This article titled “IPCC urges Obama to raise awareness of science behind climate change” was written by Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 28th February 2013 15.09 UTC
Barack Obama should spread awareness of the “scientific realities of climate change” in the US, the head of the UN’s climate science panel has told the Guardian.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that one of the president’s priorities should be “awareness creation” on the public’s understanding of the science underpinning man-made global warming.
The IPCC has come under some of the most intense attacks it has faced from heavily funded climate sceptic groups in the US, where industry-funded lobbing groups, Republicans and some Democrat politicians have resisted federal action on energy policy and climate.
Pachauri also welcomed Obama’s pledge to tackle climate change in his second term: “I was particularly encouraged by the president’s state of the union address, where he highlighted what we should really be listening too, in terms of the voice of science.,” he said after a speech at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh
“I have always believed if you want action in the field of climate change, it has to be driven by an understanding, an application of what science has told us, what the IPCC has been telling us. So from that point of view, I think what President Obama said was particularly heartening.”
In his inaugural address at the Capitol on 21 January, Obama presented his climate strategy partly as a moral, religious obligation as he sought to build common ground with some of those critics.
Warning that failing to act on climate change would “betray our children and future generations,” he added: “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
Pachauri said there were three priorities for the US: to spread awareness of the “scientific realities of climate change”; it must make different types of energy, such as coal, properly reflect their impacts on climate and their scarcity by introducing some form of carbon pricing or ‘cap in trade’, and finally, focus quickly on preparing for extreme climate events.
He listed those three issues as “awareness creation; making sure energy prices are rationalised and providing a price on carbon, because that would ensure you’re going to develop policies that are going to be low in terms of emissions and intensity. And finally, I think it’s also important for a country like the US to take in hand climate adaptation measures: there should be a very clear plan.”
A fellow at Yale university’s Climate and Energy Institute, and chairman of the board of Columbia university’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Pachauri said he narrowly avoided superstorm Sandy in October 2012, leaving the US the day before it hit.
“I know life over there was devastated by what happened,” he said.
Pachauri confirmed he still believed the world had to avoid CO2 levels in the atmosphere, currently at 395ppm, hitting 450 parts per million to avoid dangerous climate change – the limit set out by the IPCC’s fourth assessment report in 2007. This required immediate urgent action on emissions – peaking by 2015 and then falling – and the transition away from fossil fuels.
Pachauri said the next IPCC assessment report, due out in 2014, would lay out a series of detailed scenarios for different emissions “pathways”: that would include a no action, business as usual prediction but also “negative emissions” strategies, which could actually cut CO2 levels.
“That [some countries have reached or are crossing a tipping point] clearly gives you the pathway that you should be adopting right away,” Pachauri said. “And secondly, even with a 2C or 2.4Cincrease, sea level rise in account of thermal expansion alone will be somewhere between 0.4 and 1.4m, okay, and that’s only thermal expansion. If you add to that the melting of the bodies of ice across the globe, then of course it will be higher.
“That’s clearly serious. That clearly means some island nations, some low lying coastal areas are going to be threatened, even with a 2C global increase. And that’s something the global community has to keep in mind.
“Now, if you do, then what does that imply? That perhaps either we’re able to adapt and manage in a way that this 2C sea level rise or we accept the fact that there are populations that will need to move out of the places where their parents, their grandparents bones are buried.
“Or we say, look, we’ve got to stop climate change well before the 2C level. Now these are choices which have to be dictated by a scientific assessment of where we’re going.”
Asked about the leak of a draft of the IPCC’s fifth report, , Pachauri said the criticisms from climate sceptics did not deter the panel’s members: they took it for granted there would be disputes over its findings.
“We’re living in a free world and people will interpret things in the way that perhaps suit them, perhaps that they’ve a predisposition for.
“But I think in the ultimate analysis, if sane voices were to look at truth for what it is then I think people will realise that what we’re saying and what the scientific community globally is saying is something that you cannot ignore, and the longer you delay taking action on it, the more complex the challenge is going to become.”
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