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How Would Climate Change Influence Society in the 21st Century?

01/29/2008 9:00 AM 32"123
Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate; Change and Director"General, The Energy and Resources Institute; Dr. Susan Hockfield, President, MIT

Description: The rising public awareness of climate change, says MIT President Susan Hockfield, comes with a price. "The public dialogue has evolved from nothing is wrong, so we need to do nothing, to everything is so wrong, that there's nothing we can do." Citizens are "starving for a sense of focus, clarity and direction," and with that in mind, MIT and other organizations "need to speak louder," declares Hockfield, by elevating the public debate, telling the truth about the power and limitations of technology, and focusing on the harsh reality that the scale of a proposed solution can "doom a clever idea to nothing more than a dilettante's distraction."

Here's Rajendra K. Pachauri's panic"inducing assertion: We have a window of seven years to stabilize CO2 at today's levels if we are to limit our global mean temperature increase to around 2.40C. A world this hot would be a very unpleasant place to be. Pachauri lays out unequivocal" evidence of climate change, and describes how extreme precipitation events, heat waves and other natural catastrophes will become more frequent, endangering vast swaths of humanity. We stand to lose 20"30% of species if warming exceeds 1.5 to 2.5 0C. Pachauri also notes this "scary prospect": the rapid loss of ice sheets on polar land, leading to sea level rises of several meters, and the flight of large populations in response. br>
Pachauri describes the kinds of adaptations humanity must make to the changes already underway, including protection from flooding; preventing water scarcity; and retooling agriculture. Developed nations have a head start in these, and must help out developing nations, or risk global conflicts. Yet adaptation alone "cannot cope with all the projected impacts of climate change," says Pachauri, so greenhouse gas mitigation efforts are urgent. In the midst of this desperate panorama, Pachauri holds out some hope: "Anyone who says, what's the point, why take action-if we start today, we can really make a difference in the next two to three decades."

What's more, we have at hand a portfolio of technologies that are currently or soon to be available that could achieve significant mitigation, he says. If we invest in public transport and efficient vehicles, the right kinds of R&D, technology transfers and incentives, we could achieve our goals. And he notes, the cost of taking such actions "are not high at all." To stabilize CO2 at around 500 PPM, the costs in 2030 would be less than 3% global GDP, which amounts to a minuscule .12% annually.

About the Speaker(s): Rajendra Pachauri was elected Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2002. He has been involved in the work of the IPCC since its Second Assessment Report in 1995, as a Lead Author. He was then Vice"President of the IPCC during the Third Assessment Report.

Pachauri has been the head of TERI, The Energy and Resources Institute, since its establishment 25 years ago. TERI focuses on scientific and technological research and strategic thinking in the fields of energy, environment, forestry, biotechnology, conservation of natural resources and sustainable development.

Pachauri was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President of India in January 2001, one of India's highest civilian awards. He was also awarded the "Officier De La L_gion D'Honneur" by the Government of France in 2006.

Pachauri was a Research Fellow at The World Bank, Washington, DC in 1990. He also served as adviser to the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the fields of energy and sustainable management of natural resources from 1994 till 1999. At the international level, he has been President of the Asian Energy Institute since 1992.

Pachauri earned an M.S. in Industrial Engineering, a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Economics from North Carolina State University.

Host(s): Office of the President, MIT Energy Initiative

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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