This is a great piece reposted from our allies over at 1Sky. Gillian Caldwell, Executive Director of 1Sky, sat down with Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, and learned why he thinks that 450ppm is a much too high target.

I’m here at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford and just got out of a private discussion with Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He described being “anguished” that governments had not come to some agreement regarding threshold concentration levels of carbon in the atmosphere and how to mitigate further increases.

In response to my question regarding how we can wait for the 5th IPCC assessment, due out in various parts in 2013 and 2015, to catch up with climate impacts when he describes the 4th report as “history”, he said nothing was necessary earlier, but that he would agree that setting 450ppm as the threshold concentration of carbon in the atmosphere is “very high” and acknowledged emerging evidence that we should aim lower. He reinforced his point that the IPCC is “policy relevant” but not “policy prescriptive”, and said that it is important that the IPCC and the scientific community retain their distance from advocacy.

He also talked about the fact that the 4th IPCC report reveals that even with 2 degree Celsius stabilization, we commit to 0.4-1.4 meters increase in water levels due to thermal expansion alone, which is “very bad news for the world”:

“Impacts will be disastrous in many parts of the world and we wont be insulated no matter where we are from those impacts.”

When asked what he thought the critical prerequisites for setting the stage for Copenhagen were, he said (1) adequate progress on the part of the US in moving towards effective policy; (2) a commitment from the developed world more broadly to help with adaptation costs and facilitating access to necessary technology in the developing world and (3) a clear acceptance from global leaders and the US in particular that we need a change in lifestyles. He said he is in active conversation with Indian leadership and hopes and expects that some important commitments will be forthcoming in the next 1-2 years from India, but that it is “unfair and unethical” for the developed world to say we must wait until India and China are on board before they take leadership.

He urged but said he didn’t see evidence of strong global leadership from a critical cadre of 4-5 leaders globally, representing the US, Europe, and key developing economies. This relates to another conversation I had with a US Senator recently in which they thought the quickest way to set the table for Copenhagen is for the US to negotiate an agreement with China.