Q&A: The perils of a fast-changing climate

Noble Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri says renewable energy technology can reduce the dangers of climate change.

    Q&A: The perils of a fast-changing climate
    World leaders need to act quickly to halt climate change, says Rajendra Pachauri [Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

    Doha, Qatar - One of the world's top climate scientists says governments around the world must take a hard look at what will happen to the planet if no action is taken to reduce humanity's reliance on gas-spewing fossil fuels.

    Speaking in Qatar at the opening of a new solar power facility, Rajendra Pachauri - chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - said world leaders must move "rather quickly" to avoid the worst effects of climate change, including deadly heat waves and flooding that are increasingly threatening people's lives.

    The development of renewable energy technology, such as solar power, is a promising option to wean human beings off of fossil fuels that continue to flood the Earth's atmosphere with greenhouse gasses, causing more extreme weather events around the world, he said.

    Pachauri has worked since 2002 with the IPCC, which has thousands of scientists from around the world contributing research to its 195 member states. The IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 - alongside climate campaigner Al Gore - for its work. 

    Pachauri talked to Al Jazeera about the threat of climate change and the recent growth of sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels.

    Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

    Al Jazeera: The IPCC has recently issued several reports warning of the dangers of climate change. Can you give specific examples facing people in the near future?

    Rajendra Pachauri: I would like to highlight two kinds of extreme events: One of them is an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves. And when you come to this part of the world, you realise what a heat wave can do. We have projected that if the world doesn't do anything about this problem, then those heat waves that currently take place once in 20 years will before the end of the century occur once in two years. That in itself should be a very clear signal of why we should avoid that kind of an outcome.

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    The second extreme event is extreme precipitation, and this can certainly spell a lot of danger. Imagine if you get heavy rainfall in a short period of time; that's not only a hazard for human beings and property, but that can also have major implications for the availability of drinking water.

    These are just two examples of the kinds of dangers we would face on account of extreme events.

    Al Jazeera: Do you see any time in the future that solar power and other renewables will replace fossil fuels in terms of the majority of use?

    Pachauri: In the Working Group III report of the IPCC, which essentially details mitigation options, we've said very clearly that we want to limit a temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Then, it would be essential to triple or quadruple low carbon and zero carbon renewable energy supplies and technologies.

    Clearly this is the kind of technology that's going to be required, and therefore it would replace the growth of fossil-fuel energies in the future. I'm focusing on growth because if we don't have these technologies, then the world is going to remain dependent on fossil fuels. So therefore, in a sense, this is creating an option that societies can utilise in reference to fossil fuels.

    Al Jazeera: The Canadian government will soon announce whether it will go ahead with Enbridge's Northern Gateway project, which will take oil sands from Alberta to a port in British Columbia. What is your view of this project?  

    Pachauri: I really think it is up to the government and the people of Canada to decide. All I would say is please look at the totality of the situation, look at all the implications of this option and other options. But I'm in no position to suggest what the government and the people of Canada should do. I'd say please look at all the implications and then take a rational decision that is completely balanced and is in the interest of society at large - and not only in Canada, but the world as a whole.

    Al Jazeera: The next big climate meeting is the United Nations Climate Conference 2015  in Paris, France. The IPCC has issued some very serious reports with dire warnings. What climate change action do you need to see from governments?

    Pachauri: I think the governments of the world have to look at the science, and they have to take positions based on their perceptions of where we will go if we don't take action, and what are the attractive opportunities for taking action.

    I think if we look at the balance on the basis of scientific assessments that the IPCC has brought out, then the choice becomes very clear that the world has to move rather quickly with adaptation, as well as mitigation. As far as mitigation is concerned, it is really technology such as this (Qatar Solar Energy's facility) which will play a central role. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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