Very soon, we won’t be able to adapt to climate change: Pachauri

December 11th, 2008 - 10:59 am ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), Dec 11 (IANS) Very soon, the impacts of climate change will exceed our capacities to adapt to them, Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has warned.The head of the panel that has done more than anyone else to bring the effects of climate change - lowered farm output, more frequent and more severe droughts, floods and storms and a rise in sea level - to the forefront of world attention said: “The impacts of climate change are now so evident. If we don’t take immediate action they will get far worse.

“And remember, poorest countries and the poorest communities in these countries are the most vulnerable to these effects.”

As the Dec 1-12 climate summit here stayed bogged down in bickering between industrialised and developing countries over who should do what to combat climate change, Pachauri warned: “Very soon, climate change impacts will exceed the adaptive capacities of local communities.

“We have to have a strategy by which the adaptation has to be local, while mitigation (to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the earth) has to be global.”

“The good news is that mitigation possibilities are not costly,” Pachauri added. “There is now plenty of evidence to show that moving to a low carbon renewable energy development path is a win-win solution.”

Pachauri also heads the New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute, which is now distributing all over India lanterns powered by solar energy.

The head of the IPCC - which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Al Gore for its seminal Assessment Report 4 (AR4) - said that the next assessment report (AR5) would come out in 2014 and in that the IPCC would look at various new risk reduction strategies as well.

“Before that, we’re planning to bring out a special report on renewable energy sources in 2010 and maybe one on extreme weather events triggered by climate change as well.”

Since the publication of AR4, one of its principal authors Bill Hare has said here that science had advanced to the point where he could predict a strong possibility that the Greenland ice sheet would melt if the temperature rose 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-Industrial Age level and this would raise the sea level worldwide by 6-7 metres.

Asked about this, Pachauri said: “Even in AR4, we had not put an upper limit on sea level rise, because we simply don’t know.”

When it was pointed out that negotiators were working on the baseline figure of keeping temperature rise to two degrees Celsius and that this would mean the death of the Greenland ice sheet, Pachauri said: “Two degrees Celsius is an arbitrary number set by the EU (European Union).

“I deliberately raised that point on the opening plenary session on this Poznan summit (on Dec 1, when he had talked about the danger of even a 1.1 degree Celsius temperature rise). It was a warning that we should get nowhere close to it (a 1.1 degree rise).

“But IPCC does not prescribe. It provides the scientific information, the scenarios of what is likely to happen with what level of certainty if governments do this or that. After that, it is up to the governments.”

But Pachauri did say that the IPCC would look at impacts at lower (than two degree) thresholds in its next assessment report.

When asked if he thought the negotiations at this climate change summit were too slow and the countries too reluctant to change from a business-as-usual scenario, Pachauri responded: “It is the only show in town, though it may seem painfully slow and a waste of time.

“But science can bring out the urgency of the situation. I am reasonably satisfied about the reaction we had from all countries in Bali (at the 2007 summit).”

Pachauri repeated more than once: “We must keep reinforcing AR4 data, keep reminding people about it. We have to ensure that people do not lose sight of the science.”

Asked what kind of greenhouse gas emission reduction targets countries should be aiming at, Pachauri said: “The 20-20 target is very important”. That means industrialised countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Asked how adaptation to climate change could be improved, the IPCC chief told IANS: “Don’t look at (global) averages. Look at specific impacts in different parts of the world. That is the way to adapt.”

What was the IPCC going to do with its share of the Nobel Peace Prize money? “We’re using it to provide fellowships to scientists in developing countries, those who are working in the area of climate change,” Pachauri said.

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