101 Nobel Laureates Call on World Leaders to End Fossil Fuel Production

Image: Wikimedia Commons

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

As leaders from across the world are gearing up for President Biden’s Earth Day climate summit, the Dalai Lama and 100 other Nobel Prize winners have written a letter addressed to the participants, urging the phase-out of fossil fuels and urging nations to quickly transition to renewable energy. The letter, arranged by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, has been signed by acclaimed scientists, artists, politicians, and activists.

Why this Matters: According to a recent UN report, countries plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be compatible with a 1.5-degree Celsius temperature limit. 

The same research shows that in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change, the world must reduce fossil fuel production by 6% between 2020 and 2030. Yet while renewable energy is flourishing in some nations across the world, all nations must do a far better job of facilitating the expansion of renewables. Mandates, electrification, phaseouts of fossil fuels subsidies along with other policy mechanisms must be implemented more readily by nations in order to increase the share of emissions-free energy. 

Inspiring Words: The letter said: “The burning of fossil fuels is responsible for almost 80% of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution. Allowing the continued expansion of this industry is unconscionable.”

The Nobel laureates proposed three steps that world leaders should take: stop expanding oil, gas, and coal production, transition out existing fossil fuel production, and convert to renewable energy. Their letter also draws attention to the ways that the pollution and health costs that arise from extracting, refining, transporting, and burning fossil fuels affect indigenous people and marginalized communities. 

According to CNN, the long list of signatories includes:

  • Jody Williams, who was awarded the 1997 Peace Prize for her campaign to ban landmines;
  • Women’s rights activist and 2011 Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee
  • Frances H. Arnold who was awarded the 2018 chemistry prize for performing the first-ever “directed evolution” of enzymes
  • Harald zur Hausen, the 2008 medicines and physiology laureate who discovered that human papillomavirus causes cervical cancer
  • Elfriede Jelinek, the 2005 literature laureate 
  • Christopher Pissarides, 2010 Economics laureate 

The signatories emphasize that the world leaders attending the conference have the ability to take action: “Leaders, not industry, hold the power and have the moral responsibility to take bold actions to address this crisis,” they say.


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