Rajendra Pachauri grew up in the foothills of the Himalayas, spending quiet winters contemplating the snowy mountains that loomed near his home. The beauty, he says, changed him.

"It never leaves you," he said recently, shifting for a moment in a chair in his crowded urban office in New Delhi. "It creates a deep impact on your thinking and your very psyche. When you see the destruction of nature, it bothers you."Pachauri, an engineer, scientist and economist, now finds himself in a unique position to try to save what he loves. As chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the top body of climate change scientists in the world, he is overseeing the creation of a series of reports this year that are rapidly moving global warming -- and man's role in causing it -- into the realm of accepted reality.

The first report, released in February, concluded that rising average temperatures are almost certainly the result of human activity and that hotter weather will persist for centuries no matter how much progress is made in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

The second report, released this month, explored the expected impact of climate change, from massive flooding that could displace millions in low-lying river deltas to changing agricultural patterns, more intense storms and less availability of fresh water in many parts of the world.

A third scientific paper, due next month, will look at the potential to mitigate effects of climate change.

The reports have helped push what had been a slowly simmering concern in many parts of the world to the forefront.

"I'm amazed. I can't believe it," Pachauri said. "I never thought these reports being released would create so much interest."

The reaction has brought a deep satisfaction for the 66-year-old former railway engineer and energy specialist who dates his belief that humans have been warming the Earth back to the late 1980s. In 1988, a particularly hot U.S. summer sparked for the first time U.S. Senate hearings on the possibility that humans were contributing to global warming.

Intrigued, Pachauri used his position as head of the Energy and Resources Institute, a not-for-profit research group in New Delhi, to organize in 1989 the first major climate change conference focused on developing countries. After hearing evidence from the world's top climate change experts, "I was totally convinced," he said.

Early signs were hopeful

For a time, it looked as if worries about global warming might lead to action. India's then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made a major international speech in 1989 calling for a planet protection fund to help address the issue. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, climate change was a big focus. And by 1997, the Kyoto Protocol, a UN framework for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by big-polluting developed countries, was created.

But the U.S. Senate never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and without the participation of the world's biggest polluter, the effort lagged. Economists charged that trying to cut greenhouse gases would slow economies and cost too many jobs. Slowly, the momentum disappeared, and "there's been a sliding back ever since, unfortunately," Pachauri said.

That is now changing, in part because many countries are seeing the early effects of climate change -- and worrying about what's coming up.

According to the UN panel's latest report, India could see crop yields fall by 30 percent by 2050, a potential disaster in a nation of a billion people where many are malnourished. Coastal deltas in India, Bangladesh and other nations could see major flooding as sea levels rise and snowmelt rushes down from the Himalayas. Growing populations and higher standards of living, combined with effects of climate change, mean more than a billion people in Asia will likely be short of fresh water by 2050, the report says.

India's government, however, has done little to plan for the expected problems, beyond a recent pledge to set up an expert advisory panel on climate change. On a scale of 1 to 10, Pachauri gives India's government a 0.5 for its efforts so far.

"As far as adaptation goes, we have done nothing. This is my anguish, that we're not even looking at these issues seriously," Pachauri said.

Burden falls on poor nations

With the right political will and public policy, Pachauri said, he is confident the world can develop technology to deal with the effects of global warming. He points to the German government's decision to offer financial incentives for wind farms, an enticement that has led to larger and more efficient wind turbines.

He thinks the United States could cut its output of greenhouse gases simply by introducing a carbon tax to gradually increase the price of gasoline and other fossil fuels, wean drivers off their SUVs and give Americans incentives to conserve energy or find non-polluting sources of it.