Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

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

Pachauri’s Cause

In 2008, Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, declared in a speech: “We in the IPCC do not prescribe any specific action, but action is a must.”

Gee, it must have been some other Rajendra Pachauri who, during an interview with Yale University’s Environment 360 magazine a few months prior, made remarks such as these:

  • “…a price on carbon is absolutely essential.”
  • “…we need to bring down emissions very rapidly.”

The interview demonstrates perfectly the kid gloves with which the IPCC has been treated by the media. This wasn’t a situation in which the head of one of the world’s most influential bodies was carefully assessed by the editor and senior editor of a prestigious environmental publication.

Rather, Pachauri received rock star treatment. He was told by those interviewing him: “welcome back to New Haven. We are absolutely delighted and honored to have you as our guest” (my italics).

During that interview, Pachauri was repeatedly invited to talk about things that have nothing to do with science. He was asked for his reaction to a recent statement by the US president. He was asked what rich countries should do to help poor ones. He was invited to imagine he had ‘benign dictatorial powers’ and queried as to “what concrete steps” he would take immediately.

Repeatedly, Pachauri obliged. The leader of what is supposed to be a policy-neutral body participated in an extended discussion that wasn’t merely about policy – it strayed well into politics itself.

Pachauri could have explained that it would be inappropriate for him to express an opinion on such matters. He could have said he has a duty, as the IPCC’s chairman, to preserve its integrity and impartiality – that the IPCC must not only be neutral, it must be seen to be neutral. But he did not.

On other occasions, Pachauri has said that ordinary people should fight climate change by skipping meat one day a week. He has declared that the brakes must be put on what he perceives to be wasteful Western lifestyles.

In the words of the UK’s Guardian newspaper:

Hotel guests should have their electricity monitored; hefty aviation taxes should be introduced to deter people from flying; and iced water in restaurants should be curtailed…Rajendra Pachauri…warned that western society must undergo a radical value shift if the worst effects of climate change were to be avoided. A new value system…was now urgently required, he said. [bold added]

Radical value shift. New value system. Are these appropriate topics of conversation for the head of a scientific body? Since when did it become the purview of scientific organizations to tell the public what its values should be?

When did scientists become the new priesthood? (Normally the only people who presume to tell others what they should eat are medical professionals and spiritual leaders.)

Nor has Pachauri limited himself to scolding the little people. In January 2009 he declared that the emissions targets of incoming President Obama “need to be strengthened.” In October of that year a news article was accorded the headline: Obama ‘ought to do a lot more’ on climate: Pachauri.

I’ve previously discussed the views of the late Edward Goldsmith, the founder and editor of The Ecologist magazine who is considered the ‘Godfather of Green.’ To be fair, Pachauri doesn’t share Goldsmith’s open disdain for democracy.

During an interview in late 2007, Pachauri declared that:

…any democracy is 10 times better than what you have in China.

This is an important point – and a heartening one. Pachauri is also less hostile to technology.

But in other respects, his views are identical to Goldsmith’s. Both men think humanity’s survival depends on living “in harmony with nature.” (How does one live in harmony with quicksand or rattlesnakes?) Both believe the proper role of government is not to represent the aspirations of the public, but to discourage the public from making certain choices.

In the 1970s Goldsmith thought the building of new roads should be banned outright. These days Pachauri thinks governments should impose taxes and tolls that make it prohibitively expensive for people to drive cars.

According to Pachauri, a “rapid transformation of the economic system” is required. Affluent countries, he says, “have to start changing direction. They can’t continue to consume at this level.”

And then there’s this beauty:

We have been so drunk with this desire to produce and consume more and more whatever the cost to the environment that we’re on a totally unsustainable path. I am not going to rest easy until I have articulated in every possible forum the need to bring about major structural changes in economic growth and development. That’s the real issue. Climate change is just a part of it. [bold added]

Pardon me? Climate change is just a part of what? Let’s read those sentences again. According to Pachauri the real issue is bringing about major structural changes in economic growth and development. Responding to climate change is merely one aspect of that larger goal.

I swear, I’m not making this up. The above quote may be found in an outrageously sycophantic 5,000-word profile of Pachauri that appeared in Nature.

According to Gabrielle Walker, the author of that profile, during normal conversation Pachauri constantly refers to ‘the cause.’ Despite her PhD in chemistry, Walker seems not the least bit perturbed that Pachauri has an agenda.

Apparently it is now acceptable to acknowledge that the fight against climate change is merely a means to an end. It’s OK to admit – to a premier scientific journal, no less – that bringing about major structural changes in the world’s economy is the real goal.

Pachauri has been head of the IPCC since 2002. This means that a supposedly neutral body, entrusted with evaluating scientific evidence in an objective and even-handed manner, has been run for the past decade by a man who makes no secret of the fact that he is committed to a cause.

Pachauri’s ambition is far bigger than merely saving the world from climate change. He’s aiming for a new global economic order.

OMG

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