Union of Concerned Scientists

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For the human-rights organization, see Committee of Concerned Scientists.
Union of Concerned Scientists
Logo of Union of Concerned Scientists
Motto Science for a healthy planet and safer world
Formation 1969
Headquarters Cambridge, Massachusetts, US
over 200,000
Exec. Dir.
Kathleen Rest
Kenneth Kimmell
Kurt Gottfried
Website ucsusa.org

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a nonprofit science advocacy organization based in the United States. The UCS membership includes many private citizens in addition to professional scientists. James J. McCarthy, Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University and past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, currently chairs the UCS Board of Directors.[1]


The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded in 1969 by faculty and students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The organization's founding document says it was formed to "initiate a critical and continuing examination of governmental policy in areas where science and technology are of actual or potential significance" and to "devise means for turning research applications away from the present emphasis on military technology toward the solution of pressing environmental and social problems."[2] The organization employs scientists, economists, and engineers engaged in environmental and security issues, as well as executive and support staff.[3]

One of the co-founders was physicist and Nobel laureate Dr. Henry Kendall, who served for many years as chairman of the board of UCS. In 1977, the UCS sponsored a "Scientists' Declaration on the Nuclear Arms Race" calling for an end to nuclear weapons tests and deployments in the United States and Soviet Union.[4] In response to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the UCS sponsored a petition entitled "An Appeal to Ban Space Weapons".[5]

In 1992, Kendall presided over the UCS-sponsored World Scientists' Warning to Humanity, which called for "fundamental change" to address a range of security and environmental issues. The document was signed by 1700 scientists, including a majority of the Nobel prize winners in the sciences.[6]

According to the George C. Marshall Institute, the UCS was the fourth-largest recipient of foundation grants for climate studies in the period 2000–2002, a fourth of its $24M grant income being for that purpose.[7]

According to Charity Navigator, an independent, non-profit organization that evaluates American charities, the UCS maintained $20,575,731 in assets, $5,514,946 in liabilities, $15,060,785 in net assets, and $14,112,057 in working capital, as well as $10,058,784 in program expenses, $813,335 in administrative expenses, and $1,703,907 in fundraising expenses in fiscal year 2006. In 2007, the Union of Concerned Scientists received a four (out of four) star rating from Charity Navigator.[8]

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a member of the Sustainable Energy Coalition.

Issue stances[edit]

In the UCS-published book The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the authors attempt to give practical advice to consumers to "help...distinguish the critical from the trivial and make choices that are congruent with your values." The book identifies using a fuel-efficient car and driving less as the number one way most people can reduce their environmental impact. The authors say minor choices such as choosing between paper or plastic bags do not have that much overall impact.[9]

The UCS supports an increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards, as well as a reduction in smog pollution from construction equipment and diesel trucks and the enactment of state laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, based on California's regulations. The group supports deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, as well as national and international action to combat climate change. The organization has also produced several reports on regional effects of climate change in the United States.[10][11] The group supports increased taxes for polluters to discourage pollution and incentives for environmentally beneficial practices.[9]

The UCS supports a national renewable energy standard which would require utilities to produce a certain percentage of their energy from sources such as wind power, solar energy and geothermal energy. The group also supports a national energy efficiency standard for home appliances.[9] The UCS also acknowledges that nuclear power can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but maintains that it must become much safer and cheaper before it can be considered a workable solution to global warming. They support increased safety enforcement from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission among other steps to improve nuclear power.[12] UCS has been critical of proposed Generation III reactor designs. Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist at UCS, has challenged specific cost-saving design choices made for both the AP1000 and ESBWR. Lyman is concerned about the strength of the steel containment vessel and the concrete shield building around the AP1000. The AP1000 containment vessel does not have sufficient safety margins, says Lyman.[13]

The UCS in 2008 referred to the EPR as the only new reactor design under consideration in the United States that "...appears to have the potential to be significantly safer and more secure against attack than today's reactors."[14]

The UCS has also endorsed the Forests Now Declaration, which calls for new market based mechanism to protect forests, as the group has recognised the importance of curbing deforestation to tackle climate change.[15] The group also supports governmental incentives for people who want to preserve undeveloped land instead of selling it to developers.[9]

The Union of Concerned Scientists has accused the US government of dozens of instances of political interference in science[16] and supports whistleblower protection, monetary incentives, and free speech rights for federal scientists. Its scientific integrity program has produced surveys of federal scientists at multiple agencies[17] and a statement signed by more than 11,000 scientists condemning political interference in science.[18]

The UCS supports the reduction of antibiotic use on livestock to prevent medical antibiotic resistance in humans who consume treated animals. It also opposes cloning animals for food, as well as forms of genetic engineering.

The group opposes the use of space weapons and supports the idea of an international treaty to regulate military uses of space. The group also works on reducing the number of nuclear weapons around the world and opposes the Reliable Replacement Warhead program. The group criticizes the technical feasibility of building a missile defense shield.

News media[edit]

In 1997, the UCS presented their “World Scientists Call For Action” petition to world leaders meeting to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol. The declaration asserted, “A broad consensus among the world's climatologists is that there is now ‘a discernible human influence on global climate.’" It urged governments to make “legally binding commitments to reduce industrial nations' emissions of heat-trapping gases”, and called global warming “one of the most serious threats to the planet and to future generations.”[19] The petition was signed by “more than 1,500 of the world's most distinguished senior scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in science.”[20][21]

In February 2004, the Union received press attention for its publication "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking". The report criticized the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush for "politicizing" science. Some of the allegations include altering information in global warming reports by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and choosing members of scientific advisory panels based on their business interests rather than scientific experience. In July 2004, the Union released an addendum to the report in which they criticize the Bush administration and allege that reports on West Virginia strip mining had been improperly altered, and that "well-qualified" nominees for government posts such as Nobel laureate Torsten Wiesel were rejected because of political differences. On April 2, 2004, Dr. John Marburger, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, issued a statement claiming that incident descriptions in the UCS report are "false," "wrong," or "a distortion",[22] and dismissed the report as "biased".[23] UCS rebutted the White House document by saying that Marburger's claims were unjustified. UCS later wrote that since that time, the Bush administration has been virtually silent on the issue.[24]

On October 30, 2006, the Union issued a press release claiming that high-ranking members of the U.S. Department of the Interior, including Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald, systematically tampered with scientific data in an effort to undermine the protection of endangered species and the Endangered Species Act.[25]

On December 11, 2006, the UCS issued a statement signed by 10,600 leading scientists including Nobel laureates.[26] The statement calls for the restoration of scientific integrity to federal policy-making.

On May 23, 2007, the UCS cited a joint-study with MIT and issued a press release claiming that "any test of the U.S. missile defense system that does not show whether an interceptor missile can distinguish between real warheads and decoys is irrelevant" and "contrived," and called for an end to the taxpayer-funded program until the system can show an ability to actually address "real world threats."[27]

On June 21, 2007, a UCS report charged the EPA with political manipulation of scientific data to influence updated US ozone regulations: "The law says use the science, the science says lower the standard to safe levels," said Francesca Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program. "In disregarding its own scientists' analysis, the EPA is risking the health of millions of Americans."[28][29]

In August 2008, the UCS purchased billboards at the airports in Denver, Colorado and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota where the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions were to be held. The two nearly identical billboards showed the downtown areas of each convention city in a cross hairs, with the message that “when only one nuclear bomb could destroy a city” like Minneapolis or Denver, “we don’t need 6,000.” The name of Senator John McCain or Senator Barack Obama follows, with this admonition: “It’s time to get serious about reducing the nuclear threat.” The billboards were removed after a complaint from Northwest Airlines, the official airline of the Republican convention. The UCS has accused Northwest, whose headquarters were in Minnesota, of “taking on a new role as censor” and of having acted because it regarded the Minneapolis advertisement as “scary” and “anti-McCain.”[30][31][32]

In March 2011, the UCS held daily telephone media briefings related to the Fukushima nuclear accident.[33]


The UCS has been criticized by conservative, right-libertarian and right-wing groups for being "left-wing" and "liberal".[34][35] The UCS has also been criticized by individuals who reject the science of global warming such as televangelist Jerry Falwell who cautioned Evangelical Christians against "falling for...global warming hocus-pocus" propagated in the mass media, with the UCS "leading the charge".[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Salpeter and Gottfried sign letter urging Congress to pass binding resolution against nuclear weapons
  2. ^ Founding Document: 1968 MIT Faculty Statement
  3. ^ List of UCS experts
  4. ^ Scientists' Declaration on the Nuclear Arms Race
  5. ^ UCS – History
  6. ^ World Scientists' Warning to Humanity (1992)
  7. ^ Funding Flows for Climate Change Research and Related Activities
  8. ^ Charity Navigator – Union of Concerned Scientists
  9. ^ a b c d Brower, Michael, Ph. D. and Leon, Warren, Ph. D. The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists 1999, Three Rivers Press.
  10. ^ Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region
  11. ^ Confronting Climate Change in the Gulf Coast
  12. ^ Nuclear Power and Global Warming
  13. ^ Adam Piore (June 2011). "Nuclear energy: Planning for the Black Swan". Scientific American. 
  14. ^ "Nuclear Power in a Warming World" (PDF). Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved 1 October 2008. 
  15. ^ Forestsnow – Endorsers – NGO and Research Institutes
  16. ^ A to Z – Examples of Political Interference in Science
  17. ^ Surveys of Scientists at Federal Agencies
  18. ^ Who Are the 11,000+ Scientists? – Scientist Statement Signatories
  19. ^ Union of Concerned Scientists. "World Scientists Call For Action". Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Projections indicate that demand for food in Asia will exceed the supply by 2010. 
  20. ^ ‘’Science Daily’’Oct. 2, 2007 article “World’s Nobel Laureates And Preeminent Scientists Call On Government To Halt Global Warming”
  21. ^ List of Selected Prominent Signatories with awards and affiliations.
  22. ^ UCS Response to Congress
  23. ^ Scientists: Bush Distorts Science
  24. ^ Scientific Integrity in Policymaking[dead link]
  25. ^ Systematic Interference with Science at Interior Department Exposed – Emails and Edited Documents Show Evidence of Inappropriate Manipulation[dead link]
  26. ^ 10,600 Scientists Condemn Political Interference in Science – New Guide Documents Ongoing Federal Abuse of Science; 110th Congress Must Act
  27. ^ Another Contrived Missile Defense Test is Coming Up – Decoys Would Overwhelm System, Says Union of Concerned Scientists
  28. ^ EPA Falls Short of Scientists' Calls for Stricter Controls on Smog – Old standard not enough to protect public health
  29. ^ Critics question EPA's tighter ozone limits
  30. ^ Ads on Nuclear Threat Removed From Convention Airports
  31. ^ Ad critical of McCain doesn't fly with NWA
  32. ^ Northwest bans ad from airport
  33. ^ [1]
  34. ^ Union of Concerned Scientists at the Wayback Machine (archived June 21, 2008), Timeswatch.org Topic Index
  35. ^ Stossel, John, Scaremongers screaming 'BOO!' even louder after column challenges their 'facts'Jewish World Review, 2005-04-13
  36. ^ Falwell, Jerry (February 24, 2007). "'Global warming' fooling the faithful". WorldNetDaily.com Inc. Retrieved 2008-12-21. 


External links[edit]