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President Bush Refuses to Lead; WWF Looks to Presidential Candidates for Leadership on Climate Change

WWF Urges Candidates to Participate in Climate-Focused Debate

WASHINGTON – Officials at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today expressed doubt that President Bush’s Rose Garden speech this afternoon will offer any hope for meaningful action on climate change before the end of his term and called on his would-be successors to demonstrate leadership on the issue, specifically urging them to participate in a debate on climate change and other science and environmental issues.   

“We’re issuing this call today, because it is clear that the current administration has no intention of exercising leadership on climate change,” said Dr. Richard Moss, WWF’s Vice President and Managing Director for Climate Change.  “It is time now to look beyond the Bush administration and focus on the next occupant of the White House.  We need to hear how each of the candidates would address the climate change threat.  The world is looking to them for leadership.”

WWF joined a growing list of preeminent scientific and academic institutions in endorsing the Science Debate 2008 petition, which calls on the candidates to debate the climate threat and a host of other science-related issues next month in Oregon, just prior to the state’s presidential primary.

“The First 100 days of the next presidency will be crucial to the success of international climate negotiations, which must be completed in Copenhagen in November 2009,” Moss said.  “By participating in this debate, the candidates can articulate how they intend to lead those negotiations.”

Climate change poses a particular threat to global conservation efforts.  According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), of which Dr. Moss is a member, 20-30 percent of known animal species may face extinction if global temperatures rise by more than two or three degrees Celsius.  The IPCC has found that many species are already being stressed by climate change and predicts that by 2100, many ecosystems will be unable to adapt to changes in the climate and resulting stressors, such as wildfires, droughts, flooding, and ocean acidification.  

“While national opinion polls indicate that climate change is a growing concern for the American public, none of the many debates held during this presidential primary campaign period have focused on scientific or environmental issues,” Moss said. “Science Debate 2008 is a grassroots effort to focus the attention of the presidential candidates on many important issues including climate change, stem cell research, math and science education, ocean health, pandemic disease, and U.S. competitiveness.” 

The debate is supported by many leading scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and dozens of prominent universities and research institutions.  Its steering committee is co-chaired by U.S. Representatives Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), both of whom worked as scientists before being elected to Congress.

Science Debate 2008 was originally slated to be held April 18 in Philadelphia to coincide with the Pennsylvania primary.  Organizers have since moved the debate to Oregon and plan to hold it sometime before that state’s primary on May 20.  

For further information on the debate, please visit