The reality of the climate change crisis demands an urgent and ambitious global response. The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Scotland presents a historic opportunity to align on emissions reduction targets to prevent unacceptable outcomes.

Climate change scientists have warned for decades, with increasing certainty and growing alarm, that greenhouse gas emissions created by human activities are rapidly warming the planet. This warming and its subsequent effects are contributing to devastating impacts on human health, ecosystems, infrastructure, and global security – impacts that are now acute and growing more intolerable, especially for underserved and marginalized populations. Because today’s emissions will cause warming for decades to come, many future effects are unavoidable.

Advances in science, engineering, and medicine are delivering solutions to reduce emissions and mitigate future negative impacts. These tools – which can and should be deployed now – can help the world meet the COP26 goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and limit warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, thus preserving a more sustainable future for our planet. We must also ensure that efforts aimed at mitigation and adaptation are equitable and provide support for those who will be most affected.

We strongly concur with the COP26 goal of bringing together governments, business, and civil society to accelerate collective action, and we believe that global collaboration in science, engineering, and medicine – which has long been a hallmark of our Academies – will be integral to this effort. We are encouraged by the world’s attention to the climate crisis, and we are confident that collaboration and innovation will continue to deliver solutions to one of the most serious threats of our time.

Marcia McNutt
President, National Academy of Sciences

John L. Anderson
President, National Academy of Engineering

Victor J. Dzau
President, National Academy of Medicine

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