Point Of No Return
By Geoffrey Lean
23 January, 2005
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of
the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told
an international conference attended by 114 governments in Mauritius
this month that he personally believes that the world has "already
reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere" and called for immediate and "very deep"
cuts in the pollution if humanity is to "survive".
His comments rocked
the Bush administration - which immediately tried to slap him down -
not least because it put him in his post after Exxon, the major oil
company most opposed to international action on global warming, complained
that his predecessor was too "aggressive" on the issue.
A memorandum from
Exxon to the White House in early 2001 specifically asked it to get
the previous chairman, Dr Robert Watson, the chief scientist of the
World Bank, "replaced at the request of the US". The Bush
administration then lobbied other countries in favor of Dr Pachauri
- whom the former vice-president Al Gore called the "let's drag
our feet" candidate, and got him elected to replace Dr Watson,
a British-born naturalized American, who had repeatedly called for urgent
But this month,
at a conference of Small Island Developing States on the Indian Ocean
island, the new chairman, a former head of India's Tata Energy Research
Institute, himself issued what top United Nations officials described
as a "very courageous" challenge.
He told delegates:
"Climate change is for real. We have just a small window of opportunity
and it is closing rather rapidly. There is not a moment to lose."
Afterwards he told
The Independent on Sunday that widespread dying of coral reefs, and
rapid melting of ice in the Arctic, had driven him to the conclusion
that the danger point the IPCC had been set up to avoid had already
the world are perishing as the seas warm up: as water temperatures rise,
they lose their colors and turn a ghostly white. Partly as a result,
up to a quarter of the world's corals have been destroyed.
And in November,
a multi-year study by 300 scientists concluded that the Arctic was warming
twice as fast as the rest of the world and that its ice-cap had shrunk
by up to 20 per cent in the past three decades.
The ice is also
40 per cent thinner than it was in the 1970s and is expected to disappear
altogether by 2070. And while Dr Pachauri was speaking parts of the
Arctic were having a January "heatwave", with temperatures
eight to nine degrees centigrade higher than normal.
He also cited alarming
measurements, first reported in The Independent on Sunday, showing that
levels of carbon dioxide (the main cause of global warming) have leapt
abruptly over the past two years, suggesting that climate change may
be accelerating out of control.
He added that, because
of inertia built into the Earth's natural systems, the world was now
only experiencing the result of pollution emitted in the 1960s, and
much greater effects would occur as the increased pollution of later
decades worked its way through. He concluded: "We are risking the
ability of the human race to survive."
© 2005 Independent
News & Media (UK) Ltd.