Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

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

Rajendra Pachauri – The Little Man Who Told Big Whoppers

photo credit: Mikhail Evstafiev (Wikipedia)

Rajendra Pachauri has been the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) since 2002. In the words of an InterAcademy Council report released last year, he is “the leader and the face” of this organization.

The behaviour of the IPCC’s chairman, therefore, tells us a great deal about whether the IPCC is credible and trustworthy. And let us be clear: if the IPCC can’t be trusted then its reports can’t be trusted. And if its reports can’t be trusted then the world is almost certainly wasting spectacular amounts of time and money worrying about greenhouse gas emissions.

Today I’m launching a series of posts in which I’ll compare Pachauri’s fictions to some cold, hard facts.

Exhibit 1 is a quote from a June 2007 interview with an Indian publication [backup link here]. Pachauri is describing how the people who work on the IPCC’s reports get selected:

You have close to 600 people who are actually the authors of these working group reports. These are people who have been chosen on the basis of their track record, on their record of publications, on the research that they have done…There is a very careful process of selection. We had something like 2,000 such nominations and out of that less than 600 were selected. So it is not as though anybody can get in. They are people who are at the top of their profession…

So was Laurens Bouwer at the top of his profession when the IPCC made him a lead author in 1999 – two years before he’d completed his Masters degree and 11 years prior to earning his PhD?

When Sari Kovats was selected to be one of only 21 people examining climate change and human health in 1994 was she chosen due to her long, impressive publication record? Since her first academic paper didn’t appear until three years later evidently not.

On that long flight to the upcoming climate conference in Durban, South Africa I have some suggested reading for Pachauri. He needs to take a closer look at the answers IPCC insiders provided to an online questionnaire last year. At 678 pages the document is a bit unwieldy so here’s a cheat sheet (bolding added by me):

From page 16:

IPCC works hard for geographic diversity…The result is that some of the lead authors (generally although not always from developing countries) are clearly not qualified to be lead authors and are unable to contribute in a meaningful way to the writing of the chapter.

From page 138:

There are far too many politically correct appointments, so that developing country scientists are appointed who have insufficient scientific competence to do anything useful. This is reasonable if it is regarded as a learning experience, but in my chapter in AR4 we had half of the [lead authors] who were not competent.

From page 330:

The team members from the developing countries (including myself) were made to feel welcome and accepted as part of the team. In reality we were out of our intellectual depth as meaningful contributors to the process.

From page 542:

Some experts are included or excluded because of their political allegiance rather than their academic quality.

From page 554:

The whole process… [is] flawed by an excessive concern for geographical balance. All decisions are political before being scientific.

Pachauri is mistaken. Since at least 1994 the IPCC has been choosing personnel for reasons that have nothing to do with impressive track records or extensive publications.

It has been selecting people who aren’t remotely near the top of their profession.

It has been relying, therefore, on second and third-rate minds to decide some of the world’s most important questions.

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