30 August 2010

Should Rajendra Pachauri Resign?

If you want people to take action, then you obviously would make the arguments that require a certain set of actions.

Rajendra Pachauri, August 2010, Wall Street Journal
I spoke with a lot of reporters today in the US and UK about the IAC IPCC Review report.  An overwhelming focus of their interest was on Rajendra Pachauri and his future with the IPCC.  The speculation comes from the following statements in the IAC report (PDF, p. 41):
 A 12-year appointment (two terms) is too long for a field as dynamic and contested as climate change. . .

Recommendation: The term of the IPCC Chair should be limited to the time frame of one assessment.
When asked for a specific comment about Pachauri by Seth Borenstein of the AP I said:
"It's hard to see how the United Nations can both follow the advice of this committee and keep Rajendra Pachauri on board as head"
I followed this statement by emphasizing that the reforms of the IPCC go well beyond one individual.  Removing Pachauri and doing nothing else would do little to fix the IPCC.  Conversely, doing everything else recommended by the IAC and leaving Pachauri in place would go a long way to improving the organization.  So in many respects I see the focus on Pachauri as a distraction. (Somehow those comments did not find a place in the AP story!)

That said, as I've detailed before (e.g., here and here and here), Pachauri has many issues of potential conflict of interest.  He would all but certainly be found to have conflicts of interest under the WMO and UN guidelines that the IPCC is exempt from following.   The IAC Review finds the fact that the IPCC has no such guidelines to be unacceptable, recommending:
The IPCC should develop and adopt a rigorous conflict of interest policy that applies to all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports, including senior IPCC leadership . . .
Should Pachauri be deemed exempt from the recommended one-term term limit (as some have suggested) then it would not only make a mockery of the report, but also set the stage for a damaging battle over developing conflict of interest guidelines and how those should be applied to existing IPCC officials.  The IPCC could of course decide that Pachauri's conflicts do not disqualify him from the position.  Any such efforts to circumvent the IAC recommendations would risk further damaging the IPCC.

The bottom line?  The IAC Review has unambiguously recommended that the IPCC Chairman serve only one term.  Rajendra Pachauri has now served more than one term.  On this basis alone he should go.  However, even if an exception were made for him, he faces significant issues of conflict of interest that would result in his potential disqualification as the IPCC chair (should the IPCC implement policies anything like those of the WMO or UN or NRC).

If the IAC Review recommendations are to have any meaning at all then Pachauri should go.  Talk of retroactive application and grandfathering of the rules are a slippery slope back to the same sort of ad hocracy that got the IPCC into trouble in the first place.


  1. I don't see that whatever the IPCC does makes any real world difference at this point.

    A US treaty requires a 2/3rds vote in the Senate.

  2. Now that an investigation has found no financial wrongdoing on Pachauri's part (which is a separate issue from conflicts of interest), and in keeping with the report's recommendations, they should start a process to find the next person, and do so in time so that the new person is there for AR5.

  3. This being a UN organ, nothing will be done to clean it up at all.

  4. Pachauri should go because he has led the IPCC from being an honest broker to being an issue advocate; because he has conflicts of interests; because he has a credibility deficit; and because he failed to solve the problems between WG1 and WG3.

  5. Pachauri must stay. He so completely represents the total corruption of the IPCC it would not be in his, or the rest of the world's, interests to get rid of him now.

  6. He should stay because he is the one most likely to put the final nail in the coffin of the IPCC. If they dump him, they will claim the IPCC has now been "cleansed" and keep the nonsense going.

  7. Richard could you expand on your comments?

  8. IMHO, this is all window dressing. The IPCC was created for the political purpose of having a "scientific' basis for more political control and resultant rent seeking in the use of energy.

    Further any outfit as corrupt as the UN (remember Saddam's UN oil for palaces gig) is hardly the organization to credibly pass judgment on anything other than plans to enrich the UN apparatchiks.

  9. -7- Marlowe
    I guess you mean the last reason. The other ones are well-known.

    During the preparation of AR4, the communication between WG1 and WG3 broke down almost completely. The most obvious symptom of this is the treatment of the global warming potentials, which is an interdisciplinary issue but treated as a physical-chemical one. Pachauri did not intervene to solve this problem -- while inter-working-group relationships is one of the few areas where the chair has a clear duty.

  10. The report says:

    The lack of a conflict of interest and disclosure policy for IPCC leaders and Lead Authors was a concern raised by a number of individuals who were interviewed by the Committee or provided written input. Questions about potential conflicts of interest, for example, have been raised about the IPCC Chair’s service as an advisor to, and board member of, for-profit energy companies (Booker and North, 2009; Pielke, 2010b), and about the practice of scientists responsible for writing IPCC assessments reviewing their own work. The Committee did not investigate the basis of these claims, which is beyond the mandate of this review. However, the Committee believes that the nature of the IPCC’s task (i.e., in presenting a series of expert judgments on issues of great societal relevance) demands that the IPCC pay special attention to issues of independence and bias to maintain the integrity of, and public confidence in, its results.

    It's worth pointing out that the Telegraph has recently apologised for the Booker and North piece:


  11. --
    I would prefer to see Mr. Pachauri remain at the helm of the IPCC.

    In precisely the way Captain Edward John Smith, RD, RNR, remained at the helm of RMS Titanic.

    Stay the course, Rajendra. Stay the course.