INTERVIEW: Head Of IPCC Warns Of Adverse National Security Impact From Climate Change

pachauriDr. Rajendra Pachauri is the Chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Last week, the IPCC released the third part of its assessment on climate change, reporting that successful action against global warming can be undertaken at a modest cost.

ThinkProgress interviewed Dr. Pachauri this morning, and sought his views on a variety of climate change issues, including what global warming’s impact is on national security, what advice he would give to a presidential candidate, and what immediate changes the U.S. needs to make.

Recently, the Washington Times reported, “Senior House Republicans are complaining about Democrats’ plans to divert ‘scarce’ intelligence funds to study global warming.” In our interview with Dr. Pachauri, he underscored the fact that climate change can pose a serious threat to our global security:

If the impact of climate change is going to make regions of violence poorer, then they really provide a level of fertility for inciting disaffection, resentment against the prosperous world. That’s an indirect effect that can create the conditions for terrorism. There is also domestic reasons. If higher-intensity hurricanes create a lot of damage, that does in some sense have security-implications as well. There is a whole range of factors. Water scarcity is another one. I’m not saying all this translates into direct threats to the U.S., but conflict anywhere has some implication for security in the U.S. As the most powerful and most prosperous nation on Earth, it is for the U.S. to take a global view of what strategically might minimize the possibility of threats to national security.

Other summarized highlights from the interview below:

On the advice he would give a presidential candidate:

Climate change is not something in the future. It’s already here. And every part of the globe is going to be affected. We will have an increase in extreme events. We’re likely to have problems with respect to water supplies in the U.S. We have to tell the people of the U.S. that this is something intimately connected with their present and their future. The cost of inaction is going to be far higher than action. And the cost of action is really not all that high. The U.S. has made all kinds of sacrifices in the past and has always come out on top.

On advancements the U.S. needs to make:

The U.S. is really going to lose its place in the world of automobile production and sales if they don’t wake up and start producing more efficient vehicles. GM and Ford Motor Company are already in pretty poor shape. We also need much better investment in public transport. I find it unthinkable that Ireland and France are testing high-speed trains which run at 574 km/hour. It takes three hours to go from New York to Washington DC. It really should not take more than 1 hour and 15 minutes. On public transportation, I think the U.S. is several years behind Europe. I think you could make these changes without any loss of jobs, comfort, or convenience.

On what comes next:

I’m engaged in a synthesis report which we’ll bring out in November. It’s 30 page document that provides a policy framework and sythesizes the IPCC findings thus far. After that, I intend to go out and speak to groups to spread the message. We’ll get into the outreach mode at that time. I believe there’s a need to bring about a unification of groups concerned about climate change and mobilize them to take coordinated action.