UCSF Sustainability Stories


Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, November 2016


UCSF Scientists Urge Climate Action

2016 will be the hottest year ever recorded.  Meanwhile, 375 of the world’s top scientists, including 30 Nobel Prize winners and three UCSF scientists, recently signed an open letter to draw attention to the serious risks of climate change and to encourage readers to vote for the environment.

The letter underscores that humans are causing climate change and we are now experiencing its affect across the globe, from rising seas, warming oceans, melting ice, and changing rainfall patterns. While scientists often stick to their research and don’t get involved in policy, this statement is a timely, shout out to take climate change threats seriously and to vote for the environment.

The first paragraph of the letter starts, “Human-caused climate change is not a belief, a hoax, or a conspiracy. It is a physical reality. Fossil fuels powered the Industrial Revolution. But the burning of oil, coal, and gas also caused most of the historical increase in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. This increase in greenhouse gases is changing Earth’s climate.”

The letter expresses concern over the idea of the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Accord. It warns, “Such a decision would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting – for our planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States.”

It concludes, “The United States can and must be a major player in developing innovative solutions to the problem of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Nations that find innovative ways of decarbonizing energy systems and sequestering CO2 will be the economic leaders of the 21st century.”

Three UCSF Scientists Sign the Letter

Of particular interest to the UCSF community is that three of the signatories are from UCSF:  Keith Yamamoto, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy and Vice Dean for Research, School of Medicine; Carol Gross, Professor, UCSF School of Dentistry; and Bruce Alberts, Professor, School of Medicine. Of the 357 signatories, 59 are from the UC system. Their involvement builds on UC’s leadership on climate solutions, including President Napolitano attending COP21 in Paris and UC commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

Dr. Alberts:  Tireless Advocate for Science and Education

In 2014, President Barack Obama named Dr. Alberts, a biochemist, one of nine scientists awarded the National Medal of Science, the highest U.S. honor for scientific achievement. Dr. Alberts has been equally lauded as a tireless advocate for science and education.

When asked why he felt inspired to sign the letter, he responded, “The future of humanity depends on using the deep understandings of the natural world that are produced by science to protect our grandchildren. It is both irresponsible and immoral to allow short-term political or economic gains to overrule what we know from science about the consequences of current actions on the future.”

We had the opportunity to ask Dr. Alberts how he sees the connection between climate change and health. He emphasized, “There are a great many connections, all of which will make the challenges of improving global health even more difficult than they currently are. As usual, the billions of poor people in the world will suffer the most from rising oceans and shifting environments.”

Call to Action to UCSF:  Vote for the Environment

Dr. Alberts’ call to action for the UCSF community:  “Try to connect to as many students, neighbors, and strangers as possible, with the aims of personalizing scientists as kind, very approachable human beings and spreading a respect for science to everyone.”

Our call to action to you:  vote for the environment.  Here are three resources to learn more about voting for those who support strong climate action legislation or policy:

  • EcoVote (CLCV)
  • ClimateNexus
  • You can read the Open Letter Regarding Climate Change From Concerned Members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences HERE.
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