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‘State governments have started taking climate change seriously’

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change head and climate change leader will soon leave for the 30th session of the IPCC in Turkey...

Written by Neha Sinha | April 10, 2009 12:25:18 am

R.K. PACHAURI,Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) head and climate change leader will soon leave for the 30th session of the IPCC in Turkey where work on the Fifth IPCC report will start. Recently assuming additional charge of the newly established Yale Climate and Energy Institute,Pachauri on Wednesday signed a new Memorandum of Understanding between The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) to train and encourage Indian glaciologists,a science which he says has been ignored in India so far. Excerpts from an interview with NEHA SINHA :

•Recent scientific studies have suggested that climate change may be happening at a faster rate than the IPCC report predicts. How do you respond to this?

I don’t agree with these theories. The Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC came out in November 2007. It has only been fifteen months. I think jumping to a conclusion at this stage would be premature. The 2007 IPCC report said there would be abrupt and irreversible changes: One,that there would be a collapse of Greenland and similar ecosystems; that de-glaciation has already started and is happening at a fast rate. What is happening doesn’t go against the prediction of the IPCC report. We have to understand that there are natural fluctuations in nature. We have to study which is natural and which is caused by humans. Second,we had assessed that 20 to 30 per cent of certain species would be at risk. If we jump to differing conclusions based just on the findings of the past year or year and a half,it may not be correct. Having said that,we are now beginning work on the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report where we hope to collect more evidence on climate change and predict changes with more certainty.

•Political parties campaigning for the general elections have only mentioned climate change in passing. What will be your hopes for,and communication with,the new government which will be formed?

We have constantly been engaging with the government on issues of climate change. It has had some affect. And I’m grateful that climate change finds at least some mention in election manifestos! Another aspect is that state governments have started taking climate change seriously,or as seriously as New Delhi is taking it. This is very important and has to be encouraged. We will engage as best as we can with the new government and hope they will also take the matter seriously.

•What do you think will be the outcome of the Conference of Parties meet at Copenhagen in December this year to negotiate deals on climate change? US President Obama seems enthused on the matter and has said that the US will take the lead on the challenge.

I am reasonably optimistic about the coming summit. As far as the US making commitments is concerned,I think the President will have to carry the US Congress and Senate with him on the matter. That’s hard to do. I have a feel of the situation,as I had recently spoken in front of the US Congress. It will take an unusual leader to convince them,but I also feel Barack Obama is that leader.

•Will India make any commitments to emission cuts at Copenhagen?

I don’t think India will commit to any new cuts on emissions. But we do have our National Action Plan on Climate Change,and I am very happy about that. It is a forward looking document.

•What has Earth Hour taught us?

I think the Copenhagen summit will be influenced by the way people are thinking about climate change and their high awareness about it. The public in a number of countries is waking up to the issue,and happily,their governments and leadership seem to be paying attention. Earth Hour may not have done anything in terms of actually mitigating climate change,but it certainly has done a lot symbolically. It is symbolic of a new consciousness.

•Islands in the Sunderbans,Lohachara and Suparibhanga,have disappeared and school kids may not know about it.

I believe climate change should be a greater part of the school curriculum. It shouldn’t just be a passing mention. For example,in India,we have to study what is happening to our glaciers and how they are receding. We know how our glaciers give life to our rivers — but we don’t study them. That is why TERI has tied up with IMF,in order to give an impetus to the important science of studying glaciers. Specific mountain-training for scientists and glaciologists here is very important.

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