A dogsled expedition to the North Pole in the summer of 2005 jolted the sovereign prince of Monaco into a deepened awareness of the threat of climate change. What he saw made him think that “there is more of an urgency now than I could ever have imagined,” His Serene Highness (HSH) Prince Albert II of Monaco said yesterday at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif. He gave the meeting’s Presidential Forum speech.
During his polar trip, the prince compared the current sizes of some Arctic glaciers with photos taken of them in the early 1900s by his great-great-grandfather, the oceanography pioneer Prince Albert I. Some of the glaciers had retreated by 6–7 kilometers since those photos were taken. A year later, in 2006, Prince Albert II established a foundation to work on limiting the effects of climate change, promoting renewable energy, managing water resources, and safeguarding biodiversity.
In his speech Monday and at an earlier press briefing that same day, the prince elaborated on some of these issues, particularly his concern about climate change and the relationship between oceans and climate.
Outreach to Trump
In a 16 November congratulatory letter to Donald Trump following the U.S. presidential election, the prince wrote, “I want to believe that you will show your determination in preserving our efforts to lead on environmental protection, in particular, the commitments to fight against climate change, with a special consideration for our oceans.”
At the briefing, the prince said he hopes to speak with Trump “to try to have him understand what the issues are and what a reasonable way forward would be, not only for the U.S. but as an example to other countries as well.”
Trump has called climate change a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese. However, Trump told the New York Times on 22 November that “there is some connectivity” between human activity and climate change and that he has “an open mind” about withdrawing from the Paris accord. Yet he also plans to bring into his administration some climate science skeptics, including Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
The prince said that the general mood of European leaders is caution “but keeping your optimism up.” They continue to regard climate change as one of the most prominent issues they are tackling, undiminished by the U.S. election, he added. “The urgencies of yesterday are still the urgencies of today.”
Overcoming Climate Denial
During the briefing, the prince expressed exasperation with climate science skeptics. “I really don’t understand why there are still so many people out there that want to deny the changes that are happening,” he said. “We have to come to terms with the fact that we are facing some severe challenges ahead if we don’t move toward a low-carbon economy.”
He urged putting climate change and other environmental issues higher on the political agenda and publicizing them on a broader scale to counter climate change denial. “Quite simply, it is just a question of starting to believe in science,” he said. “There is 97% of the [climate research] community that says that this is actually happening. You have to start believing those kinds of numbers and stop believing the 3%.”
—Randy Showstack, Staff Writer