Monday, February 25, 2008

Pachauri prescription to fight global warming

India and China need to chart a different path to develop low carbon economies to combat global warming, Nobel Laureate and chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri said.

"In per capita terms, India and China are way below the US and North America. But a quite apart from that, China and India have to chart a new path. The developed country experience has proved disastrous for variety of other reasons energy security for one thing, local pollution another," Pachauri said in an interview to a news magazine.

In both India and China, there is now a serious debate. "In India I can see it for sure because the prime minister is quite concerned about this issue. He set up the advisory council on climate change," he said.

"Similarly in China, there's a China council for international cooperation on the environment and development, of which I am a member. There's now a serious effort to look at a low carbon economy in China," Pachauri said in an interview in Newsweek.

Pachauri said he is "very optimistic" that world is ready to tackle the climate change because of awareness has increased in the last 8 or 9 months ever since Panel's reports have started coming out.

He did not endorsed the view that the US administration is still a laggard and said, "I would say there is clearly a very detectable shift on the part of this administration.... Irrespective who's in the White House, I think the next administration will have to be far more proactive on climate change than we have seen so far."

In a write up, Newsweek noted that when Pachauri was named to head the panel, former US vice-president and climate change activist Al Gore had criticised him as "let's-drag-our-feet candidate".

But crusading Gore was quickly proven wrong as Pachauri has loudly campaigned for changes in environmental policies, and the series of voluminous IPCC reports released this year have essentially put an end to the scientific debate over global warming, the magazine said.

Debunking the contention of high cost involved, Pachauri said, the cost to global economy in 2030 will be less than three per cent if concentration of greenhouse gases is to be stabilised at the level that would limit increase in temperature to 2 to 2.4 degrees Centigrade.

"Now, that really means that the level of prosperity that we are going to reach in 2030 may, at best, be postponed by 8 or 9 months. That's certainly not a high price to pay. If you're going to translate this into annual cost, it's only 0.12 percent of the GDP," he told the magazine.

As far as coal is concerned, he said, technological innovations are needed, like the gasification of coal that could improve the efficiency of the whole society.

"And, as you know, even the US is now spending money on this technology that will essentially allow capture of carbon dioxide and storage. I think what we really need much more is expenditure on research and development," he added.

He said he expects the private sector would invest in these things if there is a price on carbon. "In our findings, we have clearly highlighted the importance of keeping a price on carbon. If one were to do that, then you would see the world moving towards a low carbon economy without any disruptions in the economic system."

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