Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is used to rockstar treatment from journalists. So blinded are they by his current position and title, they don’t bother to actually examine his credentials.
As a lengthy new profile in Quadrant, an Australian magazine, reminds us, Pachauri’s PhD is in economics and industrial engineering. The question of whether he deserves to be described as a “scientist” would be hotly debated in some circles. Nor is there evidence that he has hardcore expertise in any aspect of the climate.
But this hasn’t prevented big league journalists from portraying Pachauri as a premier scientist – as well as an eminent climatologist.
- here’s the Associated Press calling Pachauri the “world’s chief climate scientist” in 2004
- and another Associated Press story calling him that in 2006 (FOXNews.com was only one of numerous media outlets that took this claim at face value, passing along the flawed info to its readers)
- here’s the Agence France-Presse news service describing Pachauri as “the UN’s top climate scientist,” in 2009 (backup link here)
- here’s the Associated Press, via USA Today, using that same phrase last November (backup link here)
- here’s a Reuters news story calling Pachauri “the top UN climate change expert” in 2007
- here’s a headline from the UK’s Independent newspaper calling him a “leading climate expert” in 2005 (backup link here)
- and in 2009, according to a Guardian newspaper article, Pachauri was the “world’s leading climate scientist” (backup link)
Nothing says the head of the IPCC must be a climate scientist. In my view, that role is far more about management and leadership. The problem is that the media has been misrepresenting Pachauri’s credentials for years, and the IPCC doesn’t appear to have objected.
Given that the reporting on these matters is usually so sloppy and superficial, Tony Thomas’ grown-up presentation of Pachauri’s life and times is a must-read. Thomas kindly references my book, but there’s lots of material here about which I had no idea.
The most explosive revelation involves a 1996 Delhi High Court ruling in which a judge said he had “no hesitation in coming to the conclusion” that Pachauri and two others had “sworn to false affidavits.”
The judge went on to remark that the business affairs of the non-profit convention center at the heart of the lawsuit were “not safe in the hands of officers” such as Pachauri (the judge’s ruling is backed up here).
It’s difficult to believe that no one at the IPCC was aware of this scathing judgment when, a mere year later, Pachauri became an IPCC Vice-Chair – prior to assuming the chairman’s role in 2002.
Did the IPCC conduct no background check?
If it did, who decided it was a smart idea to put an influential, international body in the hands of a person whose leadership at another organization had already been declared “not safe”?
Read the Quadrant Pachauri profile here.