MARK COLVIN: It’s been a year of wild weather – floods, cyclones and bushfires – and that’s just Australia.
Now the United Nations’ chief science body is warning that that is likely to be the future global outlook unless climate change is addressed.
More than 100 scientists from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are meeting on the Gold Coast to complete a special report on “extreme weather events”.
The chairman of the IPCC Dr Rajendra Pachauri says governments are not equipped to deal with more natural disasters.
And he’s weighed in to the political debate on a carbon tax arguing that it can play a key role in addressing the problem.
Dr Pachauri spoke to the ABC’s environment reporter Sarah Clarke.
RAJENDRA PACHAURI: We are sure that the kinds of events that we’ve seen recently are likely to become much more frequent and much more severe.
Clearly the world has to be informed about what’s going to happen so that we can adapt to these events, we can perhaps invest in infrastructure, in systems whereby societies and communities can adapt to higher frequencies and high intensities of these events.
SARAH CLARKE: But certainly the intensity of what we’ve seen in Australia, is that what we could be looking at? And when you say more frequent, how frequent?
RAJENDRA PACHAURI: That’s precisely what we’re going to try and come up with to the extent possible based on existing knowledge. We have to understand how frequent, how intense.
And it must also be pointed out that there’s going to be an enormous variation from one part of the world to the other. There are some locations that are clearly far more vulnerable than others.
SARAH CLARKE: And would you say we’re ill prepared at the moment to deal with more natural disasters in the future?
RAJENDRA PACHAURI: Well at the moment we are certainly not well enough prepared. And you know some places are a little better off than others.
I mean in the Netherlands they are strengthening and raising the height of their dykes.
There are some societies where they just don’t have the means and the wherewithal by which they can prepare themselves.
So I would say yes in general the world is not at all well prepared for these events which are becoming far more serious and far more frequent.
SARAH CLARKE: Now in Australia climate scientists have weighed into the debate about the best mechanism or ways of reducing Australia’s emissions. And the current debate is about a carbon tax.
Would you agree with some of them who’ve suggested that a carbon tax or a carbon price is the most effective way of reducing Australia’s emissions?
RAJENDRA PACHAURI: A price on carbon is by far the most effective means globally to bring about mitigation of emissions of greenhouse gases because you know then you are providing a price signal by which new technologies will be developed, consumer actions would be influenced and producers would move towards low carbon technologies and processes and products.
So I think a carbon price is an important part of actions to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases.
SARAH CLARKE: Australia produces about 1.5 per cent of the world’s CO2. Should Australia be playing a leading role in this debate or are we by no means a leader; we’re being left behind?
RAJENDRA PACHAURI: Well I really wouldn’t know what to say about Australia. But all I can say is globally as a society we need to do much more.
The least cost part of effective emissions reduction would really require us to see that global emissions peak no later than 2015. And that’s just four years away.
So I think if we have to meet that requirement of a least cost trajectory of emissions stabilisation then we really need to move rapidly and every country in the world has to do that.
MARK COLVIN: Dr Rajendra Pachauri talking to environment reporter Sarah Clarke. You can listen to the full interview with Dr Pachauri online at abc.net.au/pm.