Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
The new IPCC chairman is an economist who, ironically, began his career with oil giant Exxon.
Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chose a new chairman. Hoesung Lee, aged 69, has a PhD in economics. So far, journalists have refrained from describing him as a preeminent climate scientist, but it’s only a matter of time before that starts to happen.
Former IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri similarly held a PhD in economics and engineering. Yet media outlets routinely told us he was the “world’s chief climate scientist” and the “world’s leading climate scientist.” For its part, the IPCC failed to correct the record even though it was fully aware Pachauri lacked anything approaching that kind of expertise.
Over the coming days, I’ll be exploring Lee’s credentials and connections. Anthony Watts has already observed that Lee’s CV tells us his first job was a three-year stint (1975-1978) as an economist with oil giant Exxon. In the words of a German newspaper headline, one way of looking at Lee’s trajectory is that he has been on a journey “From Exxon to IPCC.”
This is an interesting detail since green activists tend to view Exxon as the devil incarnate. Indeed, climate crusader Bill McKibben has an article in today’s Guardian histrionically titled “Exxon’s climate lie: ‘No corporation has ever done anything this big or bad’.” McKibben talks about greed and treachery, and tells us he feels “deep, blood-red anger.” Exxon, he says, decided “to kill our planet” by telling “the most consequential lie in human history.”
In the comic book world inhabited by McKibben, our fate was decided by a single corporation. Back in the seventies – the very period in which Lee worked there – McKibben says Exxon chose to hide crucial information about a connection between human-generated carbon dioxide and an increase in global temperatures. So now we’re all screwed. Or something.
alternative perspectives on the Exxon issue: