Climate change at a dangerous point

Chairman of intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for ‘very deep’ cuts in pollution

Global warming may be too far advanced to reverse its course. That was the warning recently from the top climate watchdog in the world.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told an international conference this month that he believes the world has “already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere” and he called for immediate and “very deep” cuts in the pollution if humanity is to survive.

The Bush administration—which denies global warming—was alarmed at his comments and promptly tried to shut him up, partly because it had installed Dr. Pachauri in his post after ExxonMobil, the giant oil company, which is strongly opposed to any action to curb global warming, charged his predecessor was too “aggressive” on the issue.

The previous head of this agency was Dr. Robert Watson, chief scientist of the World Bank. He was replaced after Exxon, in 2001, sent a memo to the White House asking it to replace Watson. The Bush administration then lobbied other nations in favor of Dr. Pachauri, and got him elected to replace Dr. Watson, who had called for urgent action on climate change.

Dr. Pachauri, former head of India’s Tata Energy Research Institute, issued a global challenge. He told delegates to the conference: “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.”

He told the British newspaper, The Independent, that widespread destruction of coral reefs because of warming seas and rapid melting of the Arctic ice cap had caused him to conclude the danger point the IPCC had been set up to avoid has already been reached.

Approximately one quarter of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed. In November, a study by 300 scientists, stretching over several years, found the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the remainder of the world, and the polar ice cap has shrunk by up to 20 percent in the last 30 years. The ice also is 40 percent thinner than it was in the 1970s and it is thought, will be gone by 2070. Even as Dr. Pachauri spoke, temperatures in the Arctic were eight to nine degrees centigrade warmer than normal.

Dr. Pachauri also cited measurements that show a sharp increase in levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the past two years, suggesting climate change may be accelerating beyond control. Bush administration policies on air quality have contributed to this proliferation, allowing industry to be its own regulator where discharge of pollution into the air is concerned.

He said the earth only now is beginning to experience the result of pollution in the 1960s and that even greater effects will happen as the higher pollution of later decades works its way through the natural systems of the planet.

“We are risking the ability of the human race to survive,” Dr. Pachauri said (

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