Dr. Adil Najam, dean of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and a professor of International Relations and Earth and Environment, presented the keynote address at the Asia launch of the 5th Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on August 11, 2014. The event, one of a series of global launch events of the Nobel-winning IPCC scientific assessment, was co-organized by LEAD-Pakistan with the IPCC and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). Dean Adil Najam also serves as the chair of LEAD-Pakistan.
Dr. Najam’s keynote address set the tone for the event, which also featured authors of the IPCC reports from across Asia and leading policy makers, scholars, and civil society representatives from Pakistan. Having himself served as a lead author for the 3rd and 4th Assessments of the IPCC, Dr. Najam highlighted the major scientific contribution that the IPCC has made to the policy understanding of climate change across the globe. However, in his very forthright and hard-hitting analysis he also stressed that while the scholarly community has done its part, the policy community has not. He was of the view that the pressing climate challenge of our time is no longer more scientific understanding of the phenomenon; rather, it is more meaningful policy action on the scientific findings that have now been forthcoming for a quarter century and on which there is now near universal consensus.
In summarizing the three sub-reports of the IPCC, Dr. Najam suggested the following pithy messages that policy makers should take away:
On the state of the science of climate change (Working Group I): “It’s Real; It’s Here; It’s Bad; It’s Getting Worse.”
On adaptation and impacts (Working Group II): “It’s Unfair; It’s Ours; It’s Today; It Changes Everything.”
On Mitigation (Working Group III): It’s Necessary; It’s Doable; It’s Affordable; It’s Not Getting Done.”
Most important, according to Dr. Adil Najam, is the lesson of climate adaptation, since it is no longer a possibility for the future but a reality of today. He noted that the IPCC AR5 findings have made it abundantly clear that the adaptation challenge is going to hit developing countries particularly hard. This means that those least able to cope with it will often be the ones who will have to cope the most and cope first. Dr. Najam also suggested that water issues are likely to be at the forefront of the climate adaptation challenge:
“Water is to climate change adaptation what carbon is to climate mitigation.”
Dr. Adil Najam concluded his keynote address with the proposition that developing countries need to take climate change adaptation as an urgent priority; and, importantly, as a development priority.