Written By Gopal Krishna on Monday, December 07, 2009 | 4:49 AM


Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
Director, Yale Climate and Energy Institute (YCEI)

Your Excellency, Prime Minister of Denmark Mr. Lars Lokke Rasmussen;
Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Secretariat, Mr. Yvo de Boer; Mayor of Copenhagen, Madame Ritt Bjerregard;
excellencies; colleagues; members of the media; distinguished ladies and

It is a great privilege for me to address this august gathering at the
beginning of a historically important meeting, which we all hope would lead
to action – action which is required urgently on the basis of the
scientific assessment of climate change presented in the Fourth Assessment
Report (AR4) of the IPCC. This report was completed a few weeks before COP
13 held in Bali in December, 2007, and undoubtedly had a profound impact on
the deliberations there. Since then the global community has had adequate
opportunity to further study, debate and discuss the findings of the AR4
and determine actions that are required to be taken globally. This
conference must, therefore, now lead to actions for implementation by “all
parties, taking into account their common but differentiated

One of the most significant findings of the AR4 was conveyed by two simple
but profound statements: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal as
is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and
ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global
sea level”; and “most of the observed increase in temperatures since the
mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in
anthropogenic GHG concentrations”. In the twentieth century average global
temperature increased by 0.74 degrees C while sea level rise resulting from
thermal expansion of the ocean and melting of ice across the globe amounted
to 17 cms. With this increase the Maldive Islands, several other small
island states and low lying coastal nations like Bangladesh with land
surface barely a metre or two above sea level, would find that every storm
surge and major upwelling of the seas represents a serious danger to life
and property. The global community thus has a moral and material
responsibility to do all it can to limit the growing impacts of climate
change on these and other vulnerable societies across the globe. Indeed we
need to give practical expression to the provisions of Article 2 of the
UNFCCC, which defines the ultimate objective of the Convention as the
achievement of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the
atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic
interference with the climate system”.

On the basis of the AR4 we know that climate change, in the absence of
mitigation policies, would in all likelihood lead to:
1. Possible disappearance of sea ice by the latter part of the 21st
2. Increase in frequency of hot extremes, heat waves and heavy
3. Increase in tropical cyclone intensity
4. Decrease in water resources due to climate change in many semi-arid
areas, such as the Mediterranean Basin, western United States,
southern Africa and north-eastern Brazil.
5. Possible elimination of the Greenland ice sheet and a resulting
contribution to sea level rise of about 7 metres. Without mitigation,
future temperatures in Greenland would compare with levels estimated
for 125,000 years ago when palaeoclimate information suggests 4 to 6
m of sea level rise.
6. Approximately 20 to 30% of species assessed so far being at increased
risk of extinction if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5
to 2.5 degrees C.
7. Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water
resources from population growth and economic and land use change,
including urbanization. Available research suggests a significant
future increase in heavy rainfall events in many regions, including
some in which the mean rainfall is projected to decrease. The
resulting flood risk poses challenges to society, physical
infrastructure and water quality. It is likely that 20% of the world
population, which as a fraction could exceed two billion people, will
live in areas where river flood potential could increase by the
2080s. In Africa, by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are
projected to be exposed to water stress due to climate change, and in
some countries on that continent yields from rainfed agriculture
could be reduced by up to 50%.

Another area facing serious impacts of climate change are the oceans
wherein the uptake of anthropogenic carbon since 1750 has led to the ocean
becoming more acidic with an average decrease in pH of 0.1 units.
Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations lead to further
acidification, the consequences of which could be serious for all forms of
marine organisms.

Societies must now respond to climate change by adapting to its impacts and
reducing GHG emissions.. There are viable adaptation options that can be
implemented in several sectors at low cost and/or with high benefit-cost
ratios. Also, empirical research suggests that higher benefit-cost ratios
can be achieved by implementing some adaptation measures at an early stage
compared to long-lived infrastructure at a later date. Based on this
reality this conference must put in place measures for financing adaptation
projects in some of the most vulnerable regions in the world. This conference must also lead to urgent initiation of large scale
mitigation actions.

As the UNFCCC lays down, this must involve action in the developed countries, because “the developed country Parties must take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof”.

Mitigation of emissions is essential, because the IPCC has assessed its
costs as modest. To limit average temperature increase at 2.0 and 2.4
degrees C, the cost of mitigation by 2030 would not exceed 3% of the global
GDP. In other words, the so-called prosperity expected in 2030 would be
postponed by just a few months. Further, mitigation carries many
co-benefits, such as lower levels of air pollution and associated health
benefits, higher energy security, larger employment and stable agricultural
production, as well as greater food security. It is gratifying that the G8
leaders have recognized the broad scientific view of limiting increase in
global average temperature to 2° C. But, we have clearly specified in the
AR4 that if temperature increase is to be limited to between 2.0 and 2.4°
C, global emissions must peak no later than 2015. That is barely six years
from now. And some may even question the goal of 2.0° as a ceiling because
this would lead to sea-level rise on account of thermal expansion alone of
0.4 to 1.4 meters. This increase added to the effect of melting of snow and
ice across the globe, could submerge several small island states and

There is now adequate scientific and technological experience to show that
there are a wide variety of national policies and instruments available to
governments to create the incentives for mitigation action. There is no
better real life laboratory in this field to learn from than our host
country, Denmark. Through a series of actions and enlightened policies
Denmark has brought about a revolution in wind energy technology and its
deployment. Modern Danish wind turbines are now able to produce almost 100
times as much electricity as the first wind turbines that were manufactured
in 1980. Based on the experience of Denmark and other countries like
Germany it would be correct to assume that a move to renewable sources of
energy would prove that employment generation would take place with
enhanced economic output. If we look at the example of Denmark, global
sales of Danish wind manufacturers have grown from about 200 MW a year to
3,600 MW a year over the last decade. The world has benefited, therefore,
from technology that is economically attractive and state of the art while
Denmark has generated jobs and revenues in this sector.

The evidence is now overwhelming that the world would benefit greatly from
early action, and that delay would only lead to costs in economic and human
terms that would become progressively high. The IPCC has been able to
provide substantial evidence through its assessments that science provides
us with a basis for undertaking changes that this conference must urgently
initiate. Given the wide-ranging nature of change that is likely to be
taken in hand some naturally find it inconvenient to accept its
inevitability. The recent incident of stealing the emails of scientists at
the University of East Anglia shows that some would go to the extent of
carrying out illegal acts perhaps in an attempt to discredit the IPCC. But
the Panel has a record of transparent and objective assessment stretching
over 21 years performed by tens of thousands of dedicated scientists from
all corners of the globe. I am proud to inform this conference that the
findings of the AR4 are based on measurements made by many independent
institutions worldwide that demonstrate significant changes on land, in the
atmosphere, the oceans and in the ice-covered areas of the Earth. The
internal consistency from multiple lines of evidence strongly supports the
work of the scientific community, including those individuals singled out
in these email exchanges, many of whom have dedicated their time and effort
to develop these findings in teams of Lead Authors in the series of IPCC
Assessment Reports during the past 21 years.

The IPCC assessment process is designed to ensure consideration of all relevant scientific information from established journals with robust peer review processes, or from other sources which have undergone robust and independent peer review. The entire report writing process of the IPCC is subjected to extensive and repeated
review by experts as well as by governments. In the AR4 there were a total
of around 2500 expert reviewers performing this review process.
Consequently, there is full opportunity for experts in the field to draw
attention to any piece of published literature and its basic findings that
would ensure inclusion of a wide range of views.

My colleagues and I at the IPCC are conscious of the responsibility we bear
and the expectations that we must deal with in providing fair,
comprehensive and objectively produced assessments of climate change. I owe
a tribute and a debt of gratitude to my predecessors as Chair of the IPCC
and the tens of thousands of scientists who have established traditions
that ensure high standards of intellectual endeavour and impeccable conduct
in the diligent pursuit of our collective goals. In this tribute I find no
basis for making any exceptions. Lastly, I also express my deep gratitude
to this august body and the secretariat of the UNFCCC for the receptivity
and appreciation that they have always displayed in accepting the results
of our work in the IPCC. We give you our assurance of unflinching devotion
to our duty and upholding the sacred trust you have bestowed on us.

Thank you!
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