January 25th, 2010
It is time for the embattled Rajendra Pachauri to resign as Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC). He is steadfastly refusing to go, but his position is becoming more and more untenable by the day, and the official climate science body will continue to leach credibility while he remains in charge.
When on Friday I wrote for my Daily Telegraph column (published yesterday) that he was “at best one more blunder away from having to resign”, I did not expect other errors to come to light quite so fast. But, as I blogged yesterday, four more have now been reported from the part of the latest IPCC report on Himalayan glaciers that contained the notorious – and now withdrawn – claim that they would disappear by 2035. And there are now reports that it erred in relying on an unpublished report in linking natural disasters like flood and hurricanes to global warming. All appear much less serious than the original Himalayan howler, but they add to the impression of sloppiness at the IPCC.
[efoods]Pachauri’s reaction to the original revelation was widely reported to be that he claimed to have “absolutely no responsibility” for the mistake. But – leaving aside the obvious fact that, as Chairman, he is ultimately responsible for the content and standards of the report – he is himself rapidly emerging as much more of an issue than even a few errors in the 3000 word document. Much of his trouble, rightly, stems from his outrageous reaction to an Indian paper late last year which suggested that the glaciers were not vanishing quickly – dismissing it as “voodoo science” and adding, hubristically: “We have a very clear idea of what is happening in the Himalayas.”
He has reacted equally robustly to calls for his resignation, saying he has “no intention” of quitting and adding: “I know a lot of climate sceptics are after my blood, but I’m in no mood to oblige them”. But it is not just the sceptics who are unhappy, and he has long been a controversial figure. Environmentalists were outraged when he became chairman of the IPCC in 2002, ousting the enormously respected Dr Robert Watson (now Defra’s chief scientist), after lobbying by the George W.Bush administration: Exxon had sent the White House a memo asking for Watson to be “replaced at the request of the US” as being “too aggressive” on climate change. Al Gore called him the “let’s drag out feet candidate”.
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