Lincoln’s Little-Known Legacy

This post is dedicated to the two great Americans we will honor on Presidents’ Day this Monday.

Everybody knows about Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address; they are a big part of why Lincoln’s birthday is honored. Most people don’t know that Lincoln also established the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Established by the U.S. Congress and President Lincoln in 1863, the NAS charter states that “the Academy shall, whenever called upon by any department of the Government, investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science.”

Since Lincoln’s time, the National Academy of Sciences has been joined by the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. To this day, Congress relies on these institutions for objective and non-partisan advice. In 2005, the White House called the Academies’ work “the gold standard of independent scientific review.” In light of this, it’s interesting to note what the National Academy of Sciences has to say about global climate change.

In 2005, the NAS joined with the science academies of ten other countries to produce the “Joint science academies’ statement: Global response to climate change“. The statement says, in part, “The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Even the NAS agrees – the time for action is now.

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure: I am a member of the National Academy of Sciences – elected in 1998. (See the NAS site for how members are nominated and elected.)

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