Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was delivering the Jack Beale Memorial Lecture on Global Environment to a packed audience flowing into another hall at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Thursday night.
He reiterated that it was imperative for the world to stabilise concentration of greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 and prudence requires a shift to alternative sources of energy and reduction in emissions.
He urged Australia, which will also suffer from negative effects of climate change, to adopt an advocacy role and become the most articulate spokesperson for mitigation of emissions and adaptation of sustainable lifestyle.
Australia and the US, one of the largest polluters, have yet to sign the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.
Pachauri pointed out that with higher incomes, people are moving to animal protein diet. "We have to change our consumption patterns. For example, the world could eat little less meat."
He, however, ended on a positive note saying that we have science and technology to scale down greenhouse gas emissions and people must work towards applying the concept of sustainable development in real life and real practice.
Pachauri will deliver the Asia Link lecture on "New Knowledge on Climate Change - New Imperatives for Action" in Melbourne Friday.
On Wednesday, Pachauri delivered the 11th K.R. Narayanan Memorial Lecture in Canberra Wednesday on "Coping with Climate Change: Is Development in India and the World Sustainable?"
India and Australia must urgently work towards a closer relationship on development issues to have a greater global effect, he said.
He called upon Australia to "seize this opportunity for reassessing its position and act resolutely on the basis of the scientific evidence and actual observations to chart out a new path of development".
"Given the rapid growth of Indian economy, urgent shifts towards a sustainable path of development are essential. What is good for India would also be good for the world, and it is in realisation of this fact that India has to emerge as a model that other nations would like to emulate.
"By establishing a benchmark India would also gain economic advantage, since the processes, technologies and products that it develops for attaining a sustainable path of development would provide a competitive advantage that would open markets globally for Indian suppliers who would access opportunities overseas," he added.
Pachauri said it was also essential to address "the equity aspects of this threatening problem.
"The largest responsibility for increase in concentration of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere lies with the developed countries, but the worst impacts and the highest vulnerability apply to several developing countries."
Projected sea level rises will make the Asian mega-deltas, including populated cities of Dhaka, Kolkata and Shanghai, most vulnerable to coastal flooding and other serious consequences, affecting a large number of people and property, he said.
Pointing out that the international community had provided hardly any resources for adaptation measures in the most vulnerable countries, he said: "A country like India, therefore, has not only to raise its voice on the inequitable nature of actions and responses to climate change between the developed and developing countries, but also ensure that in its own path of development it pursues the objectives of sustainability."
He drew attention to how vulnerable India was to the impacts of climate change and its economic implications. Frequent floods and droughts would have serious impact on food security. Melting of the Himalayan glaciers could reduce the flow of rivers in northern India, adversely affecting irrigation and recharge of groundwater in the region.