Catalyst Winter 2019
First Principles

The Next 50 Years

By Ken Kimmell, president of UCS
Photo: Reny Preussker
The author addresses attendees of the Union of Concerned Scientists' 50th-anniversary celebration in February at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, one of four events planned for 2019.

At the Union of Concerned Scientists, we feel well-earned pride this year as we reflect on accomplishments that now span a half-century. But we’re not taking our eyes off the immense amount of work that lies ahead. The past two years have often seemed like an all-out assault on science, reason, facts, and our democracy, and a political moment of great peril. But there are also many hopeful signs.

The midterm elections have ensured a return to the checks and balances on power that the Constitution envisions. The House of Representatives can conduct meaningful oversight of the Trump administration’s suppression of science (see more)—and UCS will provide input. State commitments to clean energy, led by California’s pledge to generate electricity from 100 percent carbon-free sources by 2045, are truly inspiring. And the recent commitment of nine states to curb transportation emissions marks a powerful, bipartisan step in combating climate change.

As we plan for the years ahead, we’re focusing our work where UCS can have the most impact. Scientists say we have little more than a decade to break our dependence on fossil fuels, and there is not a minute to lose in this transition to a clean energy future. We are working toward this goal on all fronts, including planning landmark federal climate legislation to implement quickly after the next election, mobilizing a wide and diverse constituency to support it, and ensuring it includes policies that address the pollution that disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable communities.

We also plan to redouble our efforts on an issue that galvanized our founders to form UCS 50 years ago—the threat of nuclear weapons. The stakes could hardly be higher, given the president’s plans to build new weapons systems and abandon arms control treaties, the continued threat from North Korea, and the potential for a new, destabilizing arms race. Finally, building on the recent passage of the federal farm bill, we’ll be pressing hard toward our long-term vision of a food system that is sustainable, healthy, affordable, and fair.

In all this work, we look forward with confidence that, with your active support, our most important victories are ahead of us.