An oath for climate scientists: speak truth to power, and take personal action for climate change

Scientists for Global Responsibility, a U.K.-based organization, has launched a new initiative with an Open Letter in The Guardian on November 7, stating: “Science has no higher purpose than to understand and help maintain the conditions for life to thrive on Earth. We may look beyond our planet with wonder and learn, but this is our only viable home.”   The online campaign asks the world’s climate scientists to sign an Oath, modelled on the Hippocratic Oath for physicians, by which they “pledge to act in whatever ways we are able, in our lives and work, to prevent catastrophic climate disruption.”  

The website continues:

“To translate this pledge into a force for real change, we will:

explain honestly, clearly and without compromise, what scientific evidence tells us about the seriousness of the climate emergency.

not second-guess what might seem politically or economically pragmatic when describing the scale and timeframe of action needed to deliver the 1.5°C and 2°C commitments, specified in the Paris Climate Agreement.  And, speak out about what is not compatible with the commitments, or is likely to undermine them.

to the best of our abilities, and mindful of the urgent need for systemic change, seek to align our own behaviour with the climate targets, and reduce our own personal carbon emissions to demonstrate the possibilities for change. 

With courtesy and firmness, we will hold our professional associations, institutions and employers to these same standards, and invite our colleagues across the scientific community to sign, act on and share this pledge.”

Scientists for Global Responsibility have been active in previous climate-related activism – for example, a campaign seeking fossil fuel divestment by the U.K. Universities’ Superannuation Scheme (USS), as summarized in “Is your pension fund wrecking the planet?” (March 2020) of Responsible Science. That journal was launched in 2019; they also communicate through social media (@ResponsibleSci on Twitter) , webinars and conferences, and have a long history of published reports addressing all aspects of ethical issues in science and technology. Founded in 1992, the history of SGR is here.  

Want to fact check climate change science in the media?

A new project, Climate Feedback,  is currently crowdfunding  to finance a website to offer an “ effective and scalable way for scientists to share what they know with readers and journalists.” News articles will be reviewed and assigned a “credibility rating”.    The project began at University of California at Merced; the crowdfunding description  says it includes over 100 scientists and has been widely endorsed. Read the reports at the Yale Climate Connections  or in The Guardian .