IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri under pressure to go over glacier error

Times Online Logo 222 x 25
February 4, 2010
Rajendra Pachauri
Pachauri: failed to act when error in glacier science was revealed 
Ben Webster, Environment Editor

The head of the UN’s climate change body is under pressure to resign after one of his strongest allies in the environmental movement said his judgment was flawed and called for a new leader to restore confidence in climatic science. 

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has insisted that he will remain in post for another four years despite having failed to act on a serious error in the body’s 2007 report. 

John Sauven, director of Greenpeace UK , said that Dr Pachauri should have acted as soon as he had been informed of the error, even though issuing a correction would have embarrassed the IPCC on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit. 

A journalist working for Science had told Dr Pachauri several times late last year that glaciologists had refuted the IPCC claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035. Dr Pachauri refused to address the problem, saying: “I don’t have anything to add on glaciers.” He suggested that the error would not be corrected until 2013 or 2014, when the IPCC next reported. 

The IPCC issued a correction and apology on January 20, three days after the error had made global headlines. Mr Sauven said: “Mistakes will always be made but it’s how you handle those mistakes which affects the credibility of the institution. Pachauri should have put his hand up and said ‘we made a mistake’. It’s in these situations that your character and judgment is tested. Do you make the right judgment call? He clearly didn’t.” 

The IPCC needed a new chairman who would hold public confidence by introducing more rigorous procedures, Mr Sauven said. “The IPCC needs to regain credibility. Is that going to happen with Pachauri [as chairman]? I don’t think so. We need someone held in high regard who has extremely good judgment and is seen by the global public as someone on their side. 

“If we get a new person in with an open mind, prepared to fundamentally review how the IPCC works, we would regain confidence in the organisation.” 

Dr Pachauri did not return calls yesterday but he told Indian television at the weekend that he believed attacks on him were being orchestrated by companies facing lower profits because of actions against climate change recommended by the IPCC.He added: “My credibility has been established because I was re-elected chairman in 2008 by all the countries of the world. They must have been satisfied with what I did in terms of the fourth assessment report [published in 2007] because they have given me the mandate of completing the fifth assessment report [[to be released over 2013 and 2014] which I intend doing.” 

Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, said the countries that had appointed Dr Pachauri should consider his handling of the glacier issue when the IPCC plenary meeting is held in October. “That issue ought to be dealt with by them. It would depend on how he responds to the crisis facing the IPCC. 

 

Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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