Bush's Kyoto stance angers UK scientists

April 6, 2001

Leading British environmental scientists have called on governments to support the Kyoto agreement to tackle global climate change following its rejection by US president George Bush.

In a THES poll of British university heads of environmental science and geography departments and centres as well as prominent professors, some labelled the president's decision "irresponsible" and his government a "pariah" that should be "shamed" into action.

They added their voices to growing anger within the scientific community. Last week, Stephen Hawking, Craig Venter, Jane Goodall and Edward O. Wilson signed an open letter to Mr Bush, published in Time magazine, urging him to cut greenhouse gas production.

The Royal Society is in talks to present a response from the international scientific community, which could be delivered to the Whitehouse within a fortnight.

All respondents to the THES survey said there was sufficient evidence that human activities were at least partly responsible for global climate change to prompt action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Just over half felt the targets proposed in the Kyoto treaty were too weak, while the rest felt it was a good start. Nevertheless, 26 said they were disappointed with Mr Bush.

John Farrar, director of the Institute of Environmental Science at the University of Wales, Bangor, said: "As the United States is responsible for about 30 per cent of emissions, this one decision will have huge consequences."

Paul Carling, director of environmental sciences at Southampton University, said: "The selfishness of the US will contribute to growing environmental damage. Coordinated action is needed."

Almost everyone (24) was pessimistic that a new emissions control treaty could be thrashed out within the next 12 months, but they were near unanimous (25) that Kyoto should be ratified by the remaining nations and that its targets should not be watered down to tempt back the US (24).

Christopher Wood, director of the Environmental Impact Assessment Centre at Manchester University, said that internal pressure and international solidarity were likely to prove more influential than confrontation. "The United Kingdom's role should be to quietly convince the president that economic and environmental goals are not necessarily opposed."

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