Theater of Cruelty

The chief prince

The 6. In October, the UN International Climate Panel elected a new leader.


The 6. In October, the UN International Climate Panel elected a new leader. Two weeks before the vote, one of the most prominent candidates, Belgian Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, published the book about his life as a climate scientist. Too late, since van Ypersele lost the election as the new head of the IPCC – but good, because the book provides an easy-to-understand and educational insight into what for most of us is an unmanageable and incomprehensible area: the UN's climate negotiations.

The prelude to the election. It was an icy, dark December evening during what could be called the Mecca of the environmental world: UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009. Rarely has so many have been in one for so long so long and freezing queue – just to get it small Badger which opened the doors to the Bella Center, where world leaders should agree on a new global agreement to stop climate change. IN Twelve For hours they stood there in a beautiful union: the bosses of the largest multinational companies together with representatives from the rainforest, environmental freakers and technology entrepreneurs. Had our Lord turned the temperature down to ten degrees, harmony and mutual understanding would have made its appearance immediately. But that didn't happen in those days, even though Christmas was just around the corner. Instead, it only got colder and colder before it was finally obvious that this ambitious gathering of heads of state would not come to any legally binding climate agreement within the Copenhagen negotiations was over.

Pray firmly. In front of a fashionable hotel, a small, beautiful and well-dressed inside stepped into an orange Tesla Roadster that brought him to tonight's first lecture: Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the UN Climate Panel (IPCC), was not only out in severe weather as a result of the failed mid-winter meeting in the Danish capital; two weeks earlier, all the world's Rupert-Murdoch newspapers had revealed that the IPCC leader and all of his 3000 climate scientists had blindly "bought" WWF's claim that the glacier in the Himalayas would disappear within 2035, and perhaps before.
For two years, the phrase had been black and white in the draft report the whole world was waiting for – and which had given Pachauri's disciples the Nobel Peace Prize just as many years earlier. Following the Copenhagen fiasco and newspaper revelations, the UN summit should have taken its hat off – but the Bollywood charm stuck to the melting ice edge: Surrounded by two of its most beautiful speechwriters – selected from the 1200 staff of the New Delhi-based Teri – Institute for "Innovative Solutions for a Sustainable Future" – he threw his black cap over his shoulder and got ready for another lucrative lecture.
While Pachauri's British colleague Nicholas Stern had to borrow a stool to reach the podium, where he pulled his vocals out in hesitant long gestures, Pachauri was free of contention when it was his turn on the pulpit. At high pace and with academic weight, he delivered the goods in a language that left no doubt about Pachauri's ethnic background. And the crowd applauded – before the elegant climate leader rushed on to the next event.
But – everyone in attendance realized that this could not last. Therefore, the charges against Pachauri for sexual harassment did not come as much of a surprise, either. Not that the IPCC summit is in any way the man who seems to want to scratch his colleagues, something he certainly rightly also denies. The point is that Pachauri has not harassed Eve, though apple. After 13 years of being in the driver's seat, the UN Climate Panel desperately needs a change in style, content and leadership.

Candidates. Three western, gray-haired men, all with very little fashionable glasses, have been ready to take over: Standford professor Chris Field with over 200 publications on his hard drive; Swiss IPCC Vice President Thomas Stocker, the originator of the study of temperature evolution in years 1000 – 2000 (which showed a hockey stick-like curve with the "crack" right after the start of the industrial revolution); and last, but not least, "our man," Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Belgian professor at the University of Leuven, and, like Stocker, IPCC vice president. At the IPCC board meeting in Dubrovnik 6. In October, a majority of the world's climate scientists voted for the Belgian astrophysicist to take over the helm after Pachauri.
The problem with the three candidates was that they all came from one of the western industrialized countries, those who have already filled the atmosphere with CO2 emissions to reach their high standard of living. All are from the list of countries in Annex I of the Kyoto Agreement, that is, the countries that have committed to cut emissions to 2020. These are only 43 of the IPCC panel's 193 member countries. So when South Korean Hoesung Lee promoted his candidacy at the last minute, he received immediate support from developing country members. Curiously enough, Lee is not a climate scientist, but an economist. A position he held for the Korean industry, besides the oil company Exxon early in his career. Even more curious, and symbol of the long-awaited reform of the UN system, is that of South Korea, which is the world's 13. largest economy and member of G20, in the UN context is a developing country. Therefore, Hoesung Lee was also elected with 40 percent more votes than the deputy, van Ypersele.

Distinguished origin. In the book Une vie au coeur des turbulences climatique – "A life in the heart of climate turbulence" – gives Van Ypersele's readers a unique insight into the history of the IPCC's research mastermind and its inner comforts. For those of us who grew up with the fact that the UN was actually invented by the first UN Secretary General Trygve Lie, before Gro Harlem Brundtland and the World Commission on Environment and Development took over the show in 1987 with the report on "Our Common Future", is this fascinating read.
Brundtland is, of course, one of van Ypersele's heroes – something his many tweets about our former prime minister attest to. But history's wind blows brutally outside Færder, and van Ypersele has no hesitation in appointing Swedish meteorologist and climate scientist Bert Bolin as the climate panel's father, and to give little Malta – best known here at home to its numerous Russian bank boxes – the honor of establishing the UN Climate Panel became a reality.
How could he think that the IPCC countries would replace the flamboyant Rajendra Pachauri with the lonely Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, just as bubbly as the recently resigned EU President Herman Van Rompuy? Well – a small v is not the same as a big V. In Belgium, the big V in "Van Rumpuy" testifies to old Flanders – hardworking and humble, traditional and down to earth. The little v in the "van Ypersele", on the other hand, bears witness to centuries of noble ancestry, often with a past in the Belgian Congo or in the royal court itself. For van Ypersele, or "van-Yp," as he is known in the research coin, the latter is the case: The uncle was the head of the cabinet of Belgium's most popular monarch King Baudouin, while his mother managed the royal house's art collection. In this environment, van-Yp wore his childhood shoes. Therefore he becomes neither starstruck or clasping his hands when greeting kings, queens, presidents, and prime ministers. Pachauris Hermés tie has been replaced with a sober, red wine colored polyester – with the UN logo.

Life and learning. Jean-Pascal van-Yp sees the community from the top down. Here it must be quickly added that the big Y in his name can stand for a large portion of humility. The combination is certainly not to be rejected if one is to manage and communicate the world's most important knowledge.
"The IPCC is the messenger of knowledge, it has no vision," he thunders. And it is precisely Van-Yp's communication skills that set him apart from the other candidates – not just because he has his 5000 climate-nerd followers on Twitter. In the book he explains how he wants to reform the IPCC, in particular the way the panel communicates with the outside world and organizes the written material. He also wants to change the practice of rich countries paying the guild, and advocates that they instead follow the UN's normal burden-sharing key. Above all, van-Yp lives the change he himself advocates: He always takes the tram or train, whether it be to summits around Europe or the local schools sweat-toe-smelling gymnasiums to tell students and parents what our fossil-fueled society is about to do with our globe. And the message is conveyed in a way everyone understands – equally well in English, French, and Flemish.

Great book. I Une vie au coeur des turbulences climatique, which was intended as Van-Yp's election campaign book, he gives the reader information that our own climate negotiation specialists will throw themselves over, such as the assessment of the Copenhagen summit, which gives an opinion we had no idea existed. He writes about the EU's role and influence when "everyone" saw the other way, and about China's turning point. And he talks about how this little phrase in 1995, according to himself, changed everything:
"A number of factors show that humans have a visible influence on the global climate."
We may say banal, complicated and inaccurate today. But Van-Yp's book tells us how words and simple grammar count: The use of a present rather than a preteritum caused an avalanche of loud criticism from colleagues around the world during the Madrid talks in 1995. Not to mention the active role of the oil companies already when the first report came out that year. Qatar and Saudi Arabia's consistent blocking of the smallest word of distant allusion to the catastrophic consequences of oil use is not new to anyone, but always equally embarrassing.
The dialogue form, van-yp's easy to understand language and the book's scarce 125 pages do Une vie au coeur des turbulences climatique to excellent reading for anyone interested in the climate negotiations in Paris which will increase at the end of November this year. Even as he explains how we can "accelerate the transition", van-Yp provides the best demonstration of how the complex can be made simple, whether it is to exploit the world's potential for bioenergy or carbon capture and storage, which the climate scientist in no way ignores.
The book's preface, written by Humanfilmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand, leaves little doubt that the world would have needed van-Yp. Petroleum-sponsored lectures would become a saga only under van Ypersele's IPCC leadership, and he would neither deal with teaching nor consulting firms on say. There will be climate for all money.

Frisvold is a writer, living in Brussels.

Paal Frisvold
Paal Frisvold
Writer for MODERN TIMES on Europe issues.

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