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

Pachauri’s Latest Award: Can You Say Conflict-of-Interest?

An organization headed by a senior IPCC official (Working Group 3 Vice-Chair, Carlo Carraro) has ranked TERI, an organization headed by the IPCC’s chairman, first in the world.


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A few days ago, the Indian press reported on a new honour for Rajendra Pachauri. TERI globally ranked first in climate change research and TERI tops global climate think-tank list declared the headlines.

TERI stands for The Energy and Resources Institute. Pachauri has been its chief executive officer since 1982. This past February, a former employee hired by Pachauri back in 1983 wrote about the early days of the institute in a manner that makes it clear Pachauri is TERI:

When I joined TERI, the Institute was located in two rooms, a corridor and a bath room…

According to this account, Pachauri had an entire room to himself, three people worked in the second room, and five people worked in the corridor. Pachauri’s secretary, Ms Anupam Chopra, used as her office “the bath room attached to” Pachauri’s office.

In the words of this early employee, Pachauri

has built up TERI from a one-room rented accommodation in August 1982 to the present stature of six national centres (Delhi, Bangalore, Guwahati, Goa, Bombay, and Mukteshwar) and six international centres (USA, UK, Japan, Africa, UAE, Malaysia)…

Four days after these reminiscences appeared online, Pachauri himself apparently responded as follows:

I was very deeply moved by what you have written about me in your blog. I am very impressed with your memory and particularly the details about several persons and events.

In other words, TERI and Pachauri are one. They are indistinguishable and inseparable. This is Pachauri’s primary professional identity – one that stretches back 32 years.

In 2002, Pachauri became the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s role is to evaluate climate change research.

So a man who heads an institute that conducts and funds climate-related research has spent the past 12 years leading a body that is supposed to dispassionately appraise precisely that kind of research.

TERI has issued a press release boasting about placing first in the “Absolute Global Rankings” category. It says the think tanks in the running:

were assessed on the basis of 5 indicators namely: Events; authors in IPCC Reports; UNFCCC submissions; articles in peer-reviewed journals, and non-peer reviewed publications… [bold added]

One of the factors taken into account is how many researchers employed by the think tank have also served as “authors in IPCC Reports.” Might TERI have had a slight advantage over the other think tanks – considering that TERI is led by the chairman of the IPCC himself?

Far more important, however, is the revelation that an unknown number of employees who report to Pachauri at their day jobs have ended up working as IPCC authors. What chance in Hades is there that, while performing their IPCC duties, these people will come to conclusions that conflict with the views and philosophy of their employer?

But wait, it gets better. The organization that did this ranking and handed out this honour is called the International Center for Climate Governance (ICCG). Based in Venice, Italy, it’s funded by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land, and Sea.

The head of the International Center for Climate Governance is a gent named Carlo Carraro. As that organization’s own website tells us:

In 2008, he was elected Vice-Chair of the Working Group III and Member of the Bureau of the Nobel Laureate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

To recap, then:

  1. TERI is declared the top-ranked global climate think tank
  2. one of the criteria is how many employees have also been IPCC authors
  3. for the past 12 years, the same person has been in charge of both TERI and the IPCC – and was therefore in a position to influence data point #2
  4. a senior IPCC official – a current Vice Chair of Working Group 3 – leads the organization that produced these rankings

So Carraro – who is lower on the IPCC org chart than Pachauri and therefore reports to Pachauri – has publicly recognized Pachauri’s home institution. Curiously, the TERI press release (backed up here) doesn’t mention that the Center is headed by an IPCC official.

Finally, this ranking pretends that a vice is a virtue. IPCC authors are supposed to conduct a neutral, unbiased assessment of all climate research. People who spend their work lives producing climate research for TERI are handicapped by a profound conflict-of-interest. Rather than being neutral, they have skin in the game.

How many different ways can you say ‘conflict-of-interest’?



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