UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

94-09-08: Statement of Union of Concerned Scientists


The electronic preparation of this document has been done by the

Population Information Network(POPIN) of the United Nations Population

Division in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme






 Attached is the "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity," a

comprehensive statement prepared by UCS which summarizes the views of

many prominent scientists on emerging threats to life-sustaining

resources and the global environment. The statement outlines a broad

agenda of corrective action, ranging from development of a new ethic

within the scientific community to greater support for alternatives to

fossil fuels and a comprehensive approach to stabilize population


 UCS circulated the "Warning" to senior scientists around the world. In

an effort to demonstrate consensus among scientists from both developed

and developing countries, we sought endorsement from members of the

leading scientific academies in North America, Latin America, Europe,

Africa, and Asia. The response has been overwhelming: more than 1600

signatories from 70 countries. There should be no doubt that a broad

consensus is emerging within the scientific community regarding the

validity of major threats to the future well-being of humanity and the

global environment

 As indicated on the attachments, the quantity and caliber of

signatories to this statement is quite unprecedented:

 • 104 scientists who have been awarded the Nobel Prize;

 • a substantial number of senior officers from national and

international science academies (e.g., Third World Academy of Sciences,

Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of London, Chinese Academy

of Sciences);

 • a majority of the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (the

prestigious body of scientists that advises Pope John Paul II on

scientific issues).

 The "Warning" was the first project of a new UCS initiative called the

Global Resources Project Its goals are to greatly expand the

participation of scientists in environmental, population, and

development issues and to enhance the overall credibility of public

education and policy debate.



 Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human

activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the

environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our

current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human

society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living

world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.

Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our

present course will bring about.


 The environment is suffering critical stress:

The Atmosphere

 Stratospheric ozone depletion threatens us with enhanced ultra-violet

radiation at the earth's surface, which can be damaging or lethal to

many life forms. Air pollution near ground level, and acid

precipitation, are already causing widespread injury to humans, forests

and crops.

Water Resources

 Heedless exploitation of depletable ground water supplies endangers

food production and other essential human systems. Heavy demands on the

world's surface waters have resulted in serious shortages in some 80

countries, containing 40% of the world's population. Pollution of

rivers, lakes and ground water further limits the supply.


 Destructive pressure on the oceans is severe, particularly in the

coastal regions which produce most of the world's food fish. The total

marine catch is now at or above the estimated maximum sustainable yield.

Some fisheries have already shown signs of collapse. Rivers carrying

heavy burdens of eroded soil into the seas also carry industrial,

municipal, agricultural, and livestock waste - some of it toxic.


 Loss of soil productivity, which is causing extensive land abandonment,

is a widespread byproduct of current practices in agriculture and animal

husbandry. Since 1945, 11% of the earth's vegetated surface has been

degraded - an area larger than India and China combined -and per capita

food production in many parts of the world is decreasing.


 Tropical rain forests, as well as tropical and temperate dry forests

are being destroyed rapidly. At present rates, some critical forest

types will be gone in a few years. and most of the tropical rain forest

will be gone before the end of the next century. With them will go large

numbers of plant and animal species.

Living Species

 The irreversible loss of species, which by 2100 may reach one third of

all species now living, is especially serious. We are losing the

potential they hold for providing medicinal and other benefits, and the

contribution that genetic diversity of life forms gives to the

robustness of the world's biological systems and to the astonishing

beauty of the earth itself.

 Much of this damage is irreversible on a scale of centuries or

permanent. Other processes appear to pose additional threats. Increasing

levels of gases in the atmosphere from human activities, including

carbon dioxide released from fossil fuel burning and from deforestation,

may alter climate on a global scale. Predictions of global warming are

still uncertain—with projected effects ranging from tolerable to very

severe—but the potential risks are very great.

 Our massive tampering with the world's interdependent web of life —

coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation,

species loss, and climate change—could trigger widespread adverse

effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological

systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand.

 Uncertainty over the extent of these effects cannot excuse complacency

or delay in facing the threats.


 The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive

effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite.

Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we

are fast approaching many of the earth's limits. Current economic

practices which damage the environment, in both developed and

underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital

global systems will be damaged beyond repair.

 Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on

the natural world that can Overwhelm any efforts to achieve a

sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our

environment, we must accept limits to that growth. A World Bank estimate

indicates that world population will not stabilize at less than 12.4

billion, while the United Nations concludes that the eventual total

could reach 14 billion, a near tripling of today's 5.4 billion. But,

even at this moment, one person in five lives in absolute poverty

without enough to eat, and one in ten suffers serious malnutrition.

 No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the

threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity

immeasurably diminished..


 We the undersigned, senior members of the world's scientific community,

hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our

stewardship of the earth and the life on it, is required, - vast human

misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be

irretrievably mutilated.


 Five inextricably linked areas must be addressed simultaneously:

1.     We must bring environmentally damaging activities under control

to restore and protect the integrity of the earth's systems we depend


 We must, for example, move away from fossil fuels to more benign,

inexhaustible energy sources to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the

pollution of our air and water. Priority must be given to the

development of energy sources matched to third world needs—small scale

and relatively easy to implement.

 We must halt deforestation, injury to and loss of agricultural land,

and the loss of terrestrial and marine plant and animal species.

2.     We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more


 We must give high priority to efficient use of energy, water, and other

materials, including expansion of conservation and recycling.

3.     We must stabilize population. This will be possible only if all

nations recognize that it requires improved social and economic

conditions, and the adoption of effective, voluntary family planning.

4.     We must reduce and eventually eliminate poverty.

5.     We must ensure sexual equality, and guarantee women control over

their own reproductive decisions.

 The developed nations are the largest polluters in the world today.

They must greatly reduce their overconsumption, if we are to reduce

pressures on resources and the global environment. The developed nations

have the obligation to provide aid and support to developing nations,

because only the developed nations have the financial resources and the

technical skills for these tasks.

 Acting on this recognition is not altruism, but enlightened self-

interest: whether industrialized or not, we all have but one lifeboat.

No nation can escape from injury when global biological systems are

damaged. No nation can escape from conflicts over increasingly scarce

resources. In addition, environmental and economic instabilities will

cause mass migrations with incalculable consequences for developed and

undeveloped nations alike.

 Developing nations must realize that environmental damage is one of the

gravest threats they face, and that attempts to blunt it will be

overwhelmed if their populations go unchecked. The greatest peril is to

become trapped in spirals of environmental decline, poverty, and unrest,

leading to social, economic and environmental collapse.

 Success in this global endeavor will require a great reduction in

violence and war. Resources now devoted to the preparation and conduct

of war—amounting to over $1 trillion annually—will be badly needed in

the new tasks and should be diverted to the new challenges.

 A new ethic is required — a new attitude towards discharging our

responsibility for caring for ourselves and for the earth. We must

recognize the earth's limited capacity to provide for us. We must

recognize its fragility. We must no longer allow it to be ravaged. This

ethic must motivate a great movement, convincing reluctant leaders and

reluctant governments and reluctant peoples themselves to effect the

needed changes.

 The scientists issuing this warning hope that our message will reach

and affect people everywhere. We need the help of many.

   We require the help of the world community of scientists - —natural,

social, economic, political;

   We require the help of the world's business and industrial leaders;

   We require the help of the world's religious leaders; and

   We require the help of the world's peoples.

   We call on all to join us in this task

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