From RK Pachauri : Nobel Prize recipient on Global Warming : Myanmar is a grim reminder of climate change..

Do current patterns of growth and development define an improving human condition ?
The global economy has reached unprecedented levels of economic output and activity. Earlier predictions of grim disaster associated with Malthusian thought have proved completely irrelevant, because human ingenuity and technological development have provided solutions to the problem of stagnation in production of goods and services that were foreseen during the nineteenth century. Yet a consumerist society, which has focused relentlessly on accelerated economic growth measured according to conventional yardsticks has created problems at a staggering level, solutions to which are at the same time difficult, yet crucially urgent.
The most important challenge facing humanity – as has been voiced by several world leaders including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, United Nations Secretary General, Ban-Ki-moon and former US President Clinton – is the growing threat of climate change. Human society, ever since the advent of industrialization, has been responsible for emitting increasing quantities of greenhouse gases, the most dominant of which is carbon dioxide, which is largely the result of combustion of fossil fuels. This has led to a warming of the climate with several other forms of interference with the earth’s climate system. Precipitation levels have changed in different parts of the world and extreme precipitation events have become more frequent and more intense. Similarly, heat waves, floods and droughts have increased in frequency and intensity, with increasing misery and hardship for some of the poorest communities in the world. Thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of bodies of ice on a widespread basis have led to sea level rise which increases the extent of devastation from cyclones, storm surges and coastal flooding. The recent tragedy in Myanmar is a grim reminder of the severity of impacts of climate change with an increasing sea level……

While I was in New Zealand earlier this month I was together with the President of Kiribati, Mr. Anote Tong, who repeatedly, in the forums that we both addressed, emphasized the grim reality that by the end of this century the inhabitants of Kiribati will have to vacate and move away from this beautiful island state. Similar would be the fate of our neighbours in the Maldives, which are a set of islands barely a meter or two above sea level.
Mitigation of emissions of greenhouse gases is urgent and has to be taken in hand with immediate effect in a manner that would lead to rapid reduction in emissions. According to one scenario assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to stabilize average temperature increase of the earth between 2°-2.4° C, we would have no choice but to start reducing these emissions at the global level by 2015 at the latest. Hence we need to put in place measures that bring about a net decline in emissions with effect from 2015.
Technologies and policies to promote the development and dissemination of suitable technologies would clearly make a major difference to existing scenarios of growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but very little is likely to be achieved in the absence of lifestyle changes. In a country like India these changes would need to be made essentially to return to our own traditional values and beliefs. Our reverence for everything that is part of nature was one of the most sacred elements of human behaviour in this country. We have deviated substantially from the principles that supported such values for thousands of years. I was in a conversation with the wife of a diplomat yesterday, and she expressed deep amazement at the amount of money that rich Indians, and even those belonging to the upper middle class, spend in weddings and celebrations. The desire to display wealth through pomp and waste has reached vulgar and obscene levels. Unfortunately, intellectuals in our society and those who can shape public opinion do not voice adequately the dangers inherent in the current approach. If, with the backdrop of growing disparities of income and wealth, we find the rich in our society showing extreme insensitivity to the problem of income disparities and the plight of the poor, we would create a huge divide in our society, which would lead to major alienation of those living in poverty and a growing resentment against the system.
When I moved to New Delhi over a quarter century ago I recall not having seen a single gated colony. Now, unfortunately, every middle class colony has gates and security guards. The scene that one witness all around is similar to what one finds in the most socially unstable cities of the world, which, unfortunately, exist exclusively in some developing countries. Neglect of public transport and policies that encourage proliferation of motor vehicles are making some of these cities unlivable. Last week I was in Brazil and during the course of a twelve hour stay in Sao Paulo, I had several media and television interviews and other meetings planned by my host, which of course, left me hardly any time to even recover from the effects of a long journey – something I rarely require anyway – but I was clearly not prepared for the form of transport arranged by my host to make the most intensive use of my time there. My colleague who accompanied me and I were transported by helicopter from one roof top to other during the course of the day and even in the evening when we had to catch a flight to Brasilia we landed at the city airport by helicopter. Ostensibly no other form of transport would have worked with the limited time that I had available. Perhaps it is not inconceivable that in the years ahead Indian cities would require similar facilities, but I am not sure that the teeming population of millions of slum dwellers would accept the growing divide between rich and poor, and the complete lack of infrastructure and services for catering to the needs of the underprivileged.
It would not be stretching things too far to say that the problem of climate change, growing water scarcity that rightly causes deep concern in Mr. Shekhar Kapur’s mind are interrelated, and the only answer in my view is to bring about on a universal basis a complete reorientation of human values and a sharp change in lifestyles which, unfortunately, seem to be driving aspirations of all and sundry across the globe in a singular direction. Perhaps we need film-makers, advertisers and TV channels that focus on the gravity of pursuing current trends and the imperatives of immediate change.
R. K. Pachauri
Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) & Chairman,
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

11 thoughts on “From RK Pachauri : Nobel Prize recipient on Global Warming : Myanmar is a grim reminder of climate change..

  1. Its happening and Cities, Communities are acting ….
    Sunnvyale Council approved funding for the permanent, part-time sustainability coordinator as part of the ’08-’09 Budget! This means that staff plans to spend previously-acquired grant money on the community carbon audit or greenhouse gas inventory. This inventory will
    provide the data needed to set meaningful greenhouse gas reduction goals and
    a comprehensive climate protection plan to meet those goals. Council and staff have taken a significant step toward achieving their vision of a sustainable city and fulfilling the commitments made in the Mayors’ Climate
    Protection Agreement.
    Here some info and news articles …
    During his recent visit to Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, Sunnyvale Mayor Anthony (Tony) Spitaleri appreciated Indo-American community involvement acting on Global Warming.
    Let us all educate and act to protect our beautiful planet earth …

  2. Perhaps you’d have read Fred Pearce’s “The last generation”.
    It talks about the dangers we face if we continue emitting gases as we do today, despite knowing how it may affect us.
    Not that I mean sceptics are not important for this theory. As in politics, every good government needs a good opposition. The desire for consensus sometimes leads the mainstream scientific community to don blinkers in this Anthropocene age.
    Problem is, they could have done a better job and engaged in more real science and less empty rhetoric. In their enthusiasm to debunk climate change, they’ve failed to look that we may be actually under estimating the threat.
    Disaster in China and Bangladesh are the start ups. One must not forget the forest fires raging through all across the world every summer either.
    Let’s simply hope that every single action we take in favour of going green helps us slow down this coming doom.

  3. Recently I’ve been involved with writing a script for a set up that mitigates climate change and happened to learn about “carbon credits”. An individual who cannot avoid GHG emission (ex: by travelling by a helicopter etc) and a firm which cannot but stop releasing Greenhouse gases can buy these carbon credits. The money that is collected will be invested in firms that create energy through biomass, wind, solar or small scale hydel (not big dams). Individuals (and may be firms also) get tax exemptions for buying these credits.
    However individuals, firms and hence governments are in a state of huge conflict of interests. Example: My desire to buy a new car, will be calling for more pollution both by its production (by a firm) and usage(by me). The govt has to cater to my desires, and yet stop pollution. So how do I handle it. Go for a costly green car (which is still ‘to be’ in India) or simply use the crowded public transport. And how will govt. handle it if all people like me use public transport?
    I’m not sure how this conflict of interests will be resolved – either by innovation or spirituality (hold your desires son!) Indeed it looks like it is going to take few more years by the time there are concrete plans to solve the pollution problem. Or does a solution exist already?
    On a different note whether ‘Paani’ raises existing questions or gives answers is something I will be glad to wait and see.

  4. Dr Pachauri,
    It is my unmitigated pleasure to get an opportunity to converse with you and I cannot thank Shekhar enough for that.
    While, a lot of issues raised in your post demand a more detailed feedback, at this point I would like to start off by asking you a small question.
    While using our natural resources judiciously is an deniable reality that needs no questioning, however vis-a-vis global warming, there is a another scientific school of thought. This school believes that the effect of green house gases on the earth’s climate is over-estimated. We don’t really have such power even if we wanted to. Global warming started eons before with the end of the ice-age. The earth has been consistently getting warmer ever since. The sea level has risen and lands submerged. It is not a phenomenon that is limited to the post-industrialisation era. The earch is known to have had such cycles of warming up and heating off as is evident from the various iceages.
    I would be very interested to know your take on this school of thought. Could it be possible that greenhouse gases at the best could be accelerating what has actually been in motion for the last 18,000 years since ice-age ended?
    Warm Regards,

  5. Dear Mr. Pachauri,
    Thanks a lot for posting on the blog and enlightening us.
    As I am no expert on global warming, I have only one questions as we have been hearing about global warming more and more in the last few years.
    What can an average individual(Indian or American) do to reduce global warming i.e. any specific changes/guidelines that every individual should follow to help preserve the planet?
    Thank you and will look forward to your reply.
    Best Regards,

  6. Just yesterday I wrapped up a consulting engagement for the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford…so this blog was so co-incident! Thanks for blogging, Dr.Pachauri…thanks, Shekhar, for enabling his presence in this space.
    While issues around planet sustainability are global in nature, I direct and limit my writing now specifically to India, given there are references to this region in the blog. I completely agree, films/media are such a pervasive part of the Indian psyche, with a fervor more unique than in any other part of the world, there’s an opportunity to leverage the mass medium to re-orient human values and drive radical shifts in awareness and thinking about sustainability issues…in a dramatic way [pun intended]:-) Nevertheless, the role of the state cannot be dismissed, isn’t it? Would appreciate your insights on the following:
    1) the nature and extent of advocacy/policy impacting efforts in India (at the state or national level)? Given the structure, culture & dynamics of the political orbit, what are the challenges/roadblocks in this process?
    2) are there any streamlined efforts to engage business entities, to open their minds around the “gravity of pursuing current [indulgent] trends and imperatives of immediate change”?
    Ultimately it ought to be a symbiotic effort between individuals, businesses and governments, no?

  7. just saw shyamlalan’s take on the consequences of created natural imbalance. its an important subject. i feel somewhere something went wrong when man started considering himself apart from nature.
    as far as shyamlalan’s attempt on this vulnerable happening; it needs a retake.

  8. Dear Sir
    I am a partime MBA student in NMIMS university Mumbai & our college started this new subject Enviornmental management & evrybody does project for marks purpose & then they forget it there are very few people who do actual implementation i require your support in the same to make others or atleast my classmate awareness about globalWarming through my presenation. if u can share few things on AUto pollution with me

  9. The world is being poisoned very slowly.
    The rivers are being polluted, the oceans are being polluted, the lakes are dying.
    Nature is being destroyed.
    We are exploiting the earth so much that sooner or later we will not be able to live on it.
    We are not behaving well with nature.
    Our whole approach is wrong, it is destructive.
    We only take from the earth, and we never give anything back.
    We only exploit nature.
    The ecology is broken, the circulation is broken;
    we are not living in a perfect circle, and nature is a perfect circle:
    if you take from one hand and you give from another, you don’t destroy it.
    But we are doing it: we only go on taking, and all the resources are being spent.

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