On the evening after the IAC’s critical report on the processes and procedures used by the IPCC was published, Roger Harrabin of the BBC made no secret of the precarious position that the organisation’s chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, is now in. Describing him as ‘putting a brave face on it’ the BBC’s Environment Analyst introduced this outburst from the IPCC chairman:
Honest scientific discourse wilts under gross distortions and ideologically driven posturing. Sadly, such tactics have been a prominent feature of climate science for many years and they show no sign of letting up. My hope is that the accumulation of so many investigations into climate science will strengthen public trust so that we can move forward.
BBC Six o’Clock News, Radio 4, 30th August 2010
There is an extraordinary, and ironic, ambiguity in the first two sentences. Pachauri is, no doubt, talking about the IPCC’s critics, but surely precisely the same accusations could apply to that organisation under his leadership. Be that as it may, Harrabin’s verdict on Pachauri’s future prospects was that, ‘the full climate panel meet in a few weeks time in Korea. It will be a major surprise if Professor Pachauri is still running it after that.’ Harrabin usually seems to be well informed about what the warmist movement is thinking, so he may well be right in anticipating an attempt to oust Pachauri.
The chairman of the IPCC is elected by the governments that are signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and at present there are nearly 200 of them. In order to get rid of Dr Pachauri – if he chooses not to go quietly – would presumably require that process to be reversed in the form of a motion of no confidence. There would seem to be some indications that Pachauri will not go quietly, and that the meeting in October will be a very lively affair indeed.
The BBC website carried a report on 25th January 2010, when the Himalayagate scandal had just broken, which was headlined, ‘I will not go, says climate chief’. This included a brief, but very interesting, video interview with Dr Pachauri. Here is part of what he had to say, apparently in response to being asked whether he intended to resign:
My reaction is that I am not going to stand down, I’m going to stand up! I was elected – re-elected by acclamation – essentially, I imagine, because everybody was satisfied with my performance on the fourth assessment report. I am now charged with the responsibility of producing the fifth assessment report, which I will do faithfully to the best of my abilities and to meet the confidence that has been reposed in me. I want to tell the sceptics, I want to tell the western [or vested] interests, who see me as the face and the voice of the science of climate change, that I am in no mood to oblige them. I am gong to remain chairman of the IPCC for my entire term. [my emphasis]
I have quoted from this interview before, and at that time there was some discussion in comments as to whether the word in bold was ‘western’ or ‘vested’, as the recording was indistinct. While writing this post I made a new recoding which is much amplified and clearer. I am now in no doubt that the word was ‘western’ and what follows would seem to confirm this.
Perhaps the most damaging fallout from the fiasco that was the Copenhagen Summit is the deep divide, and very real hostility, that opened up between the developed and developing world over climate change mitigation. The majority of delegates were eager to hold the industrialised nations responsible for polluting the atmosphere with Co2 , a crime that they considered was now inflicting misery in the form of droughts, floods, famine and rising sea levels. So far as they were concerned, they were now victims of climate change phenomena that they cannot be held responsible for causing. From their standpoint it was reasonable to expect that the developed nations would not only mend their ways, and drastically reduce emissions regardless of the consequences for their economies, but would also finance mitigation of further climate change and also adaptation to the consequences of anthropogenic global warming that is perceived to have already taken place. Financially, they were talking in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars. Words such as ‘reparations’ and ‘compensation’ were being used in the run-up to the conference, with feelings running very high. The developing nations also wanted a carbon reduction regime to be agreed that would, in theory at least, limit future temperature increase to 1.5 oC or even 1 oC, while the developed world was not prepared to contemplate anything less than 2 oC.
The crusade against climate change, whether it is based on sound science or not, should surely be a unifying factor in global politics; everyone must be united against this common threat, or these were the expectations before Copenhagen. The real tragedy of that very strange summit was not the deadlock that prevented a global emissions control agreement being reached, but the emergence of new reasons for hostility and bitterness in relations between the rich and the poor nations.
The developing nations saw the outcome of Copenhagen as an attempt on the part of wealthy nations to avoid responsibility for the harm that they were perceived to have inflicted on their less fortunate neighbours. There were also suspicions, probably well justified, that an attempt was being made to stifle industrialisation in the developing world by limiting the use of fossil fuels as they attempt to expand their economies, while the industrialised nations were only prepared to commit to cosmetic measures that would have little or no impact on Co2 levels.
All this gives Rajendra Pachauri ‘s reference to ‘western interests’ a very interesting significance. It seemed possible, even then, that he was positioning himself as the champion of the developing world in advance of any attempt by the developed world to get rid of him. As the poorer nations are numerically the majority of the parties to the UNFCCC, that would seem to be a pretty shrewd move if his future is to depend on a vote.
Nearly nine months after Dr Pachauri shared his defiant message to ‘western interests’ with the BBC, the IAC has published a report that is highly critical of the way in which the IPCC has performed under his leadership. They make a quite specific recommendation that, in future, senior officers should only serve one term. Dr Pachauri is already well into his second term. If his position was precarious in January, with journalists asking him if he was considering resignation, his situation is far worse now.
So will the IPCC chairman do the right thing for the organisation he has led and go quietly? This would allow a successor can be found who will implement the recommendations in the IAC report and begin to rebuild the shattered reputation of an organisation which governments worldwide rely on when formulating climate policy.
Here is what he had to say in a an interview with The Times of India shortly after the IAC report was published. It is headed I am happy that the truth has come out:
TOI: What are the new elements in the next climate assessment report (due in 2014)?
RP: Some of things that are certainly going to be included this time are issues of equity. It’s yet to be accepted by the panel, so I can’t really say definitely. At the meeting, we dwelt at length on Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which says the central objective of the convention is to prevent the anthropogenic interference with the climate system which is in terms of ecosystem, ensuring food security and ensuring that development can take place. These are three central pillars. This is something that science can’t answer. Because what is perceived as dangerous, depends on value judgements. But science can provide as much information as possible by which the negotiators and decision-makers can decide what is dangerous and we are trying very hard to get this together.
TOI: Aren’t you treading on more dangerous territory with this, because this is the most contentious bit of the negotiations – the North South divide?
RP: It is but I also believe this is something the IPCC must do. And I must say I owe it to what has happened over the past few months that I have certainly shed any inhibitions or feelings of cowardice. I believe this is now my opportunity to go out and do what I think is right. In the second term I may be little more uncomfortable for the people than I was in the first. Maybe they realize it.
TOI: So the issue of equity is central to the next report?
RP: Certainly, but not only equity, we have also used the word ‘ethics’. There are certain ethical dimensions, even of the scientific assessment of climate change which we are going to try and assess.
[My emphasis] Times of India
The perils for the IPCC are multiplying, and the shock waves, if there is conflict within its ranks, are likely to be felt far and wide. If there are divisions over Dr Pachauri’s continued tenure as head of the IPCC, they are likely to be along the already deep and dangerous fault lines that exist between the industrialised nations and the developing world. The IPCC meeting next month at Busan, South Korea will be quickly followed by the summit at Cancún, Mexico, at the beginning of December. There is a very real possibility that rifts over climate policy that became evident at Copenhagen, and are likely to re-emerge at Busan if Pachauri does not resign, will poison the gathering at Cancún too. This would add a new and dangerous dimension to the already fractious tensions between developing and developed nations for years to come.