The Bangalore International Centre (BIC) hosted a talk by Dr R K Pachauri, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi and Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 24 May 2007. Hon'ble Justice M N Venkatachalaiah, Former Chief Justice of India presided over the session.
After the introduction and welcome by the Director of BIC, Dr Pachauri started his talk by introducing the IPCC, which was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme to provide a clear, balanced assessment of the state of scientific understanding of climate change. The IPCC’s fourth, and latest, Assessment Report finds that global mean temperatures are rising faster with time, and notes that eleven of the last twelve years have been the warmest since thermometer records began in 1850. Dr Pachauri pointed out that the warmth of the last half century has been unusual in at least the last 1300 years. It has been manifested in other changes such as melting of glaciers and ice caps, and sea level rise.
A key finding is that hot days, heat waves, and heavy rainfall events are very likely to become more frequent. Even a small temperature rise of 1.5-2.5 degree Celcius could put 20% - 30% of plants and animals at high risk of extinction. Crop production in the low latitudes could decline. Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding and affect water resources in the next two to three decades. Diarrhoea and cholera are projected to become more serious concerns in parts of Asia. Millions more are likely to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s. Heavily-populated mega-delta regions in South, East and Southeast Asia, are projected to be at the greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and from rivers. Thus, by adversely affecting freshwater availability, agriculture, natural ecosystems, human health, and coastal settlements, climate change could impede nations’ abilities to achieve sustainable development.
However, Dr Pachauri said that there are clear ways to avoid this doomsday scenario. For instance, the number of people at risk of coastal flooding can be reducing through judicious coastal planning. Apart from hard technological measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, changes in lifestyles can also contribute to climate change mitigation. And the costs of reducing GHG emissions are assessed at less than 3% of global GDP in 2030.
In the ensuing discussion, Dr Pachauri touched upon the equity aspects of climate change, policy and legislative changes needed at the international level, and win-win measures for India to reduce GHG emissions, like public transport, green buildings, efficient lighting, reduction of power sector losses, and energy pricing. He concluded by quoting Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Hon. Justice Venkatachalaiah, in his observations, underscored the need to take individual as well as collective action to face the challenges posed by global warming and praised the efforts of those who are trying to work out a consensual global approach in this respect. There was a lively interactive session in which there was a general agreement that the time to act is NOW.