Several of us had the opportunity last night to be in the audience for a presentation by Dr. R. K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The lecture was held in the impressive setting of a 200 year-old hall at the University of Copenhagen, and the room was packed to see one of the leading voices on climate change. Dr. Pachauri summarized the latest IPCC report findings, from the remarkable increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 1970, to the undeniable rise in global temperatures. He went on to remind us of the effects that will touch all parts of the world, some of which — from disappearing arctic ice to increases in storms and heat waves — may already be evident. A ‘pdf’ of his PowerPoint presentation is available on the university website.
One of the lasting impressions of the lecture, for better or worse, has got to be the smattering of quasi-questions from a few members of the audience, clearly aimed at raising doubts about the science. While discussion and differing viewpoints should be useful, hearing one questioner ridicule Dr. Pachauri’s efforts to get solar-powered lamps to poor communities, and then laud the history of “carbon energy,” you can’t help but start to question the motives at play. The ensuing questioning of the integrity of 2500-plus scientists representing every corner of the world with no possible agenda — that was simply frightening. It was clearly a small minority of the audience, and Dr. Pachauri stood firm, even flashing an occasional sense of humor.