How Would Climate Change Influence Society in the 21st Century?

How Would Climate Change Influence Society in the 21st Century?
Jan 29, 2008

Rajendra K. Pachauri 
Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate; Change and Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute

John Reilly 
MIT Sloan School of Management

William Moomaw 
PhD '65, Director of the Center for International; Environment and Resource Policy, Tufts University

Adil Najam
CE '96, PhD '01, Fredrick Pardee Professor of Global Public Policy, Boston University

Akimasa Sumi 
Integrated Research System for Sustainability; Science, The University of Tokyo

Andreas Fischlin 
Head, Terrestrial System Ecology Group; Institute of Integrative Biology, ETHZ;

Michael Golay 
Professor, Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, MIT

Howard Herzog 
'74, SM '75, CHE '80, MIT Energy Initiative


John Reilly wonders whether the IPCC should be celebrating any success, given that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise in spite of all the comprehensive study. Given the "dismal outcome so far," it's important that the IPCC "avoid the complacency that comes with big awards," and that "much, all of the work is still there to be done.".

"It's probably time for sunset, Michael Golay suggests." Now that the IPCC has succeeded in establishing climate change as "a reality among at least the chattering classes," the next step is actually a social question, one that is much more difficult than coming up with new technologies. "We're really talking about interfering with markets, and doing this in a way that doesn't become simply another vehicle for creating profits for special interests."

William Moomaw believes IPCC reports have made possible policy and corporate innovations that would have been unthinkable only a decade ago, and the IPCC should continue to serve in an advisory capacity to the world, laying out the technological and economic possibilities. Says Moomaw, "We got off to a bad start. We talked about global warming as being an environmental issue when in fact global warming is a symptom of maldevelopment.

The IPCC "should continue as the voice of science and help a well"informed society make tough decisions," declares Andreas Fischlin . This will mean "facing the issue of sustainability in the context of climate change to an extent many of us won't like." Research challenges in developing nations may impede efforts to "optimize the IPCC's work and help in the whole issue of moving toward a more sustainable world." 

Akimasa Sumi believes IPCC should continue to have a powerful role in the future, because the "climate change issue is driven by science." He proposes refining climate models in the hope of reducing uncertainty around such matters as the role of aerosols and clouds. He says the focus must now be on adaptation and mitigation, particularly over a 30"year time scale.

The IPCC established its relevance because it drew a line between being policy relevant and policy prescriptive, says Adil Najam. Now, "we need to claim victory on understanding the mechanics of the science and stop debating." The next step must mean "focusing not on the scope of the problem, but on potential for solutions." .

Should the IPCC attempt to become more prescriptive, believes Howard Herzog, "it would lose respect." In his years with the organization, "anytime we got into policy prescriptive areas, when we got close to the line, tensions rose, arguments intensified, we lost consensus." He thinks it's important to continue the IPCC's work, because the science will change, and we need a "broker out there to summarize where science is on critical issues."

About the Speaker(s): Rajendra Pachauri was elected Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2002. He has been involved in the work of the IPCC since its Second Assessment Report in 1995, as a Lead Author. He was then Vice"President of the IPCC during the Third Assessment Report.
Pachauri has been the head of TERI, The Energy and Resources Institute, since
its establishment 25 years ago. TERI focuses on scientific and technological research and strategic thinking in the fields of energy, environment, forestry, biotechnology, conservation of natural resources and sustainable development.
Pachauri was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President of India in January 2001, one of India's highest civilian awards. He was also awarded the "Officier De La L_gion D'Honneur" by the Government of France in 2006.
Pachauri was a Research Fellow at The World Bank, Washington, DC in 1990. He also served as adviser to the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP) in the fields of energy and sustainable management of natural resources from 1994 till 1999. At the international level, he has been President of the Asian Energy Institute since 1992.
Pachauri earned an M.S. in Industrial Engineering, a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Economics from North Carolina State University.

Host(s): Office of the President, MIT Energy Initiative

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License: MIT TechTV