Don’t eat meat, ride a bike, and be a frugal shopper — that’s how you can help brake global warming, the head of the United Nation’s Nobel Prize-winning scientific panel on climate change said Tuesday.
The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued last year, highlights “the importance of lifestyle changes,” said Rajendra Pachauri at a press conference in Paris.
“This is something that the IPCC was afraid to say earlier, but now we have said it.“
A vegetarian, the Indian economist made a plea for people around the world to tame their carnivorous impulses.
“Please eat less meat — meat is a very carbon intensive commodity,” he said, adding that consuming large quantities was also bad for one’s health.
Studies have shown that producing one kilo (2.2 pounds) of meat causes the emissions equivalent of 36.4 kilos of carbon dioxide.
In addition, raising and transporting that slab of beef, lamb or pork requires the same amount of energy as lighting a 100-watt bulb for nearly three weeks.
In listing ways that individuals can contribute to the fight against global warming, Pachauri praised the system of communal, subscriber-access bikes in Paris and other French cities as a “wonderful development.”
“Instead of jumping in a car to go 500 meters, if we use a bike or walk it will make an enormous difference,” he told journalists at a press conference.
Another lifestyle change that can help, he continued, was not buying things “simply because they are available.” He urged consumers to only purchase what they really need.
Since the Nobel was awarded in October to the IPCC and the former US vice president Al Gore, Pachauri has criss-crossed the globe sounding the alarm on the dangers of global warming.
“The picture is quite grim — if the human race does not do anything, climate change will have serious impacts,” he warned Tuesday.
At the same time, however, he said he was encouraged by the outcome of UN-brokered climate change negotiations in Bali last month, and by the prospect of a new administration in Washington.
“The final statement clearly mentions deep cuts in emissions in greenhouse gases. I don’t think people can run away from that terminology,” he said.
The Bali meeting set the framework for a global agreement on how to reduce the output of carbon dioxide and other gases generated by human activity that are driving climate change.
Pachauri also sees cause for optimism in the fact that, for the first time since the world’s nations began meeting over the issue of global warming in 1994, “nobody questioned the findings of the IPCC.”
“The science has clearly become the basis for action on climate change,” he said.
In 2007, the IPCC issued a massive report the size of three phone books on the reality and risks of climate change, its 4th assessment in 18 years.
Pachauri said it was too late for Washington to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the sole international treaty mandating cuts in CO2 emissions.
The United States is the only industrialised country not to have made such commitments.
But he remained hopeful the US — under a new administration — would be a “core signatory” of any new agreement.
“With the change that is taking place politically in the US, the chances of that happening are certainly much better than was the case a few months ago,” he said.
At 67, Pachauri said he has not yet decided whether to take on a second five-year mandate as IPCC head. Elections take place in September.
On the one hand, he said, the experience he has acquired would serve him well.
But the advantage of retiring, he said with a smile, is that his carbon footprint — the amount of C02 emissions generated by all this travels — would be greatly reduced.
Three things. That’s all he is asking from us. That’s all and that’s not so simple.