Into the Dustbin: Rajendra Pachauri, the Climate Report & the Nobel Peace Prize

  • Date: 10/09/13
  • Judith Curry, Climate Etc.

The IPCC has clearly been playing egregious politics with climate science, as Donna Laframboise extensively documents.  There is no escaping that the IPCC has severely tarnished its ‘brand’, since the heady days in 2007.

Two years ago, Donna Laframboise published a book entitled The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, which was discussed on this Climate Etc. post.  Donna has a new book on the IPCC entitled Into the Dustbin: Rajendra Pachauri, the Climate Report & the Nobel Peace Prize.  Her new book is an anthology of her blog posts at No Frakking Consensus.  With the release of the AR5 Working Group I Report anticipated in a few weeks, the release of the book is very timely as the world reacts to the IPCC AR5.

Here I provide excerpts from two chapters: 69, which provides a summary of Pachauri’s performance as Chairman of the IPCC, and 31, which introduces us to Thomas Stocker, co-chair of AR5 WG 1.  Note, I do not use italics for these excerpts so as not to confuse actual quotations from individuals.  Also, the hyperlink for the chapter title links to Donna’s original blog post with all of the original source material.

69 – What Would a Bad Job Look Like?

A few weeks ago, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, delivered a speech in India in which he publicly praised the chairman of the IPCC. “I was just able to meet with my friend, Dr. Pachauri, Nobel Laureate,”  he said, “and we thank him for his extraordinary work.” Let us leave aside the fact that Pachauri is not a Nobel laureate. The larger issue is that, according to the US government, Pachauri has done a great job. An extraordinary job, even. So let us review some salient facts.

1. The 2007 IPCC report mistakenly said that Himalayan glaciers were in danger of disappearing by 2035. When various parties tried to tell the IPCC this was ludicrous, Pachauri called those people names and disparaged their intelligence. He said they were practicing “voodoo science” and “schoolboy science.” Eventually, however, the IPCC admitted its glacier claim was wrong.

2. Pachauri has publicly ‘joked’ that his critics (aka climate skeptics) should be given a one-way ticket to outer space. He has alleged that they are part of a “carefully orchestrated” campaign, and that they believe “asbestos is as good as talcum powder – and I hope they put it on their faces every day.” Are these remarks worthy of the leader of a prominent international body?

3. Pachauri says it’s “gratifying that [an] independent review found our work solid and robust.” But the 2010 report to which he refers actually identified “significant shortcomings in each major step of [the] IPCC’s assessment process.” It said “significant improvements” were necessary – and criticized the IPCC for claiming to have “high confidence” in many statements for which there is actually “little evidence.” The authors of the independent review did not use the ‘robust.’ Neither did they use the word ‘solid.’

4. The independent review said an IPCC chairman should serve no more than one term, since a 12-year appointment, was “too long for a field as dynamic and contested as climate change.” Pachauri, who was then two years into his second term, refused to take the hint. Rather than helping the scandal-ridden IPCC press the reset button, he clung to his post.

5. The Sunday London Times, the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph, theSunday Telegraph, and the New Scientist have all called on Pachauri to step down.

7. The independent review said the IPCC was too insular and could benefit from “a greater variety of perspectives.” It recommended the establishment of a new, Executive Committee that would include “three independent members,” particularly individuals “from outside of the climate community.” Pachauri’s IPCC has, indeed, established such a committee, but it includes no outsiders. Instead, IPCC employees fill those three slots.

8. Nine weeks prior to the release of the independent review’s findings, the Pachauri-led IPCC announced the names of the experts it had selected to work on its upcoming climate assessment. The review recommended the adoption of “a rigorous conflict of interest policy” with respect to these people. Pachauri toldThe Economist “it wouldn’t be fair” to impose a conflict-of-interest policy “retrospectively.” In other words, there’s good reason to suspect that the new report has been written by at least some people whose judgment is questionable.

10. The IPCC is supposed to be a scientific body. But Pachauri fraternizes with green lobbyists. In his capacity as IPCC chairman, he has written forewords for Greenpeace publications – in one case describing the document as “rigorous.” He has declared the annual State of the World reports, published by the sky-is-falling Worldwatch Institute, to be “a remarkable source of intellectual wealth.” He has accepted a “green crusader” award and urged students at TERI University (which he also heads) to be “the torch bearers of the green campaign.” TERI’s most recent sustainability conference was partially financed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). A few days ago, TERI jointly released a report with the Natural Resources Defense Council – which styles itself “the Earth’s best defense.”

11. Pachauri has long insisted that IPCC reports rely – only and solely – on peer-reviewed source material. The independent review observed that, to the contrary, the IPCC’s 2001 climate assessment cited peer-reviewed material only 36% of the time in one section, only 59% in another section, and only 84% in a third.

12. The independent review noted that non-peer-reviewed source material wasn’t being identified as such by the IPCC – and that this was a clear violation of its own policy. It said the IPCC needed to:

strengthen and enforce its procedure for the use of unpublished and non-peer-reviewed literature…ensuring [that such literature] is appropriately flagged in the report.

The exact opposite has since occurred. The Pachauri-led IPCC has abandoned that policy altogether.

13. Pachauri insists that the people who write IPCC reports are the world’s best and brightest, at the very top of their profession. He says they’re selected for their academic publication record as well as their depth of experience. In fact, many IPCC authors have been graduate students still working on their doctorates. Many authors have links to green organizations. Still others are “clearly not qualified” personnel from the developing world (chosen to give the report an international flavour).

15. The IPCC is supposed to be a “policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive” organization. Yet Pachauri aggressively advocates a range of policy responses to climate change – including carbon and airline taxes, emissions reduction, and eating less meat. He has advised the public that it needs to adopt a “new value system” and has berated politicians for not doing enough.

16. When IPCC insiders answered a questionnaire in 2010, their views of Pachauri contrasted sharply with those of John Kerry. Pachauri’s handling of the glacier mistake was described as “inexcusable” – a “major communication blunder” that “damaged the integrity” of the organization. Overall, his leadership was deemed “totally inadequate,” of “very serious and urgent introspection in need.”

17. There is one final reason why Pachauri is a disaster as chairman of the IPCC. He, himself, has acknowledged that the process is rigged. Nevertheless, he continues to pretend otherwise. Let us travel back to 2009. The individuals who would write the upcoming climate report hadn’t yet been selected (that didn’t happen until the following year). Nevertheless, the IPCC chairman knew – all those years in advance – what conclusions these IPCC authors would reach. In September 2009, he told religious leaders in New York:

When the IPCC’s fifth assessment comes out in 2013 or 2014, there will be a major revival of interest in action that has to be taken. People are going to say, ‘My God, we are going to have to take action much faster than we had planned.’

Not only did Pachauri know the nature and direction of the IPCC report’s conclusions, he knew these conclusions would be alarming and dramatic. This is not how a scientific body operates. This is the mark of a political organization, established to serve political ends. If Rajendra Pachauri has done a good job as IPCC chairman, what would a bad job look like?

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