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Science academies encourage G7 leaders to prioritize nuclear arms control

Science academies encourage G7 leaders to prioritize nuclear arms control

12 June 2024

The agenda of the upcoming summit in Italy will include some of the science-related issues that are being emphasized by the multidisciplinary institutions.

A group photo of leaders of science academies from the G7 countries.
Science academy presidents and vice presidents deliver their statement drafts on 12 April to Ambassador Elisabetta Belloni (fifth from left), the G7 representative for the Italian prime minister’s office. Credit: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei

With the aim of guiding discussions and catalyzing policymaking at the Group of Seven’s 13–15 June summit in Apulia, Italy, science academies from the G7 nations produced joint statements on six global issues. Released in April, the statements address nuclear arms control, artificial intelligence (AI) and society, health, social inequalities and poverty, security and safety of agricultural production, and science and communication of cultural heritage. In the two decades that the academies have released annual joint statements, this year marks the first time that they have proposed nuclear arms control as a topic for the summit, says John Boright, the executive director of international affairs at the US National Academy of Sciences.

The G7 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US. Formed in the 1970s to address the oil crisis, the group has since met annually to deliberate such global concerns as gender equality, economic security, and geopolitical stability. The presidency rotates among the member countries, with the host setting the summit agenda. Representatives of the European Union also attend. As this year’s host, the Italian government invited about a dozen other countries and a handful of international organizations.

The ongoing Russia–Ukraine war prompted the academies to issue the joint statement on nuclear arms control, especially since Russian president Vladimir Putin said in a March interview that his country is ready to use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty is threatened. The statement says that “after a sustained period of declining numbers of nuclear warheads, there is a risk this trend could now reverse.” It adds that “nuclear explosions and the fires they cause are likely to inject soot into the stratosphere, reducing sunlight and temperatures,” which could greatly affect agricultural output. The statement warns that entire ecosystems and species could be destroyed.

AI has been discussed at previous summits, but the G7 science academies hadn’t dedicated a joint statement to it since 2019. Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni announced that Pope Francis will participate in this year’s discussions about AI. It will be the first time that a pope is directly involved in a G7 summit.

Most years the science academies jointly issue three or four statements, says Maria Cristina Marcuzzo, the foreign secretary for Italy’s Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. Some topics, such as health in relation to climate change, come up nearly every year. Marcuzzo says the government representatives who organize the G7 agenda assured her that several of the issues presented by the academies would be discussed, such as AI and the war in Ukraine. “Science is universal,” Marcuzzo says, “and should be pursued with its own values no matter what the political situation is.”

The 2025 G7 Summit will be held in Canada.

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