The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards in 2014 was more than just a celebration of Indian film - it was an opportunity to bring India and the United States closer together on a variety of issues. One of those issues was climate change.
At the 24 April 2014 IIFA press conference, Wizcraft Founder and Executive Director Sabbas Joseph explained:
"In 2007, IIFA looked at what it was doing with its great audience. At that time we had an audience of about 500-600 million people watching it, making it one of the most watched events on an annual basis. We believed that that platform needed to be used to talk to the world about what matters to the world, what is larger than life, issues that concern the world. And the first issue that we chose to embrace and empower and take to India was climate change. And in that journey, we partnered with The Energy Resources Institute and Dr. R.K. Pachauri."
Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri was also serving as Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a position he had held since 2002. The IPCC is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.
In 2007, the IPCC released the Fourth Assessment Report which focused on the integration of climate change with sustainable development policies and relationships between mitigation and adaptation. That same year, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Vice President Al Gore "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".
At that time it was believed that the scientific evidence for climate change along with the international recognition of the work of both the IPCC and Al Gore would help policymakers take the necessary steps to address global warming. The atmosphere was hopeful and in July of 2008, MERI News reported:
The cost of addressing the changes in the global climate affecting the world are not too great and could be easily managed by the world, according to Dr. R.K. Pachauri, head of United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global warming has resulted in an average temperature increase of 0.74 degrees Celsius in the last century and the sea level has climbed 17 centimetres, Dr Pachauri told reporters in New York. "But the good news is that the cost of taking action is really not all that high," Dr. Pachauri said.
In June 2008, IIFA awarded Dr. Pachauri with the "Global Business Leadership Award" at the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum in Bangkok. The ceremony was addressed by the Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, the "Star of the Millennium" who introduced the audience to Dr. Pachauri and his work. Later on that year, Bollywood director Shekhar Kapur, Dr. Pachauri and Amitabh Bachchan would announce the Live Earth India concert to create awareness about global warming.
[Side Note: At IIFA 2014, Hollywood actor John Travolta announced that he had been approached to take on a role in Shekhar Kapur's highly anticipated film "Paani". Also, according to a 4 February 2012 Hindustan Times article, actor Abhishek Bachchan (son of Amitabh Bachchan) has expressed interest in making a film on climate change.]
Over the intervening years, the necessary steps to mitigate climate change worldwide were not put in place. Despite the scientific findings and numerous intergovernmental meetings to develop policies to respond to the threats and impacts of climate change, policymakers dragged their feet. This was particularly an issue in the United States, especially in Congress where some legislators failed to acknowledge the significance - even the reality - of the climate change issue.
In 2014, the IPCC released the Fifth Assessment Report which updated the science and focused further on climate change impacts, adaptation, vulnerability and mitigation. After 7 years, Dr. Pachauri returned to IIFA and delivered a keynote address at the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum 2014: "Indo-U.S. Partnership: A Catalyst for Economic Growth".
But it was Pachauri's short speech at the IIFA 2014 opening press conference that succinctly adds perspective to the challenges and opportunities ahead:
"We are all residents of spaceship Earth and anything we do, anything that happens on that spaceship, has implications for everybody else. I was talking to the Governor [Rick Scott] earlier on and telling him that Florida is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. ... In the last century, the average sea level has gone up by 19 centimeters. It's almost a foot. And if we don't do anything about this problem then by the end of the century it'll go up as high as 98 centimeters.
"And therefore, I would like to urge all the stars who are here to see that they associate themselves with the larger problems that humanity and all living species are going to face. We are confronted with climate change where clearly, if we don't act, we would have some serious impacts ranging from impacts on agriculture to health and everything else including water resources. And yet, it's within our means to be able to take action by which we can deal with this major challenge.
"So I would only like to appeal to all those who are present here - all the stars, all the icons - whose every word, whose every action is looked at with enormous interest worldwide and will be more so after IIFA in Tampa Bay, please keep this in mind and please become ambassadors for what we need to do to protect planet Earth."
Watch the full video Dr. R.K. Pachauri's comments at the press conference, with an introduction by Sabbas Joseph, beginning at 31:40, below:
View Dr. Pachauri's FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum Presentation (April 24, 2014) slideshow:
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