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UN Chief Scientist Urges Action On Climate Change: ‘We Have Five Minutes Before Midnight’

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"UN Chief Scientist Urges Action On Climate Change: ‘We Have Five Minutes Before Midnight’"

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Rajendra Pachauri

CREDIT: AP Photo/Gurinder Osan

Rajendra Pachuari, head of the United Nation’s group of climate scientists, said on Monday that humanity can no longer be content kicking the can down the road when it comes to climate change. “We have five minutes before midnight,” he emphasized.

“We may utilize the gifts of nature just as we choose, but in our books the debits are always equal to the credits.

“May I submit that humanity has completely ignored, disregarded and been totally indifferent to the debits? Today we have the knowledge to be able to map out the debits and to understand what we have done to the condition of this planet.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which Pachuari heads, is slated to release its long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) later this month. Drafts of the report seen by Reuters point to an even greater certainty that humans are the primary drivers of global warming, “It is at least 95 percent likely that human activities — chiefly the burning of fossil fuels — are the main cause of warming since the 1950s.” This is up from 90 percent in the 2007 report, 66 percent in 2001 and just over 50 percent in 1995, “steadily squeezing out the arguments by a small minority of scientists that natural variations in the climate might be to blame.”

Other leaks suggest the report will address the coming threat of sea-level rise and refute recent claims of a slowdown in the pace of warming, a notion that has been seized upon by climate change skeptics.

However, as Joe Romm explains, IPCC reports can only be considered a partial assessment of the true magnitude of climate change impacts because they represent “an instantly out-of-date snapshot that lowballs future warming because it continues to ignore large parts of the recent literature and omit what it can’t model.”

AR5′s shortcomings aside, Pachuari is clear that governments worldwide can no longer defer their responsibility to address climate change. He told the crowd on Monday that reining in greenhouse-gas emissions was still possible if countries, including in the developing world, rethought their approach to economic growth, reported Agence-France Press — a shift that would boost energy security, cut pollution and improve health, and also offer new job opportunities.

“We cannot isolate ourselves from anything that happens in any part of this planet. It will affect all of us in some way or the other,” Pachauri said.

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