Humanity on trial in Nobel Laureate Court Case

Pensatore Istintivo/Flickr C.C 2.0

Humanity standing on trial in a court case arranged at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, with a jury of Nobel Laureates. The verdict will be handed over to the UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

On Tuesday 17 May, hjumanity will be on trial as the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium brings together almost 20 Nobel Laureates, a number of leading policy makers and some of the world’s most renowned thinkers and experts on global sustainability.

With Planet Earth as plaintiff and Nobel Laureates as jury members, compelling evidence will be presented showing how humanity may now be capable of radically altering the remarkable conditions for life on Earth. Nobel Laureates will hear how our vast imprint on the planet’s environment has shifted the Earth into a new geological period labelled the “Anthropocene” – the Age of Man.

Trial members

Judge: Mario Molina, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995

Prosecutor: Will Steffen, Professor and Director, Climate Change Institute, Australian National University

Defender: Garry Peterson, Professor, Stockholm Resilience Centre at  Stockholm University

Jury: Werner Arber, Nobel Prize in Medicine 1978, Peter Doherty, Nobel Prize in Medicine 1996, Jim Mirrlees, Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1996,  Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Prize in Physics 1984.

Witness: PauL J. Crutzen, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995

Moderator: Christine Loh, Co-founder and CEO, Civic Exchange, Hong Kong

A bold step
“This court case is a bold step to take, especially in the context of this Nobel Laureate Symposium. It is, however, a necessary step towards recognising that our generation is the first to know that human pressure is so large that the possibility of irreversible changes to the Earth System can no longer be excluded. The prosecution will therefore maintain that humanity must work towards global stewardship around the planet’s intrinsic boundaries, a scientifically defined space within which we can continue to develop,” says Professor Will Steffen, prosecutor and Director at Climate Change Institute, Australian National University.

One of the most recent and most significant attempts to provide scientific guidelines for such improved stewardship was published in Nature in 2009. The Planetary Boundaries approach was developed by 28 scientists, who estimated that three of the boundaries, climate change, the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity loss, have already been transgressed and that several other are already in the danger zone.

“We know the earth’s resilience and resource base cannot be stretched infinitely. Moreover we are now uncomfortably aware that “business as usual” is not an option anymore. Our societies and economies are integral parts of the biosphere and it is time for the leaders of the world to act as stewards of nature’s invaluable and inescapable contribution to human livelihoods, health, security and culture,” says Professor Johan Rockström, Symposium Chair and Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, and Stockholm Environment Institute.

The court verdict will contribute to the Stockholm Memorandum to be signed by Nobel Laureates on 18 May. The Memorandum will be handed over in person to the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability appointed by the UN Secretary General in preparation for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio +20) and for the ongoing climate negotiations.

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