Scientist who shares honour: 'I feel very privileged'

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At his office in Delhi, Rajendra Pachauri was at the centre of a maelstrom of ringing telephones, shouting assistants and people wanting to congratulate him. One of the first to call with felicitations was his fellow prize winner, Al Gore, with whom he is to share the Nobel honour.

"I feel very good and I feel very privileged," said Dr Pachauri, the chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). "This is recognition for all the scientists who have contributed to the work of the IPCC and the countries who have helped with the work."

Dr Pachauri has headed the IPCC since 2002. He said that when he telephoned, Mr Gore – "a wonderful human being" – had told him the two of them must work together.

Addressing the IPCC's 20th session, in February 2003, Dr Pachauri reminded the scientists of his heritage as an Indian. "I come from an ancient society in which nature was seen as central to human existence and the primacy of nature in defining human activity was fully accepted," he said. "We need to assess with greater rigour the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, on biodiversity, on wildlife, on water and soil, because all of these would soon impact on human existence as well. It is against the background of comprehensive impacts of climate change only that we would be able to evaluate the options that we, as a global society, must pursue for mitigation actions."

In his work, Dr Pachauri, who has a background in engineering and economics and who now heads the Delhi-based Energy and Resources Institute, does not operate in the abstract. In 2001 he supported a consumer boycott of the US oil giant ExxonMobil because of its position on global warming.

And yesterday he appeared to again stand at odds with the Bush administration, which has rejected the Kyoto protocol partly because it does not require the same emissions reductions from developing countries as it does the West. "What you need to remember is that in India and to a lesser extent China, there are huge numbers of people who use almost no energy at all – the poorest of the poor who live in darkness once the sun goes down," he said. "For this reason, and because historically the developed countries have been responsible for almost all the CO2 emissions, [there is not the same requirement on developing countries]."