5. Rajendra Pachauri
for ending the debate over whether climate change matters.
Chairman, intergovernmental panel on climate change | India
As the link between human activity and climate change becomes conventional wisdom and governments work urgently to establish a global climate treaty, Pachauri deserves no small amount of credit for creating such an extraordinary shift in public opinion. Pachauri, an engineering and economics Ph.D., has since 2002 chaired the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007.
Since then, Pachauri has raised the specter of large-scale population displacement and the existential threat that global warming poses to low-lying island nations, while arguing that large, industrializing countries such as China and India will not act on the issue before the Western world curbs its own greenhouse gas emissions. He has also backed the adoption of extremely ambitious emissions cuts, recently recommending that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations be kept below 350 parts per million. Any progress toward thwarting climate change this year owes a great deal to Pachauri.
Most wants to visit: The Maldives
Best idea of 2009: Vegetarianism as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Worst idea of 2009: Bailout with large payments to those who have caused today's economic crisis.
Illustration by Joseph Cardiello for FP