Statement Video/Audio Quotes Agenda Planning Support

Day 1 Speaker Highlights


Wally Broecker
Newberry Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Columbia University

"I'm extremely concerned that the Earth has a chronic disease, and that chronic disease is CO2 syndrome, it's something that's creeping on us. We have plenty of fossil fuel so it's going to continue to get worse, and it's going to affect every aspect of life on the planet, from food production to drinking water to coastlines to the plight of the poor in the tropics, and so forth.

"And of course perhaps the biggest thing it's going to hit is the Earth's wildlife.

"Now it's very unfortunate that we're really not addressing this problem effectively we have no long-range plan. There is a cure for this disease, and we should get with it because the cure takes a long time.

"Now the solution, I think, or the cure is that we're going to have to capture and store CO2. In my estimation it is the only way right now that we know of which could solve the problem. Maybe solar power will come along, other things may happen, but we can't bank on that, and therefore in my estimation we must pull out all the stops to create the wherewithal to capture CO2."


Edward O. Wilson
Pellegrino University Research Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University

"John Sawhill, the late president of the Nature Conservancy and a friend of mine, once said, 'A society is defined not just by what it creates but by it refuses to destroy,' and that's true.

"Altogether, the 21st Century is destined to be called the 'Century of the Environment.' It will, I and many others believe, be seen as a time that either we put our house in order and settle down before we wreck the planet, or suffer the consequences.

"I believe we will settle down, because as Abba Eban said during the 1967 war, 'When all else fails men turn to reason.'

"Conversely, the natural environments where most of the biodiversity hangs on can not survive the press of land-hungry people who have nowhere else to go. This problem can be solved. Resources to do it exist. There are many reasons to achieve that goal, not least our own security.

"A world civilization able to envision God and the afterlife, to embark on the colonization of space, will surely find the way to save the integrity of this magnificent planet and the life it harbors because quite simply it's the right thing to do, and ennobling to our species.

"We will be judged far into the future, as far I think as any of us can imagine by what we now choose to save.


Retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher
Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

"A healthy economy and a healthy environment are tied together now and into the future. The basis of today's talk is about expanding our knowledge to the point where we begin to step up to new knowledge in understanding the coupling of Earth systems, understanding what it means to have them all together, what it means in the future for making sound policy decisions based on sound sciences — science which is available, it is — it is verifiable, it is as accurate as we can make it, and it is available to the entire world, not just developing nations.

"The hardest part of this is not technical — it is in fact political and organizational, getting people to the table to agree to do things."


Dr. William Foege
Emeritus Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health, Emory University, and Gates Fellow

"Even when we see nature overwhelming us with new problems, a thoughtful analysis shows the reason comes back to indict us, not nature."

"The slaves today we call the poor. Those of us in this room are the masters. And we benefit by having the poor subsidize us. This naked exploitation is clothed in the marketplace, national automy and shallow democracy but its still exploitation.

"Roger Bacon, seven hundred years ago, in a report to the pope on science, concluded that science lacks a moral compass. But so does the marketplace, politics, governments, universities, and the institutionalized church, which leads to my sixth, and last point: that is not true of the individuals in those organizations. It is the individuals that inspire the moral compass — Ashoka, Marcus Aurelius, Lincoln, Gandhi, Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, E.O. Wilson. And when institutions get it right, it is because of individuals."


Robert Watson
Chief Scientist, The World Bank

"I personally don't believe that we should tell India, China or a poor country in Africa or Asia that they have to spend more for their energy than we do in the U.S. Therefore I believe that if we're going to push renewable energy technologies, we have to make sure that they are no more expensive than fossil fuel technologies are.

"So somewhere we have to pay for the cost differential. Can I justify ever doing a coal-fired power project from a World Bank loan or an oil pipeline? Yes. And that is because some countries like Chad have absolutely no choices as to how to get out of poverty but to exploit their very limited natural resources.

"The challenge for us is to make sure that that pipeline is the most viably and socially sustainable it can be. While would we ever do a coal-fired power project? The same to make it the very best at socially and viably sustainable.

"The real power of the bank isn't actually in lending. The real power of the bank is policy reform, to get rid of perverse subsidies, to get rid of dysfunctional markets.

"China's going to use its coal whether we like it or not, and our choice is to make it the most viably and socially sustainable we can."



Pedro Sanchez
Director, Tropical Agriculture Program, The Earth Institute at Columbia University

"The main problems are in Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa is the only part of the world where per capital food production continues to decline.

"Most of Malawi looks like yellow maize, yellow corn, because of the nitrogen deficiency. But interspersed in it, you find islands of green corn which has a very good yield. This is because this land was in agroforestry nitrogen-fixing trees before. Our challenge is to transform from an ocean of yellow maize, to an ocean of green maize."


Daniel Schrag
Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University

“This is an experiment on the earth's climate, on the earth's atmosphere that hasn't been done for millions of years, and the choices we make in next few decades are really going to determine how far outside the human experience we're willing to push our planet. I really hope we don't end up at 1,000 parts per million of carbon dioxide, because I think there are going to be many surprises there that none of us are going to be able to predict.

"But most importantly, that the uncertainty, the fact that we don't know exactly how a planet works at a 1,000 parts per million – that is the problem. That is not a reason for inaction. That is the whole reason for doing something about it because we don't want to just try this out – we only have one planet that we can live on.

"The view from the Rovers on Mars is pretty interesting, but its no place I'd like to spend any time."



Mary Robinson
Executive Director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, The Earth Institute at Columbia University

"The thousand million or so individuals living in absolute poverty not only worry daily about where the next meal will come from, or medicines for a dying child. They lack self-respect. They're even invisible. They don't vote, they're harassed by police, they have no recourse against violence, women have no recourse against rape, and they live in a fragile state of human insecurity. And when I saw this again and again, I became truly convinced that this was the greatest problem in human rights."


Jeffrey Sachs
Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, Columbia University

"If I were asked what is the main barrier to effective approaches for these problems, my one-word answer would be fear. It would be the sense that we're in such a dire struggle that its really 'us' versus 'them,' 'us' versus our neighbor, 'us' versus a competitor, or 'us' versus a different culture, that stops us from understanding what we really could accomplish on the planet. We really have bought into this grand vision of Earth as a struggle, not as a cooperative enterprise."