here’s not much time, feels (Dr) Pachauri, to make the moves needed to counter climate change

Conference: While the government’s electric car initiative did receive flak when it was revealed, top climate change scientist and Nobel laureate, (Dr) Rajendra K Pachauri, welcomes it.

The chairperson of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was, in a recorded statement, addressing scientists and policy makers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka at the three-day conference ‘Global climate Change: Reducing Risk and Increasing Resilience’ in Thimphu yesterday.

“If you were to move the entire transport sector to the use of electricity, you’re moving from fossil fuel to a renewable energy over which you have complete control and which doesn’t have to be imported,” he said. “These are some of the options we’d have to adopt and the pathways on which we’ll have to move rather rapidly.”

Tackling climate change, he said, was in the interest of meeting the country’s aspiration of gross national happiness.

“Because clearly, more consumption and production with the destruction of the environment, disruption of the climate system isn’t what would give human society happiness.”

He said the answer to address climate change issues lay in moving towards the train approach of adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“Of course, we’ll have to assess what these impacts are going to be and carry out a large scale move towards green house gas intensive technologies by which the world’s economy can move to a cleaner, greener future which would give us a sustainable form of economic development,” he said.

(Dr) Pachauri said that a substantial increase in the awareness by human society and therefore a willingness to take action as early as possible was what is needed at this stage to tackle the issue.

“That’s the only way by which we can reduce the risks of climate change and bring about a higher level of resilience,” he said.

He said adaptation and reducing emissions were two ways to tackle the issue.

Reducing emissions at the level that would be required was not going to be easy.  But, he said at this juncture, it was still within reach and the cost of doing so was not going to be prohibitive.

IPCC has estimated that if countries were to go along a stringent mitigation pathway to ensure that they reach zero or negative emission by the end of the century, the cost would be 0.06 percent reduction in Gross Domestic Product for total consumption annually. “Now this is not a high price to pay,” he said.

According to the expert, the mitigation carried with it a whole range of co-benefits, such as much higher energy security, such as moving vehicles in Bhutan to the use of electricity.

“So if you count all these, it’s entirely possible that the cost of reducing emission will naturally be negative,” he said.

If countries did not make haste and continue to lack in implementing adaptation measures and didn’t bring about rapid enough reduction in the emission of the greenhouse gases, then the cost of bringing about stabilisation of the climate would become difficult.

“The technology required to bring about an adequate reduction would perhaps be beyond our reach,” he said. “We may not be able to develop them on time and in a measure that would ensure a reduction that essentially would give us zero or negative emissions by the end of the century.”

To keep global temperature rise below two degrees by the end of the century, the IPCC has estimated that by the middle of the century, there should be about 40-70 percent reduction in emissions using the 2010 as the base.

“This would mean that we have to treble or quadruple our low carbon or zero carbon sources of energy supply.”

The IPCC reports that most of the global warming could be attributed to human actions, a certainty of 95 percent.

He said events of heavy precipitation in the mountainous regions were a concern.

Heat waves are becoming more frequent, and those heat waves that occur once in 20 years could occur once in every two years.

The impacts of climate change are progressively serious on forest, biodiversity and agriculture.  Wheat, rice and maize are three crops that are likely to be affected adversely if global warming continues.

The conference is the first National Environment Commission is hosting, with Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, in commemoration of the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

By Tshering Palden