23 november 2009

From: Concerned Citizens against Climate Change
c/o Arthur Mitzman
Amsterdam, November 23, 2009

To: Barack Obama,
President of the United States
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Obama*:

On the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit, we, the initiators of Concerned Citizens against Climate Change, are sending you our appeal: “Global warming threatens the future of the earth. Act now before it is too late.” Among its 1092 co-signers from 44 countries are many university professors, environmentalists, authors and other public figures, including nine present or former members of the European Parliament and three former Dutch ministers of environment. The signers ask for and support “all necessary action, now” to halt climate change

Transcending all political and economic issues, global warming now kills hundreds of thousands a year and, if unchecked, could jeopardize human existence. Without preventive action, most of the earth’s temperate and tropical zones may be uninhabitable by 2100. The climate crisis is thus more serious than any faced by the United States until now, including Pearl Harbor. Confronting it will require a ‘war time’ government programme for rapid conversion from a fossil fueled economy to an economy based on renewable energy. Sacrifices will have to be made for the sake of future generations. We ask you to use your rhetorical powers to convince the Congress and the American people of the necessity of drastic action.

We believe that determined commitments by world leaders such as yourself, combined with broad media circulation of the alarming evidence now emerging, will elicit a spirit of cooperation in the global citizenry. We urge you to take the lead in Copenhagen next month with decisive proposals for decreasing Greenhouse gas emissions.

Time is running out, Mr. President.
Scientific research of the past two years has shown with ever greater clarity the gravity and imminence of the warming menace:**

• Global CO2 emissions have been increasing in recent years at a rate worse than the most pessimistic scenario envisaged by the IPCC. A report of the Global Carbon Project in November 2009 envisages a six degree C. temperature increase by 2100 if there are no firm commitments to reduce emissions.
• The estimation of a safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has declined to about 350ppm – 38 ppm lower than the present level .
• Arctic warming and concomitant disappearance of summer ice is occurring much more rapidly than anticipated and the melting of Siberian permafrost has begun to release billions of tons of methane, a greenhouse gas considerably more powerful than CO2.
• Sea level rise this century is predicted to be as high as two meters, about four times the increase anticipated by the IPCC.
• We may have as little as 87 months to start a serious reduction in emissions before runaway warming sets in.

Mr. president, we must convert quickly to a non-carbon economy. Plans to capture and sequester CO2 from coal-fired power plants (CCS) have been lobbied through the IEA, the G8 and the EU, but the technology is still experimental and, according to McKinsey, commercially viable only after 2030. Meanwhile, problems with long-term liability risks and permanent monitoring appear unsolvable. It would be criminally irresponsible if, based on the hope that CCS would some day be available, governments permitted the construction of new coal-fired power plants that might increase CO2 emissions for another 20 years. Such construction should be stopped immediately, and all existing coal-fired power plants without CCS should be phased out by 2020.

Nuclear energy is no solution. We cannot expect the earth to store massive amounts of nuclear waste for hundred of thousands of years without dangerous leakage. Nor can we exclude the possibility of human fraud or mechanical failure producing another Chernobyl.

There are environmentally safe and economically effective alternatives to both CCS and the nuclear option. Energy efficiency can greatly reduce primary energy demand in industrialized countries. Moreover, massive wind parks, combined with the solar energy technique known as Concentrated Solar Power and with hydroelectric and geothermal power, all linked together by continent-wide HVDC supergrids, can within a generation supply humankind with safe, dependable and inexpensive energy for the indefinite future.

In addition to this infrastructural backbone for a non-carbon economy, legislative and fiscal measures can speed emissions reductions in households, industry, and transportation.

Mr. President, the financial crisis has shown the capacity of global leaders to act swiftly and together to save the world economy. The same can be done for the even more dangerous crisis of climate change. In fact, the two crises can be resolved together by the job-creating Green New Deal that economists and environmentalists have been discussing.

Whatever your plan may be, however, we want to remind you that the industrialized West is responsible for 90% of the greenhouse gases threatening our future and should be prepared to take financial responsibility for 90% of the cost of the global clean-up.

Global justice requires massive assistance by the West to developing nations, which urgently need renewable energy to help their people out of poverty while avoiding runaway warming.


the initiators of Concerned Citizens against Climate Change (info@stopwarming.eu):

Arthur Mitzman, (emeritus professor of History,
University of Amsterdam),

Joep Leerssen (professor of European Studies,
University of Amsterdam,)

Lucas Reijnders (professor of Environmental Studies,
University of Amsterdam)

cc: Stephen Chu, Todd Stern, Lisa Jackson, Carol Browner

* Sources for data in this letter on the increased danger of warming, on the futility of CCS, and on the supergrid for renewables can be found either in our appeal or in the news rubrics on our website.

Concerned Citizens against Climate Change
International Advisory Board: Hedy d'Ancona (NL), Atilio Boron (Arg.), Natalie Zemon Davis (U.S.), Fiona Dove (NL/SA), Terry Eagleton (UK), Gabriel Kolko (NL/Can.), Joan Martinez-Alier (Sp.), Bill McKibben (U.S.), Claus Offe (Ger.), Jan Pronk (NL), Richard Sennett (U.K./U.S.)

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