A Distinguished Lecture on the theme of “Dealing with the challenge of climate change and sustainable development” was delivered on Friday, 16 august 2013, by eminent scholar Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, the Director General of TERI, who is also the Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which was awarded Nobel Peace Prize for 2007). Taking a long term view of climate change over the past several centuries, Dr. Pachauri said that there is unmistakable human footprint over significant climate change particularly over the past sixty years.
The adverse impacts of the present climate change are unevenly distributed across societies. The low HDI (human development index) countries are far worse sufferers of these adverse climate change consequences whereas it the high HDI countries, on per capita basis, that are greatest contributors to degradatory aspects of climate change (such as high GHG emissions). The poor are particularly badly affected by these consequences of climate change through various channels – their dependence on common resources for every day existence being greater, they suffer proportionate more as these resources are degraded; there is adverse nutritional impact; there is greater problem of indoor air pollution, inadequate access to clean water and better sanitation.
Coming to specific impacts in India, Dr. Pachauri highlighted particular consequences visible on human health – for example heightened risk of dengue fever; reduction in yield potential of wheat and maize to the tune of 2-5 % for the temperature rise of 0.50-1.50; impending water stress; the problems of deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts and increased incidence of diarrheal disease etc.
In this backdrop, sustainability of our development models needs to be examined. He underlined the importance of knowledge in facing challenges confronting the globe today. The sustainability issue concerns how to meet needs of present without compromising needs of tomorrow and doing so while taking care of intra-generational equity concerns. Recalling the thesis of tragedy of commons, he emphasized that the natural resources even today are vulnerable to it and irrespective of the ownership regime (private or public), these must be brought under regulation so as to save them from degradation and destruction. In this connection he said that climate change lies at the heart of sustainable policy making.
Quoting from the IPCC fourth Assessment Report, he said that, “Neither adaptation nor mitigation alone can avoid all climate change impacts; however, they can complement each other and together can significantly reduce the risks of climate change”. On feasibility of mitigation, he explained that this is likely to impact GDP growth to the tune of 3 % by 2030, a very small price to pay. Moving towards sustainable development will require structural changes both in developed and developing countries and in several areas such as: institutional arrangements; geographical distribution of activities; demography; lifestyles and consumption patterns etc. Concluding the lecture, he reminded what Gandhi had said about the choices facing a technological society: either wait till catastrophic failures stare at us; or provide for social checks and balances to correct for systemic distortions before such failures.
Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, Vice-Chancellor, UoH, presiding over the function underlined the interconnectedness of various human activities and the need for acting on several fronts for tackling the issues raised in the distinguished lecture. Earlier, Prof. Aloka Parasher-Sen, Dean, School of Social Sciences welcomed the speaker and Prof. Naresh Kumar Sharma, Coordinator, Centre for Gandhian Economic Thought underlined the contemporary importance of the topic while introducing the speaker.