Select Committee on Economic Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-181)

Dr Rajendra Pachauri


  Q180Lord Layard: Given that we are talking about a public good, the level is something we can debate but we surely should not just be taking technology as something which is going to happen? It should be central to climate change policy. I do not know if you can say anything about how you view the efforts of the government supporting research in the area of hydrogen or whatever to produce really new, carbon-free sources of energy. Is this something which is being addressed seriously in the funding of government research around the world?

  Dr Pachauri: I would say not seriously enough. It is probably useful to get industry involved as early as possible. Even where government is funding basic research, it would be particularly helpful to have some kind of public/private partnership conceptually in place so that industry which knows how to take a concept to commercialisation is fully engaged in the possibility of making these technologies work. I personally believe that we are not doing enough and I think this should be an important part of public policy in different parts of the world.

  Q181Lord MacDonald of Tradeston: We have had on this Committee the consensus view on climate change challenged by Professor Robinson, Professor Henderson, Professor Lindzen and shortly by Professor Lomborg. Yet, despite these apparent uncertainties in climate cause and effect, huge sums of money will obviously be spent in the near term in the hope of benefiting people in the long term. As you say, people in the long term should be a lot better off than people are now and they will have more and better technology and scientific advances at their disposal. If those huge sums of money were spent on development assistance to poor countries and impoverished people now, would it not be the case that it would be more just and more effective in saving lives? Do you have a view on these competing needs?

  Dr Pachauri: We are not looking at just one single issue. The world faces a number of challenges. It would be excessively simplistic to say that all you need to do is to spend money on so and so problem afflicting the world. If you were to accept that climate change is going to have some very serious impacts, it is the poorest of the poor who are going to be affected. There are hundreds of millions of people who are purely dependent on rain-fed agriculture. These are extremely poor people. If there is going to be a change in precipitation patterns, if these people are not going to get enough drinking water for their very basic human survival, is it not necessary for us to look at the impacts of climate change? You can attach whatever probability you want to it. As a rational decision-maker, I cannot conceive of merely isolating one area for funding on a grand scale and leaving out everything else. We have a problem of disease all over this world. I was talking to people from the small island states in Mauritius a few weeks ago and they said, "Suppose the sea was a foot higher and the tsunami was to take place in the year 2080. Can you imagine the extent of devastation that would take place?" Climate change is not something we need to see in isolation. There are certain initial conditions that we have to define. If the effects are going to raise the threshold of impacts to a point where it is going to afflict a large part of humanity, I do not think we can be ignorant of that possibility. My submission is there is no silver bullet; there are no simple solutions. We really need to look at humanity in its entirety and the problems and challenges that we need to tackle. Climate change is up there. We cannot ignore it.

Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. We are extremely grateful to you. It is a tricky subject to get to grips with. You have done your level best to help us understand some of the issues and I am most grateful.

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