In the words of Rajendra Pachauri, his organization’s “main customer” isn’t governments around the world struggling to understand the complicated issue of climate change so they can make wise decisions. No, numerous scientists toil away writing reports that run to thousands of pages for another reason altogether.
According to Pachauri, the IPCC exists primarily to support a United Nations initiative:
The UNFCCC is our main customer, if I could label them as such, and our interaction with them enriches the relevance of our work and ensures that the audience that we are trying to address is receptive to our outputs.
UNFCCC stands for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This international treaty was adopted back in 1992 at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro.
What happened there was that the cart was put before the horse. The UN didn’t wait around for climate science to mature. Rather, 19 years ago movers and shakers at the UN had already accused, tried, and convicted greenhouse gases of being dangerous. With the help of environmental activists, it then ‘sold’ this idea to governments around the world.
As early as 1992, no fewer than 154 nations were prepared to endorse this premature conclusion by becoming signatories to the UNFCCC (the total number of countries has since risen to 194). That document declared that something needed to be done about human-generated greenhouse gases – even though the science was still in its infancy and the IPCC had as yet produced only one of its four assessments (released in 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2007).
Since Rio, the UNFCCC has held a series of meetings in often exotic locales aimed at coming up with an effective emissions reduction plan. The Kyoto Protocol, which expires next year – and which many people consider an abject failure – is an example of the fruit of its labours.