09/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

IPCC Chair Says 350ppm Is the Number

Yesterday, on August 25, 2009, the UN's top climate scientist has, for the first time, backed ambitious goals for slashing greenhouse gas emissions that many climate negotiators say are beyond reach.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, said clearly and unequivocally that 350 is the number. This is the same "not to exceed" that James Hansen announced publicly 2 years ago at the AGU conference in San Francisco. It is refreshing that Hansen is no longer alone at the top in calling for this number. Pachauri's concurrence with the goal 350ppm gives even more credibility and makes it "safe" for the more progressive organizations such as 1Sky to be endorsing it (I just checked and the 350ppm goal is still no where to be found on the 1Sky website).

Here's a few lines from Pachauri's interview with Agence France Presse:

"As chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) I cannot take a position because we do not make recommendations," said Rajendra Pachauri when asked if he supported calls to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below 350 parts per million (ppm).

"But as a human being I am fully supportive of that goal. What is happening, and what is likely to happen, convinces me that the world must be really ambitious and very determined at moving toward a 350 target," he told Agence France Presse in an interview.

Pachauri, who has an oil and gas background (he was on the Board of Directors of the Indian Oil Corporation (January 1999 to September 2003), was the guy handpicked by Bush to replace the "alarmist" Bob Watson.

We have the technology to meet the goal. What we lack is the political will and we need that in spades to aggressively pursue all of the clean power technologies we have for efficiency and new power. It must be done worldwide and we need to get into high gear now. We are installing clean power right now at a rate about 100 times slower than we need to.

We should be treating this like a war, but we clearly are not. For example, NRDC's Ralph Cavanagh points out that the energy R&D budget at DOE is still exactly the same as under the Bush administration ($3B/year). Yikes!

Chu wants to triple that. Where is the sense of urgency here? Can anyone find it?