The Mainau Declaration is either of two socio-political appeals by Nobel laureates who participated in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, the annual gathering with young scientists at the German town of Lindau. The name denotes that these declarations were presented on Mainau Island in Lake Constance, the traditional venue of the last day of the one-week meeting.
Mainau Declaration 1955
The first Mainau Declaration was an appeal against the use of nuclear weapons. Initiated and drafted by German nuclear scientists Otto Hahn and Max Born, it was circulated at the 5th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (11–15 July 1955) and presented on Mainau Island on 15 July 1955. The declaration was initially signed by 18 Nobel laureates. Within a year, the number of supporters rose to 52 Nobel laureates.
We, the undersigned, are scientists of different countries, different creeds, different political persuasions. Outwardly, we are bound together only by the Nobel Prize, which we have been favored to receive. With pleasure we have devoted our lives to the service of science. It is, we believe, a path to a happier life for people. We see with horror that this very science is giving mankind the means to destroy itself. By total military use of weapons feasible today, the earth can be contaminated with radioactivity to such an extent that whole peoples can be annihilated. Neutrals may die thus as well as belligerents.
If war broke out among the great powers, who could guarantee that it would not develop into a deadly conflict? A nation that engages in a total war thus signals its own destruction and imperils the whole world.
We do not deny that perhaps peace is being preserved precisely by the fear of these weapons. Nevertheless, we think it is a delusion if governments believe that they can avoid war for a long time through the fear of these weapons. Fear and tension have often engendered wars. Similarly it seems to us a delusion to believe that small conflicts could in the future always be decided by traditional weapons. In extreme danger no nation will deny itself the use of any weapon that scientific technology can produce.
All nations must come to the decision to renounce force as a final resort. If they are not prepared to do this, they will cease to exist.
Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change
The Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change was presented on Mainau Island, Germany, on the occasion of the last day of the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on Friday 3 July 2015. It is an urgent warning of the consequences of climate change and was initially signed by 36 Nobel laureates. In the months thereafter, 35 additional laureates joined the group of supporters of the declaration. As of February 2016, a total of 76 Nobel laureates endorse the Mainau Declaration 2015.
The text of the declaration states that although more data needs to be analysed and further research has to be done, the climate report by the IPCC still represents the most reliable scientific assessment on anthropogenic climate change, and that it should therefore be used as a foundation upon which policymakers should discuss actions to oppose the global threat of climate change.
We undersigned scientists, who have been awarded Nobel Prizes, have come to the shores of Lake Constance in southern Germany, to share insights with promising young researchers, who like us come from around the world. Nearly 60 years ago, here on Mainau, a similar gathering of Nobel Laureates in science issued a declaration of the dangers inherent in the newly found technology of nuclear weapons—a technology derived from advances in basic science. So far we have avoided nuclear war though the threat remains. We believe that our world today faces another threat of comparable magnitude.
Successive generations of scientists have helped create a more and more prosperous world. This prosperity has come at the cost of a rapid rise in the consumption of the world’s resources. If left unchecked, our ever-increasing demand for food, water, and energy will eventually overwhelm the Earth’s ability to satisfy humanity’s needs, and will lead to wholesale human tragedy. Already, scientists who study Earth’s climate are observing the impact of human activity.
In response to the possibility of human-induced climate change, the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide the world’s leaders a summary of the current state of relevant scientific knowledge. While by no means perfect, we believe that the efforts that have led to the current IPCC Fifth Assessment Report represent the best source of information regarding the present state of knowledge on climate change. We say this not as experts in the field of climate change, but rather as a diverse group of scientists who have a deep respect for and understanding of the integrity of the scientific process.
Although there remains uncertainty as to the precise extent of climate change, the conclusions of the scientific community contained in the latest IPCC report are alarming, especially in the context of the identified risks of maintaining human prosperity in the face of greater than a 2 °C rise in average global temperature. The report concludes that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the likely cause of the current global warming of the Earth. Predictions from the range of climate models indicate that this warming will very likely increase the Earth’s temperature over the coming century by more than 2 °C above its pre-industrial level unless dramatic reductions are made in anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases over the coming decades.
Based on the IPCC assessment, the world must make rapid progress towards lowering current and future greenhouse gas emissions to minimize the substantial risks of climate change. We believe that the nations of the world must take the opportunity at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 to take decisive action to limit future global emissions. This endeavor will require the cooperation of all nations, whether developed or developing, and must be sustained into the future in accord with updated scientific assessments. Failure to act will subject future generations of humanity to unconscionable and unacceptable risk.
Signatories and supporters
The following Nobel laureates have thus far signed the Mainau Declaration 2015 or expressed their full support after its presentation. 36 Nobel laureates (left column) signed the declaration on 3 July 2015 on the final day of the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting; 40 agreed later on for their names to be listed as signatories.
- Burmester, Ralph (2015). Science at First Hand, 65 years Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Germany: Deutsches Museum Bonn. pp. 48/49.
- "Mainau Declaration Official Website". Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Retrieved 2015-11-24.