IPCC Chairman Pachauri and Al Gore Nobel lectures: Climate change and government accountability


R. K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Al Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on December 10. Pachauri: “Will those responsible for decisions in the field of climate change at the global level listen to the voice of science and knowledge, which is now loud and clear?” Gore: “We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.” Their Nobel Lectures, and the Presentation Speech by the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, deserve to be read in full….

See our October 9 post: “Give the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC”

Presentation Speech by Professor Ole Danbolt Mjøs, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Oslo, 10 December 2007.

Nobel Lecture by R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Oslo, 10 December 2007.

Nobel Lecture by Al Gore, Oslo, 10 December 2007.

Excerpt from Dr. Pachauri’s lecture:

As Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) I am deeply privileged to present this lecture on behalf of the Panel on the occasion of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the IPCC jointly with Mr Al Gore. While doing so, I pay tribute to the thousands of experts and scientists who have contributed to the work of the Panel over almost two decades of exciting evolution and service to humanity….

The IPCC produces key scientific material that is of the highest relevance to policymaking, and is agreed word-by-word by all governments, from the most skeptical to the most confident. This difficult process is made possible by the tremendous strength of the underlying scientific and technical material included in the IPCC reports.

Honouring the IPCC through the grant of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 in essence can be seen as a clarion call for the protection of the earth as it faces the widespread impacts of climate change. The choice of the Panel for this signal honour is, in our view, an acknowledgement of three important realities, which can be summed up as:

o The power and promise of collective scientific endeavour, which, as demonstrated by the IPCC, can reach across national boundaries and political differences in the pursuit of objectives defining the larger good of human society.
o The importance of the role of knowledge in shaping public policy and guiding global affairs for the sustainable development of human society.

o An acknowledgement of the threats to stability and human security inherent in the impacts of a changing climate and, therefore, the need for developing an effective rationale for timely and adequate action to avoid such threats in the future….

Peace can be defined as security and the secure access to resources that are essential for living. A disruption in such access could prove disruptive of peace. In this regard, climate change will have several implications, as numerous adverse impacts are expected for some populations in terms of:

o access to clean water,

o access to sufficient food,

o stable health conditions,

o ecosystem resources,

o security of settlements….

The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report concludes that non-climate stresses can increase vulnerability to climate change by reducing resilience and can also reduce adaptive capacity because of resource deployment towards competing needs. Vulnerable regions face multiple stresses that affect their exposure and sensitivity to various impacts as well as their capacity to adapt. These stresses arise from, for example, current climate hazards, poverty, and unequal access to resources, food insecurity, trends in economic globalization, conflict, and incidence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS….

Another issue of extreme concern is the finding that anthropogenic factors could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending on the rate and magnitude of climate change. For instance, partial loss of ice sheets on polar land could imply metres of sea level rise, major changes in coastlines, and inundation of low-lying areas, with greatest effects in river deltas and low-lying islands….

The implications of these changes, if they were to occur would be grave and disastrous. However, it is within the reach of human society to meet these threats. The impacts of climate change can be limited by suitable adaptation measures and stringent mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions….

A rational approach to management of risk would require that human society evaluates the impacts of climate change inherent in a business-as-usual scenario and the quantifiable costs as well as unquantifiable damages associated with it, against the cost of action. With such an approach the overwhelming result would be in favour of major efforts at mitigation. The impacts of climate change even with current levels of concentration of greenhouse gases would be serious enough to justify stringent mitigation efforts….

Science tells us not only that the climate system is changing, but also that further warming and sea level rise is in store even if greenhouse gases were to be stabilized today.  That is a consequence of the basic physics of the system.  Social factors also contribute to our future, including the ‘lock-in’ due, for example, to today’s power plants, transportation systems, and buildings, and their likely continuing emissions even as cleaner future infrastructure comes on line. So the challenge before us is not only a large one, it is also one in which every year of delay implies a commitment to greater climate change in the future….

How climate change will affect peace is for others to determine, but we have provided scientific assessment of what could become a basis for conflict. When Mr. Willy Brandt spoke at the acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971, he said, “…we shall have to know more about the origins of conflicts. … As I see it, next to reasonable politics, learning is in our world the true credible alternative to force.“…

The thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is being held in Bali right now. The world’s attention is riveted on that meeting and hopes are alive that unlike the sterile outcome of previous sessions in recent years, this one will provide some positive results. The work of the IPCC has helped the world to learn more on all aspects of climate change, and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has acknowledged this fact. The question is whether the participants in Bali will support what Willy Brandt referred to as “reasonable politics”. Will those responsible for decisions in the field of climate change at the global level listen to the voice of science and knowledge, which is now loud and clear? If they do so at Bali and beyond then all my colleagues in the IPCC and those thousands toiling for the cause of science would feel doubly honoured at the privilege I am receiving today on their behalf.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2007

Excerpt from Al Gore’s lecture:

In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.

Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth’s climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: “Mutually assured destruction.“…

It is time to make peace with the planet.

We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.

These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.

No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so….

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step “ism.”

That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously….

By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored….

This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.

This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.

Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.

We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon – with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.

The world needs an alliance – especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they’ve taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.

But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters – most of all, my own country – that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.

Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment….

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: “What were you thinking; why didn’t you act? ”

Or they will ask instead: “How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?”
We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.

So let us renew it, and say together: “We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.”

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2007

This entry was posted in Science-Policy Interaction. Bookmark the permalink.