Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

The IPCC’s Confused Chairman

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded its four-day meeting. Despite a scathing report [113-page PDF here] issued six weeks ago that said no IPCC chair should serve more than one term, the meeting decided not to cut short Rajendra Pachauri’s second term. It intends to soldier on with him at its helm for an additional four years.

For the IPCC’s many critics this is one more reason to conclude the organization is hopelessly out-of-touch, that it lacks any sense of propriety, and that it is therefore beyond redemption. It seems not to have occurred to those in charge that the IPCC’s only currency is persuasion. Which means that when the average person starts to regard it as a farce, its ability to convince them of anything withers on the vine.

Pachauri’s record is a gruesome one. His claim:

  • that IPCC reports rely solely on peer-reviewed literature is demonstrably false
  • that the IPCC carries out its work with “complete transparency” was repudiated by the authors of the above-mentioned report
  • that the IPCC’s “review process is very robust, very vigorous” was also shot down [113-page PDF here, short version here]
  • that there is no better process “on this planet” than the IPCC’s was thoroughly chopped and minced
  • that IPCC reports are written by the world’s top experts appears increasingly unfounded (see here, here & here)

Journalists beware. Nothing this man says should be taken at face value.

Which brings me to one of his most puzzling claims. This involves the rather significant matter of whether or not the IPCC is a UN organization. Everyone knows it was established by two United Nations bodies – the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the  World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

When awarding it the Nobel Peace Prize the presenter described the IPCC as “the United Nations’ climate panel.” When the 2007 IPCC report was made public the United Nations’ own news center described it as a “UN report” prepared by the “United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

When Pachauri gave a speech at the Copenhagen climate summit last December, the stationery on which his speech was printed bore the logos of UNEP and WMO, complete with their UN laurels. When he delivered a presentation at United Nations headquarters in September 2007, the first page of his presentation contained the same two logos (16-page PDF here).

Then there’s the IPCC’s internal newsletter – which also features these logos. This edition, by the way, provides a fine demonstration of Pachauri’s abiding sense of professionalism. In an article titled “Ringing in the New Year” he writes:

During the month of January we have seen some distraction in public opinion being diverted to a set of scurrilous writings by some journalists, but my belief is that the truth will prevail and the mal-intent of those who are behind the falsehoods that are being produced in the media would be exposed…We should not be discouraged by any ill-founded criticism…

These words were written the same month that the IPCC was forced to retract its erroneous claim regarding the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.

Yet despite the fact that everything the IPCC does is stamped with the logos of not one, but two UN bodies, Pachauri bizarrely insists that the IPCC “is not a UN organisation.” He made this claim to the Indian media in April and to The Economist in February. In the second instance, when it was pointed out to him that both UNEP and WMO have conflict-of-interest guidelines, yet the IPCC does not, he responded:

Well, those are UN organisations and they are bound by UN rules, and you know that the IPCC is not a UN organisation, it is an intergovernmental organisation and in that sense we are distinctly different from UNEP and WMO or any of those organisations.

So when Pachauri wants to impress people, he plasters his publications with UN logos. But when attempts are made to hold him accountable, he claims the IPCC isn’t a UN body and isn’t required to abide by UN rules.

Welcome to the twisted world of the IPCC – and to the confused cosmos of the chairman who has just had his mandate renewed.

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