Relief efforts had barely begun in the Philippines last Saturday, before the chair of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stepped forward once more to make his case for worldwide action.
According to The Guardian newspaper, Rajendra Pachauri is calling on the global community to resist “inertia” when it comes to changing the course of global warming. The evidence that climate change would continue to worsen, he said was “very, very clear” according to IPCC projections.
Climate change: Systemic changes
That means not only that the intensity of storms and the magnitude of casualties would continue to grow, but the world’s geography would continue to be transformed by climate change. He said it was not unreasonable to see a rise in sea levels that would threaten coastlines in several parts of the world. The Maldives in the Indian Ocean, the IPCC has predicted, could see a large portion of its land mass wiped out by a four-foot rise in sea levels.
And that’s just to start, he said. It could also result in substantial temperature increases in the world’s oceans, which means “that 20 percent to 30 percent of the species that we assessed could be under threat of extinction,” Pachauri said.
As political change is often shaped by immediate events and needs, climate change will continue to play a role in the long-range political avenues that citizens choose.
“(If) people realise that 10 or 15 years from now, they’re going to have very difficult situations to deal with and they find their government is insensitive to that kind of reality,” said Pachauri, “obviously they would get angry.”
Grassroots movements bring change
But unlike the previous interviews, presentations and press statements the Nobel Peace Laureate has given over the years, Pachauri’s takeaway message Saturday wasn’t aimed at world governments. He wasn’t channeling advice from the latest scientific findings on what governments need to do to offset a major calamity. He was calling for something more vocal: a grassroots movement calling for change.
“I think in the ultimate analysis it’s the will of the people that will be supreme,” said Pachauri. Creating awareness was the first step – both through the systematic research unveiled by the IPCC, and through global dialogue, which he felt was beginning to happen.
The IPCC has been at the forefront of that global dialogue, with four sequential reports and numerous presentations that have been geared toward educating both world governments and their communities about the reality of climate change. Next year’s report, said Pachauri, is meant to bring the message home with a “synthesis” of what has been learned and what needs to be done to offset further damage to the climate.
His optimism for change, however, rests with society’s efforts to revise not only how governments respond to climate crisis, but how the commercial sector adapts to change. It is that grassroots effort by communities affected by the increasing threat of climate change, he predicts, that will ultimately bring about results.
“We are all concerned about future generations and therefore we can’t possibly pass on a lousy, spoilt and defiled planet to them,” Pachauri said.
The fifth report by the IPCC is due to be released in October 2014.
Image of typhoon Haiyan destruction courtesy of European Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection
Image of Rajendra Pachauri courtesy of World Economic Forum