Davos WEF

Climate experts demand world leaders stop 'walking away from the science'

Key Points
  • The four-day January get-together of world leaders, CEOs and investors is set to begin Tuesday, with this year's theme scheduled to focus on the intensifying climate crisis.
  • "We cannot accept insufficient action anymore," Professor Gail Whiteman, founder of Arctic Basecamp and director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business at Lancaster University, said in a statement.
  • "I don't want leaders to listen to me. I want leaders to listen to the scientists, and I want them to unite behind the science," Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old climate activist from Sweden, said Monday.
Demonstrators shut down the corner of Randolph and Clark streets as part of a protest demanding government action on climate change in Chicago on October 7, 2019.
Max Herman | NurPhoto | Getty Images

DAVOS, Switzerland — Scientists and climate activists from around the world have called on policymakers and business leaders to urgently take action in line with the scientific consensus on the climate emergency.

Speaking at the launch of the 'Unite Behind The Science' campaign at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, climate change experts warned Monday that political inaction would not be acceptable.

"Scientists want to make clear that every single policy, business and investment decision worldwide must follow the path that gives the world a fighting chance of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC and lead to the most livable future possible," organizers of the Unite Behind The Science campaign said in a statement.

The four-day January get-together of world leaders, CEOs and investors is set to begin Tuesday, with this year's theme scheduled to focus on the intensifying climate crisis.

"We cannot accept insufficient action anymore," Professor Gail Whiteman, founder of Arctic Basecamp and director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business at Lancaster University, said in a statement.

"If we're united behind the science then every decision, every investment, every behavior should be based on what is taking us in the right direction."

"If you decide to invest in and continue to produce fossil fuels, you are walking away from science," Whiteman said.

A 'planetary emergency'

The campaign demands that political, business and finance leaders united behind the science by basing every policy and business decision on the need to limit global warming to 1.5ºC by 2100.

It also insists leaders halt all fossil fuel expansion, investments and subsidies by 2020, phase out existing coal-fire powered capacity in OECD countries by 2030, end the sale of the combustion engine by 2030 and protect 50% of the Earth's terrestrial area by 2030.

The forum, which is often criticized for being out of touch with the real world, has said it aims to assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress toward the Paris Agreement and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

It has designated this year's theme as "Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World."

"I don't want leaders to listen to me. I want leaders to listen to the scientists, and I want them to unite behind the science," Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old climate activist from Sweden, said Monday.

"And then I want them to take the action necessary to help us meet the climate crisis."

Greta Thunberg speaks at an event with other climate activists on April 22, 2019 in London, England.
Chris J Ratcliffe | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Thunberg was recently named Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2019, after being catapulted to fame for skipping school every Friday to hold a weekly vigil outside Swedish parliament in 2018.

Millions of children took part in rallies around the world to protest against political inaction over climate change last year.

The UN has recognized climate change as "the defining issue of our time," with a recent report calling the crisis "the greatest challenge to sustainable development."

"Science today shows that we face a planetary emergency. The world must bend the global curve of emissions by 2020 and then cut emissions in the world by half by 2030," Professor Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said Monday.

"It took 10 years to land a man safely on the moon, we now have 10 years to land Earth on a safe trajectory for our future," he added.