Dear Mr. President-elect,
On Day 1 of your presidency, you will be faced with many significant challenges. Climate change is one of them. It will be there on every day of your presidency. It is indifferent to politics and to poll numbers. It does not care about national boundaries, or race or religion. It already impacts our lives and our livelihoods, and will have greater impact each year. It will be the backdrop against which all key events of the 21st century play out.
If you do not treat this problem seriously, it will grow. You won't be able to ignore it. You won't be able to isolate yourself or the United States from climate change. There is no sanctuary from its effects.
But if you choose to tackle climate change, you will have tremendous resources to draw on. You now preside not only over our armed forces, but also over powerful unarmed forces. You have access to the expertise of government-funded scientists who have spent their careers observing climate change, probing its causes, and trying to find creative solutions to the problems it poses. These women and men did not choose this work to get rich quick, or to alter world systems of government. The work chose them. They wanted to do something that mattered. They wanted to understand the climate system, and learn how it ticks.
I am one member of those unarmed forces. Thirty-five years ago, I signed up for a life in science. The attraction was the joy of discovering interesting stuff about this strange and beautiful world in which we live. In the last thirty-five years, I learned two things. First, human actions are changing Earth's climate. Second, if we do nothing to address this problem, likely outcomes are bad. I want our country and our planet to avoid bad outcomes – which is why I've chosen to speak out publicly. I am not alone – thousands of my scientific colleagues are voicing their concerns.