More than 650 scientists signed a letter sent to President Biden today calling on him to commit to more ambitious U.S. climate actions in the lead-up to the annual U.N. climate talks—also called COP28—in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Nearing the end of a year in which the world witnessed devastating climate-fueled disasters, record-breaking global average temperatures, and soaring heat-trapping emissions, the scientists wrote to President Biden emphasizing their concern about the acceleration of climate change and the significant shortfalls in efforts thus far—especially by wealthy, large emitting nations like the United States—to address it.
“As scientists across many disciplines who recognize the complex nature of climate impacts and solutions, we know for certain that solving this crisis requires significantly more ambitious action beyond what is being done,” said Dr. Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and a lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “Our country is currently failing to live up to its responsibility as the wealthiest nation in the world and the largest emitter of historical heat-trapping emissions. As the climate crisis unfolds rapidly and with great inequity, world leaders must step up their domestic and global commitments to meet the moment and ensure a safer, more just future.”
In their letter, the group of scientists urge President Biden to commit to the following actions to help ensure meaningful, comprehensive, and scientifically necessary progress at COP28:
- Agree to a fast and fair phaseout of all fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), with clear timelines and science-informed targets for the near and long term and supported by finance for low- and middle-income countries for a clean energy transition.
- Ramp up climate finance for low- and middle-income countries so they can also make a clean energy transition expeditiously, reaping tremendous public health and economic benefits while also contributing to climate goals.
- Operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund, working together with other countries, so it can quickly be resourced and provide funding for low- and middle-income nations reeling from extreme climate impacts for which ordinary adaptation measures are no longer feasible.
- Protect international climate negotiations from fossil fuel industry interference and corporate disinformation and greenwashing. The presence of fossil fuel interests has been growing rapidly at recent COPs, and their influence is demonstrably harmful to ambitious climate action.
“Climate change is exacerbating injustices for Black, Brown and Indigenous communities across the world, including in the United States,” said lead letter signer Dr. Sacoby Wilson, a professor and the director of T.H.E. EJ Lab, Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, School of Public Health at the University of Maryland-College Park. “Extreme impacts like floods, storms, heatwaves, and droughts are harming people’s health and livelihoods and exacerbating poverty. Meanwhile, fossil fuel pollution is literally killing millions of people every year. As a wealthy, high-emitting country, it’s past time the United States play its part to stop a crisis that’s fueling immense suffering that’s disproportionately impacting the global majority. At COP28, President Biden must work to ensure that intersectional science and climate justice is at the forefront and that the United States leads a serious effort to address climate injustices through a comprehensive climate reparations framework.”
UCS organized the letter as a part of its ongoing work to ensure the United States accelerates a just and equitable clean energy transition, rejects the expansion of new long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure, invests in climate resilience, and ramps up climate finance.
The letter was led by prominent scientists Drs. Rose Abramoff, Rachel Cleetus, Belay B. Demoz, Peter Gleick, Katharine Hayhoe, Gregory S. Jenkins, Naomi Oreskes, Luis E. Ortiz, Ben Pauli, Nathan G. Phillips, Jorge Ramos, Geoffrey Supran, Lucky Tran, Aradhna Tripati, Sandra Whitehead, Sacoby Wilson, Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli, Gary Yohe, and civil engineer Andrew Kricun.
The decisions leading up to and at COP28 are particularly significant as the negotiations come at a decisive moment for international climate action, as underscored in the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The latest science from the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also shows that there are viable and affordable solutions to drive a transformative shift from a polluting, fossil fuel-based energy system to a clean and healthier one, and that scaled-up investments in climate resilience are also vital to address impacts that are now unavoidable. Yet these commonsense, urgently needed steps are not being taken by governments at the speed and scale required.
“In addition, we must move away from the current top-down model and make COP more grassroots,” said Dr. Wilson. “COP must move away from being the conference of the parties to the conference of the people to ensure that climate and environmental justice are achieved and the voice of the global majority drives how we address climate change.”
The full letter and list of signers can be found here.