President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson
I have believed for a number of years that the dialogue between scientists and public officials is the fundamental key to progress in the area of global debate about climate change. It is, in fact remarkable, when we look back even just five or six years, what enormous progress has taken place.
I had a conversation with an editor of one of the major American magazines in New York about five years ago, trying to entice him into doing a cover story about what was happening up north in the Arctic and surrounding territories. His answer was very frank and blunt: 'No, sorry, we are not going to do anything about it all. Our readers are not interested'. I was therefore very happy to see the same magazine only some months ago carrying a major cover story, with a polar bear on the front, warning the world in strong terms that time is very short.
We live, fortunately, in a very democratic global community, despite a certain number of dictatorships and difficult totalitarian societies in various parts of the world. By and large, we live in a time where the possibilities for an open, democratic, global debate have never been as strong and as promising. It is really up to us, quite frankly, all of us in the public world and the science world, to make use of those opportunities that have been created by technology, by the information revolution, by the fundamental changes in global media, and, above all, in the transformation of the mindset of people all over the world.
I think the fundamental positive result, the shift in the debate on climate change that has taken place in the last few years, is very strong evidence of what a democratic and open dialogue between people from different elements in society, science, media and public officials of various kinds, can achieve, irrespective of the opposition of a number of governments or their leaders to this cause. I find this tremendously encouraging.
I would even go so far as to say that we are now in a new era as far as this issue is concerned. We have now got the attention of the world. Of course, there are different levels of interest. There are challenging parts and difficulties ahead.
But we should not overlook the fact that we have entered a new era, so far as the global debate on climate change and what we can do about it are concerned. This creates a fascinating challenge for scientists; namely, to be at the same time fundamentally thorough and sound scientists, but also to be active citizens and democratic participants at the same time.
In the same way that the scientific community continues rightly to urge myself and my colleagues, presidents and other national leaders, to listen to the scientists, it is important for the scientists to also be active participants in the democratic process, without, of course violating the fundamental principles of scientific enquiry. Scientists need to both provide scientific results for public leaders, and also to press for attention to them in fulfilling their democratic responsibility.
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