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Conquering Global Warming: Contributing to the GEO Global Carbon Project
Reliable Data Essential for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Rajendra K. Pachauri Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

GEO carbon cycle data is extremely valuable

Q. Tell us about the IPCC’s latest work.

We are now working on the fifth assessment report, which will be completed in 2014. We have selected 831 authors and review editors. We were very pleased and overwhelmed with the number of nominations we received - we had about 3,000 nominations of excellent scientists. Q. What do you think of GEO’s Global Carbon Observation and Analysis System? I think carbon circulation data is extremely valuable, because it allows researchers to work on climate-related problems and come up with publications. And IPCC bases its assessments on publications. So I think the data is essential for ensuring that we get a large amount of published research, and that helps us in our assessment of climate change. So we believe that this is a very important input for the work that the IPCC does. Q. What observation data does the IPCC need for its reports? We need data of various kinds, which give us a basis for analyzing the factors related to climate change. But I think what’s particularly important for us is regional data. There are some regions in the world where clearly we don’t have enough research, we don’t have enough information. In order to close those gaps, it’s very important that any system of measurement gives us enough information on those regions of the world. Once we get that, we can assess the changes that have taken place there, and use the data to run our models and come up with projections for the future. So I hope we get much more regional information from parts of the world where we don’t have it at this point in time.

A consistent data set can be used to properly evaluate climate change

Q. What are your expectations for the standardization of the Global Carbon Observation and Analysis System?

I think these systems are extremely important because to create a consistent database, you must have a comprehensive data-collection system. If every country was going to develop its own database according to its own methods, you may not have compatible data. So I think a global system is extremely important. Also, I think that learning and sharing experience - what is being done in different countries - is very important. But to me, the most important aspect of a global system is consistency. To come up with a proper assessment of climate change in different parts of the world, it’s essential to have compatible data. Q. How will the standardized Global Carbon Observation and Analysis System contribute to the activity of IPCC? I think this integration is extremely important, to assess climate change both globally and locally in different regions of the world. Our expectation is that the integration will get refined over a period of time. We need to ensure that there is proper observation and measurement in every part of the world, and that quality control is maintained, so the design has to be consistent and compatible.

Q. How should IPCC and GEO cooperate?

I think we should stay in close touch, because if GEO knows what IPCC’s requirements are, then, clearly, it would be able to provide data to better help us assess climate change. At the same time, I think if IPCC knows in advance what data is being collected, that can help generate a large amount of published research. So I think there is clearly a need for us to remain in constant touch, because that will have mutual benefits for both parties.

A visual demonstration of the status of greenhouse gas emissions

Q. Recently, a number greenhouse-gas observing satellites, such Japan’s IBUKI, have come on line. What are your expectations for these satellites?

Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite IBUKI
Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite IBUKI

I think this is very powerful technology that can help us track the level of emissions and concentration in different parts of the globe. For example, it could help us understand how seasonal activities are affecting emissions in different parts of the world, and what is driving these emissions. So I think this is extremely valuable information. I hope researchers will use it on a large scale to come up with some findings that the IPCC can make use of. Q. In the Kyoto Protocol, the developed countries agreed to reduce their emission of greenhouse gasses to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008. However emissions have increased by 26%. What do you think of this situation? Well, it’s odd that the UN framework on climate change came into existence in 1992, but emissions continue to grow worldwide. That clearly shows that the global community has really not been able to implement the framework. I think the world has to find more effective mechanisms by which we can implement the requirements of the UN framework on climate change. In the fourth assessment report of the IPCC, we have clearly stated that between 1970 and 2004, greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 70%, and in some parts of the world emissions are continuing to increase at an even faster rate than in the past. That clearly is a trend that cannot continue.
I think data of this kind is very important for educating the public and leaders in different parts of the world to show how ineffective we have been in solving the problem. I think this visual presentation is extremely important, because it can help policymakers fully understand what is happening in different parts of the globe. This is extremely valuable information, but the manner of presentation is equally important and valuable.

Q. What is the most difficult barrier to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions?

Well, as we said in the fourth assessment report of the IPCC, there is a lot of inertia in the system. That inertia is in the form of infrastructure which has been created for a certain pattern of consumption of energy, and therefore emissions of greenhouse gases. There’s an inertia in institutions. Institutions don’t always react immediately to changes that are required. I will say there’s also an inertia in the minds of people. So I think what we really need to do is to inform the public and make everybody aware of what is happening in the world and of the implications of the current trends. I think if we were to do that, then we would find a way of overcoming that inertia and making sure that the changes that are required and the changes that leaders and people want to make are actually implemented.

Maximizing the power of information

Q. What is your message to the ministers of the world?

My message to environment ministers would be that information is power. Information is extremely important. But we have to make use of this information. And therefore, I think all the data that is being made available should be studied, should be analyzed. And should lead to decision making. In this day and age, in the 21st Century, we have such excellent and sophisticated ways of collecting and integrating information, but we must make the best use of it. I think this is a very valuable opportunity to see the power of this information and how it can be used for decision making. Q. What are your expectations for the Japanese government and JAXA? I’ve been a great admirer of Japanese society, and I have visited Japan at least 130 times. I’ve seen how Japan reacted to the oil price shock - you have made your industry and your transport sector much more energy efficient. In several respects Japan can be a model for the rest of the world, and I hope you’ll continue to lead in that direction, because it clearly shows that people can live well. Also, Japanese environmental technology is excellent. I hope Japan will use this technology to follow the Kyoto Protocol, and continue to do better and better at the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Rajendra K. Pachauri
Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Dr. Pachauri received an M.S. in Industrial Engineering (1972), a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and a Ph.D. in Economics from North Carolina State University in the United States. He has been Director-General of the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) since 2001. In 2002, he became the third Chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2007, Dr. Pachauri won the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC, with the former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore, for achievements against climate change. He has been on the board of directors of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) since 2008. His specialties are Environmental and Energy problems.

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