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, while explicitly recognising their legitimate development rights.
- Show leadership in developing and deploying clean energy technologies and approaches to energy efficiency, and share this knowledge with all other nations.
- Mobilise the science and technology community to enhance research and development efforts, which can better inform climate change decisions.
That’s pretty remarkable
Pielke is troubled by this. He thinks the academies are pretty transparently picking sides in a political battle, going well beyond settled science in doing so, and wonders whether that’s an appropriate role for them.
One thing I don’t think I’ve seen Pielke address in his writings on this subject (which are nuanced and thoughtful) is this: Why have so many scientific bodies broken the barrier and taken political sides on this issue? Is it the urgency of the climate change itself? The intransigence of some politicians?
I get that Pielke disapproves of this trend, but maybe he should address why it is that this issue and not others seems to inspire such a propriety-defying sense of urgency among scientists.