Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), has urged the Swiss to take a strong role in the fight against climate change.
Pachauri was speaking at a meeting in Switzerland on Tuesday. The Geneva-based IPCC and former United States Vice President Al Gore were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on the environment last week.
"Even though Switzerland is a small country, you have the technological resources, you have the financial resources and the human resources to contribute a lot to this issue," said Pachauri.
The Indian expert had been invited to the Swiss capital, Bern, by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to discuss the impact of climate change on development assistance.
The IPCC's most recent report projected that in Africa between 75 and 250 million people would be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change by the year 2020.
Agricultural production in many African countries and regions would be "severely compromised by climate variability and change", according to the study.
At a media conference, Pachauri pointed to clear evidence of the pace of global warming. "11 of the warmest years since instrumental records have been kept occurred during the last 12 years, and therefore climate change is accelerating," he said.
But he said he was optimistic that industrialised countries would meet their obligations in cutting greenhouse gases.
"The good news is that the cost of reducing emissions is really not high at all. It amounts to three per cent of gross domestic product in the year 2030. We just need to break the inertia of present thinking," he told swissinfo.
He explained that the cost of inaction, even in the short term, would be greater than the cost of action.
"If you look at the expenditure on relief and rehabilitation after natural disasters, it is much cheaper and far more enlightened to prevent some of these problems in the first place," said Pachauri.
Asked by swissinfo whether climate change posed a more serious threat to world security than international terrorism, Pachauri was reluctant to generalise.
"I don't know whether one can really make a direct comparison. All I will say is that yes climate change has the potential to become a major threat to peace and you can see some signs of instability in certain parts of the world already."
Pachauri also spoke of the problem of food security in the developing world, where a number of crops – on which huge populations are dependent - are likely to drop in yield and productivity.
As for the developed world, Pachauri said individual choices about transport, heating and consumption were extremely important.
"One of the things we have highlighted is the importance of lifestyle changes, changes in behavioural patterns, changes in consumption patterns," he said.
"Every society will have to carry out a detailed analysis on the kinds of lifestyle changes they will have to bring about. That is an absolutely critical part of mitigation measures."
But he dismissed the notion that a so-called "green dictator" would be necessary to force people to make sacrifices.
"We need a public that consists of green dictators. I think if the public is willing to move in a particular direction in a democracy you will see change take place much better than you would in a dictatorship."
Pachauri concluded his speech with the words of one of his favourite historical leaders, Mahatma Ghandi: "Be the change you want to see in the world".
swissinfo, Clare O'Dea
Rajendra K. Pachauri
Pachauri was elected Chairman of the IPCC in 2002.
He has been the head of India's The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) since its establishment in New Delhi 25 years ago.
Pachauri was born in Nainital, India in 1940. He has doctorates in industrial engineering and economics and has taught at various universities in India and the US.
A prolific writer, Pachauri has authored 23 books and contributed to many papers and articles. He has also written and published a book of English verse.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988.
The role of the IPCC is to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change.
It also examines the potential impacts of climate change and options for adaptation and mitigation.
The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Price with former US Vice-President Al Gore for their efforts to build up and disseminate knowledge about man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for fighting it.