Skip to content


In 2005 the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, flew to a Washington conference. He spent ninety minutes getting through the airport formalities. A chauffeur-driven car had been waiting outside, with the engine and air-conditioner running so that Pachauri would have a cool car to step into. Pachauri was indignant. “My God! Why did you do that?” he rebuked the driver. “You probably had the engine on for two hours. Was that really required?” He told North Carolina legislators three years later: “So that’s the kind of change in lifestyle that I’m talking about … which when put together will really make an enormous difference.” [1]

In January 2010 Pachauri was under fire for the howler in the 2007 IPCC report about melting Himalayan glaciers. The fracas inspired the London Mail OnLine to check out Pachauri’s lifestyle in Delhi.[2] It turned out that Pachauri ran a chauffeur-driven Corolla; a smoky Indian derivative of the Morris Oxford; and an eco-friendly G-Wiz electric car provided for his short urban trips. On January 29 Pachauri had his chauffeured Corolla collect him for the 1.6 kilometre drive from his home to the office. The chauffeur hung round (meanwhile being chatted up by the villainous Mail reporter) before driving Pachauri in the Corolla to lunch at an upmarket restaurant one kilometre from Pachauri’s home. The battery-powered G-Wiz stayed in the carpark. The next day Pachauri issued a statement urging the masses to use public transport.

The 194 countries comprising the IPCC “panel” elected Pachauri chair in 2002. The term of office is the six years or so required to compile an IPCC “assessment report” on the state of climate science, although the panel has discretion to make it two terms. Pachauri’s second term is to 2013-14. Because the IPCC still has no executive director and only an in-house secretariat, the office of chair is influential (to put it mildly). Pachauri also heads the IPCC’s 31-member “scientific” bureau, on which Sudan is a Working Group vice-chair, with Cuba, Maldives, Madagascar and Iran also represented. Pachauri is the public face of the IPCC, although he is far from full-time (he has about fifty non-IPCC roles). The job is honorary but packs vast prestige.

In assessing Pachauri’s style and record, the transcript of his talk to the North Carolina legislative committee is worth further study, although it is oddly transcribed (“anthropogenic” becomes “natural progienic” and Pachauri is vexed about “vulnerable dentures”).[3]

Normally one is careful not to mis-speak to legislators. Pachauri hardly began before telling a whopper: “The IPCC … mobilises the best experts and scientists from all over the world and we carry out an assessment of climate change based on peer-reviewed literature, so everything that we look at and take into account in our assessments has to carry credibility of peer-reviewed publications, we don’t settle for anything less than that” (emphasis added).

Pachauri was wrong, 5587 times wrong, because that’s the number of non-peer-reviewed or “grey-lit” citations in the IPCC’s 2007 assessment report—30 per cent of all citations, as journalist Donna Laframboise discovered.[4] The grey-lit included press releases from Greenpeace and Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), not to mention a “first version of a draft”. The science team even used grey-lit in preference to unwelcome peer-reviewed findings. As George Filippo, a 2002–08 IPCC vice-chair of Group 1 (science), put it in a Climategate e-mail in 2000:

I feel rather uncomfortable about using not only unpublished but also unreviewed material as the backbone of our conclusions (or any conclusions) … I feel that at this point there are very little rules [sic] and almost anything goes.[5]

Pachauri telling whoppers to legislators was naughty. Telling whoppers to a High Court judge was naughtier, as Pachauri discovered in 1996.[6] In 1981 Pachauri became a director of Tata Energy & Resources Institute (TERI, in 2003 renamed “The” Energy & Resources Institute). TERI was set up by Tata to fund external research. Pachauri’s job was to turn TERI itself into a research institute. He started in a New Delhi guest house, with kitchen and dining room as his office.[7] TERI has grown into a global consultancy with 900 workers and influence over ten-figure investment flows. Clients include BP, Britain’s Department for International Development, and the World Bank.

In the early 1990s, TERI moved into one of Delhi’s most desirable complexes, the India Habitat Centre, an eco-friendly government convention centre on four hectares of parkland.

In 1996, Pachauri and the Centre’s other two governing directors were defendants—who lost—in a dispute before the Delhi High Court about a contract.[8] The dispute was with the Centre’s design-and-management hotelier company which found itself ousted in 1995 two years into a twenty-year profit-sharing contract, possibly because of cost blow-outs. The governing trio claimed the hotelier arrangements had been only ad hoc pending finalisation of a contract, hence the hotelier could be (and was) ejected at will. The hotelier in rebuttal cited chapter and verse of an official contract with the Centre.