Nobel Winning IPCC's Chair, Dr. Pachauri, Speaks at LUMS
If you think climate change should take a backseat to concerns that are ostensibly more pressing then you should prepare yourself for those concerns to get even worse with climate change. This is what Nobel Laureate and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chairman Dr. Rajendra K Pachauri claimed on June 26, 2012 at a panel discussion on Climate Change in South Asia – Risk, Vulnerability and Disaster, organised by Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in collaboration with LEAD Pakistan. Dr. Pachauri was on the panel of speakers along with Mr. Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, CEO of LEAD Pakistan, and Dr. Adil Najam, Vice Chancellor of LUMS.
Dr. Najam, moderated the discussion and introduced the guests. Dr. Najam had worked with Dr. Pachauri on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which had been awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with former US Vice President Al Gore. At LUMS the event was hosted in collaboration with LEAD-Pakistan and as part of the SarSubz LUMS initiative and the recently launched research project on Climate Change Adaptation in Pakistan.
All three panellists had been intimately involved in the just concluded Rio+20 Conference and the discussion began with a review of its results. Dr. Pachauri and Mr. Ali Tauqueer Sheikh, both of whom had been at the Rio conference, felt that the conference achieved fairly little but we need to make whatever we can of what was agreed, including the new institutional arrangements that might emerge from it. However, Dr. Pachauri said that he has recently noticed that there is “no appetite for action” anywhere in the world, and that Europeans and Americans have a receding interest in climate change. This point brought the panel to discuss if it is then the responsibility of developing countries to take the lead on this issue. The consensus of all three speakers was that it is.
In the discussion on climate change in South Asia and on the potential for regional cooperation in this area between India and Pakistan, the three things Dr. Pachauri said were necessary next steps were to (1) understand impact of climate change, (2) work to get economies of scale and renewable energy, and (3) then create a common infrastructure. Dr. Pachauri went on to suggest that what is required is a dynamic unit within the United Nations that can galvanise nations around a focused agenda on climate change mitigation and can cajole nations into action.
Despite the differences between India and Pakistan, Dr. Pachauri thought that this issue would bring them together rather than tear them apart, since it is a common concern. The IPCC Chairman was positive about the future of climate change, pointing out that he would have given up a long time ago if he wasn’t. Dr. Najam similarly pointed towards a growing sense of ownership for the climate change issue within civil society, citizens, and scholars in Pakistan. He added that this interest is real because people are beginning to feel the real changes that are happening. He pointed out that the future challenges are not simply understanding the science but in developing governance mechanisms for real action.
Mr. Sheikh pointed out that the documents on climate change are meant for the science community; therefore, they tend to be a bit boring. This is an issue in relating the scientific research to policy makers as well as to the general public, who would relate better to easier-to-understand communications materials. If the research work is successfully communicated, the scientific research would have a better chance of being understood and then put into practice.
Ending on a more personal note, Dr. Pachauri admitted that it wasn’t easy being a spokesperson for climate change. In response to a comment by Dr. Najam, Dr. Pachauri reflected on the fierce opposition and criticism that he has received in his position as IPCC chairman and the attempts that have been made by cynics and climate change deniers to slander his name. “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen”, was how he summed up his attitude and commitment towards this cause.
The panellists looked to LUMS to be a leader in this issue. With world-class faculty from various academic backgrounds, the institution is well-suited to push forward on what needs to be done and reach a wide variety of sectors, from public policy to science. The aim of organising this discussion was to enhance the understanding, among academics, students and policy makers, of the impact of Climate Change and to contribute to the much needed mainstreaming of climate change discourse in Pakistan. This was a good start as LUMS students, staff, and faculty, as well as members of the outside community, were in the audience, ending the event with questions for the panel and further conversation over refreshments.