Ann Thompson asked the big question at GGCS2 (the 2nd annual Governors’ Global Climate Summit: On the Road to Copenhagen) in Los Angeles on Friday, to the head of the IPCC, in front of a packed house of governors, NGOs, and delegates from around the world:
“How long do we have to fix things before we pass the tipping point?” Thompson asked Dr. Pachauri, the Chairman of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) during their lunch panel discussion which also included Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, and Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Dr. Pachauri said we need to set clear reductions by 2020 that peak GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 2015 “or if you can’t do that then do it within a year or two later.”
If we don’t do that and start to reduce GHG emissions sharply from there, Dr. Pachauri warns, the climate change tipping point will set off a chain of events which point to the danger of “at least 12 countries becoming failed States” and consequential impacts that global society is not prepared to handle.
“How many Somalias, how many Sudans, how many Afghanistans can the world handle?” Pachauri asks, and then goes on to say, “I think we are heading in that direction, and I’m not trying to dramatize. The scientific evidence of the impacts of climate change in the absence of action, clearly indicates conditions that will lead to a breakdown of society.”
Pachauri says it’s essential we pursue a path of Sustainable Development and the public has to be convinced that climate change is a part of a much larger problem.
Dr. Pachauri quoted Ghandi several times in honor of Ghandi’s 140th birth anniversary. First he talked about Ghandi’s quote that “speed is irrelevant if you’re not moving in the right direction” remarking, “We measure economic output in terms of GDP. But what are we looking at in terms of human welfare and inter-generational equity? We are creating problems for the future that are going to be very, very difficult to handle.”
He then quoted Ghandi’s perhaps best pearl of wisdom, “Be the change that you want to see in the world” and continued that if the US wants to see global action then the US should be expected to lead. Dr. Pachauri commended Governor Schwarzenegger on his leadership and ability to convince the people to act, and said we are fortunate to have the governor we do, one who can see not only the magnitude of the problem, but the opportunities for innovation and a creating a sustainable economy.
Dr. Pachauri encouraged investments in Public Transport and said a bullet train that could take people from Washington, DC to New York in 45 minutes would make air travel between those cities obsolete, and save countless tons of GHG emissions. He also had some frank observations about the “retched security checks” at US airports. “And if you resemble someone who is hiding in the hills of Afghanistan…” he joked, bringing the house down.