Five Questions for IPCC Chairman
On Future of Climate Change Action
23 Apr 2014
This month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report on steps the world can take to avoid the worst impacts of future climate change. The report by the panel’s Working Group III was the final interim report before the IPCC’s major Fifth Assessment Report due to be released in October.
Yale Environment 360 asked Rajendra K. Pachauri, who has served as IPCC chairman since 2002, five questions about the latest report and about the prospects that the international community will finally take decisive action to address climate change. 1. The most recent IPCC report suggests that the political will to tackle the climate issue seems to be growing around the world. Can you give some specific examples of that?
There is nothing that I am aware of in the Working Group III report that speaks to the political will to tackle climate change. But I can say that in my personal view I have been encouraged by a growing level
of awareness and concern about climate change among senior government officials, including presidents and cabinet ministers, across the globe. I can’t say whether this will translate into global action, but it is an encouraging sign. I think there is a realization that failure to act on climate change will become a political liability at some point – and that point is rapidly drawing nearer. Besides, the cost of taking action in order to keep [global] temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius is so low that the merit of this will not be lost on the global community. Nor would they remain unaware of the numerous co-benefits of both the adaptation and mitigation measures detailed in our reports. 2. The latest report cites the steady drop in prices and increases in efficiency in solar and wind power. Do you think this is evidence that the real solution to the climate problem may come not from governments, but from scientists and business people?
I think the scientific and business communities are certainly a growing part of the solution and will become an even more decisive change agent if governments fail to act decisively. But the fact is we still need good government policies to tackle climate change. And there is much to be done in the development and dissemination of renewable energy technologies as well, which requires initiatives by all stakeholders. At the global level, scenarios [to hold the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to] 450 ppm (parts per million) are characterized by more rapid improvements of energy efficiency, nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero- and low-carbon energy supply from renewables, nuclear energy, and fossil energy with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) or bioenergy with CCS by the year 2050.
This is a global challenge and it needs global cooperation. That can occur to some extent on a business-to-business level, but only governments can bring about global change in the time frame we need to avert the worst impacts of climate change. 3. What do you believe is the single most important step that could be taken worldwide to begin reversing the rapid rise of greenhouse gas emissions?
There is no single step that is most important. This is a problem that can only be solved from a variety of perspectives. The solutions will include not only measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but adaptation measures that help us cope with the climate change that is already locked into the system and which we will have to deal with regardless of how effectively we reduce future emissions… Climate change is too big and complex
MORE FROM YALE e360
UN Panel Looks to Renewables as the Key to Stabilizing Climate
In its latest report, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes a strong case for a sharp increase in low-carbon energy production, especially solar and wind, and provides hope that this transformation can occur in time to hold off the worst impacts of global warming. READ MORE
a problem to solve with anything short of our full response capability. 4. What is your strategy between now and next year’s meeting in Paris to build support and consensus for a comprehensive climate treaty?
My primary task in the next six months is to ensure that we bring out a good Synthesis Report as part of the Fifth Assessment cycle. That would complete what I hope would turn out to be a remarkable scientific assessment. I think – and certainly hope – this year will be remembered as the one in which we regained the initiative on climate change. Part of that will be a function of the amount of information being released and the initiatives undertaken this year that are raising public awareness.
The challenge for the IPCC will be to maintain the momentum we are building this year through the release of the Fifth Assessment Report. I can’t get into too many details at this point, but we are planning to hold a series of events in 2015 to highlight what climate change means to different regions around the world. We are very mindful that we need to take additional measures to ensure that the wealth of information from the report does not fade away before the meeting in Paris. 5. Given the track record of past climate conferences, how likely is it that the world community will approve a meaningful treaty in Paris in 2015?
I certainly hope it leads to a meaningful outcome, but I am not in the position to give odds. However, I do think it would be a mistake to underestimate the chances of success. While it is tempting to conclude that [the Paris conference] will be a failure because it has been so difficult to reach an agreement in the past, we have to remember that ambitious global agreements typically take years, even decades, to finalize. Given the threat of climate change, we have to forge ahead with as much determination and energy as possible regardless of the odds. The stakes are much too high to give up.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
The 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner documents a Northeastern town's bitter battle over a wind farm. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
A 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner captures stunning images of wild salmon runs in Alaska. Watch the video.
video goes onto the front lines with Colorado firefighters confronting deadly blazes fueled by a hotter, drier climate. Watch the video.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.