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"...and the reason I became interested in economics was in the first Economics course that I took, I had an excellent teacher who really inspired me and sparked my interest in the field." - Rajendra Pachauri

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Interview with Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning IPCC

October 2009

We are excited to interview Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, the Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). IPCC is the scientific intergovernmental body that provides decision-makers and the public with an objective source of information about climate change. He is also Director General of TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), an independent research organisation providing knowledge on energy, environment, forestry, biotechnology, and the conservation of natural resources. Dr Pachauri is a prominent researcher on environmental subjects, recognised internationally for his 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. He is also serving as Director, Yale Climate and Energy Institute effective July 2009. He is active in several international forums dealing with the subject of climate change and its policy dimensions.

Dr. Pachauri received his bachelors degree from the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (IRIMEE) in Jamalpur, India and was awarded an MS degree in Industrial Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1972, as well as a joint Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Economics in 1974. He was awarded the second-highest civilian award in India, the 'Padma Vibhushan' in January 2008 by the President of India and received the Officier De La Legion D'Honneur from the Government of France in 2006. Dr. Pachauri, we are honored by your kind gesture to interview with our website despite your very busy schedule.

app2us: Please tell us something about your Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL) initiative. Is there a website where interested individuals can make a contribution?
Dr. Pachauri: This is in response to the very unfortunate situation that 1.6 billion people in the world have no access to electricity and 400 million of them live in India. We are naturally very concerned at this state of affairs in the 21st century and we have come up with this technology of solar lanterns that makes it possible for people to get light - clean, healthy adequate light - in their homes without any pollution or emission and at a cost that is entirely affordable. We have a section on the TERI website about Lighting a Billion Lives -

app2us: What are the current initiatives of the TERI University?
Dr. Pachauri: TERI University was started with a Masters in Economics, we are only taking postgraduate students and we do not run any undergraduate programs. For the Master of Economics program, the score of incoming students this year was higher than those who got into JNU or Delhi School of Economics. The whole purpose for this is - for instance in the MBA program - to produce business managers who have ethics, who are concerned about the environment and who have a high level of corporate social responsibility. These are people who while working in businesses will also be conscious of their responsibility to the society.

app2us: After working for Indian Railways, what motivated you to pursue higher education in USA?
Dr. Pachauri: I always wanted to study further and after I worked for about 6 years at the Diesel Locomotive Works at Varanasi, I felt it was time for me to study further and I came to US and I started with Industrial Engineering and gradually moved to Economics, as I felt that is where my interest is. That is how I ended up in the US.

app2us: Did you find that the academic system at US universities makes it easier for students to pursue their real interests and accommodates their evolving interests?
Dr. Pachauri: Absolutely, that is the strength of the US higher education system - you cannot change your field in India, most academic institutions will not give you that option. That to my mind is the greatest strength of the higher education system in the US.

app2us: How was your experience as a student at North Carolina State University?
Dr. Pachauri: I found it extremely stimulating and the reason I became interested in economics was in the first Economics course that I took, I had an excellent teacher who really inspired me and sparked my interest in the field. Overall I found my experience very rewarding and satisfying and I worked very hard, I worked round the clock.

app2us: What was the area of your PhD thesis?
Dr. Pachauri: As you know, today I am working in the field of climate change where you certainly need multi disciplinary approach. For my PhD I worked on the model of a region where I was able to essentially capture a whole range of economic activities by which the demand for energy can be forecasted and predicted, then came up with supply options by which that demand can be met. So I worked on energy issues to begin with, then moved into the environmental impacts of the whole energy cycle. The more I studied that I realized and learnt about the climate change dimensions of energy decisions, and that is how I have been working on climate change for over 20 years now. I was deeply concerned at what I learnt and what I studied and felt that this is an area where humanity has to focus on a large scale.

app2us: What motivated you to return to India at a time when not many people considered that as an option?
Dr. Pachauri: Well, I always wanted to return to India because I am an Indian, and I felt that whatever I have learnt I need to try and give back to my own country and to my own society. I also felt that is a place where you can make a difference and you can get some sense of satisfaction.

app2us: That is very inspirational indeed. Our next question is about your blog. Blogging is a new media and a vast number of bloggers are relatively young. It is interesting that despite your busy schedule you have launched a blog at How did you get interested in blogging?
Dr. Pachauri: I just felt this is a useful medium for spreading the message and stimulating debate on the issues that really matter. To be quite honest I am not happy with my lack of frequency in putting new pieces on my blog but I try to do that as often as I can and I should be doing much more.

app2us: Post Nobel Prize, do you feel the opinion of IPCC has wider acceptance by policymakers and governments worldwide?
Dr. Pachauri: I think they certainly take the IPCC more seriously now then before the Nobel peace prize and I think one gets a lot more attention now than what one would have got earlier on. From that point of view, yes, the Nobel peace prize has certainly increased the effectiveness of the IPCC and what I myself have been able to do personally. So overall that has been very positive.

app2us: Your comments on US not being a part of Kyoto Protocol?
Dr. Pachauri: It is very unfortunate that the US is not part of the Kyoto Protocol and they rejected it. I think the only answer is to inform the public because US is a society which certainly respects knowledge and there are vested interests who would like to deny that knowledge but I think if we inform the public - which I have been trying to do as the chairman of IPCC - then, given the fact that the US is a democracy, there will be some action, there will be some initiatives taken. I believe the answer lies in spreading information and knowledge.

app2us: Out of your 350 plus wickets in corporate level cricket, is there a particular wicket(s) you cherish a lot?
Dr. Pachauri: I was coached by one of India's best all rounders - Dattu Phadkar - he was truly inspirational and he kept encouraging me. In fact he said if you stick to Cricket, you will be playing for India one of these days, but of course I could not do that. I now have 418 wickets! Last week I played a match in the Dattu Phadkar memorial cricket tournament and I got 5 wickets in that last match. I still keep that up if I can.

app2us: What is your message to students who aspire to study at US Universities?
Dr. Pachauri: I think they should always focus on the larger global problems that we are facing. We should not be carried away by the false satisfaction of consuming more and more and getting access to more and more goods and services. I think we have much larger stake in the future of the planet and of the human race and we should keep our attention focused on that all the time.

app2us: Thank you very much Dr. Pachauri, have a nice day. We are very thankful for this opportunity.

On behalf of our team and our users, we express our gratitude to Dr. Pachauri for talking to us. We also thank Mr. Remigius Fernandes and Mr. Rajiv Chhibber of TERI and Mr. William Walker of Yale University for help in the interview process.

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