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Pachauri Redux; Politicians Undo
Over two years have Passed since a Series of Leaked E-Mails Triggered Doubts over The Extent of Global Warming being Projected by The IPCC, with its Chief, Rajendra Pachauri, having made to beat a Hasty retreat on its stand over Reports on Melting glaciers. But Pachauri, Disappointingly, still enjoys The Support of Various Government Functionaries
Issue Date - 12/05/2011
It can be termed nothing short of a shame for the nation when the media, both in India and abroad, slammed Rajendra K. Pachauri, the Chief of UN’s Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for passing distorted and ‘falsified’ research figures as truths on climate change. The credibility of the IPCC, established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), had taken a serious beating in the wake of its false validation of data inferring glaciers were retreating and reports that ice from the world’s mountain tops was disappearing due to global warming – these findings, it later transpired, were actually based on a university student’s thesis and an article published in a magazine for climbers.

It all started when a series of leaked e-mails triggered doubts over the extent and rate of global warming, as projected by the IPCC. The panel headed by Pachauri had claimed that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035, causing an obvious furore. “The clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly,” the IPCC later said in a statement on its website, accepting the error... and this after Pachauri had claimed that IPCC procedures were robust and the world should have no doubt about climate change.

The IPCC essentially came under flak on three counts, the first of which was that due diligence was not followed and the claims were not peer-reviewed. Secondly, for the disgustingly authoritative tone in its predictions for the future; and thirdly, for merely being the words of authors who were no experts. The IPCC study is reported to have taken the deadline on the melting of the Himalayas from a Russian study, which predicted the melting of the glaciers by 2350. IPCC changed it to 2035, making it a ‘Himalayan’ blunder. The IPCC is also said to have taken references from a study done by World Wildlife Fund, which carried a report based on an article in a magazine called New Scientist in 1999. Interestingly, the magazine had attributed the report to statements from Syed Iqbal Hasnain, a leading glaciologist and senior fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), who had made a presentation at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in February, 1999, where he had talked about the controversial 2035 deadline. Hasnain reaffirmed his stand and told B&E that IPCC experts had never approached him for his research papers on Himalayan glaciers.

Pachauri claimed, “The IPCC doesn’t do any research itself. We only develop our assessments on the basis of peer-reviewed literature. So, this is really hundreds and thousands of years of research efforts that go into the distinct material that comes into the report.” There is an acceptable notion that it might be too early to deny the reality of climate change and global warming. But passing off unverified reports as gospel truths? That, for sure, is not acceptable, especially given the vast economic disparity faced by the world.

Apart from the international flak that Pachauri received over his alleged copy-paste con, even Indian environmentalists launched their own attacks on a man they claim is harming endangered forests, depleting scarce water reserves and promoting power companies which emit carbon gases that cause global warming. According to them, Pachauri’s consultancy group, TERI, had built a university on the Ridge, a protected forest threatened by construction in New Delhi, and has also been a contractor for the Commonwealth Games Village, which campaigners said could severely damage the Yamuna river, the capital’s “water lifeline”. Several campaigners also said that TERI had failed to declare conflicts of interests when it had produced favourable reports or given environmental awards to companies that funded its projects. Gopal Krishna of the Toxics Watch Alliance had told The Daily Telegraph, a UK-based English daily, that TERI had promoted “waste to energy” companies which generated power by incinerating waste, in spite of UN concerns that the process led to the emission of dangerous toxins and carbon gases.

Pollution from one such plant had caused miscarriages, asthma, and severe sickness in local villages, he had alleged. “There’s a conflict of interest because TERI was funded by Thermax, an incinerator company,” he had said.

There is another allegation, if Himanshu Thakkur of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, is to be believed. According to Himanshu, who reportedly began investigating TERI after it awarded the State-run National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) for “environmental excellence” for its power project in Uri district of Jammu and Kashmir. He discovered that the corporation had a poor record in the area and that it had been criticised in neighbouring states for insensitivity to national park forests. In a shocking revelation, he also claimed that the company had paid TERI £125,000 to fund a chair in its new university on Delhi’s endangered Ridge. His evidence persuaded the panel that had awarded the prize, which included J. S. Verma, the former Chief Justice of India, to withdraw the award. TERI then formed a new committee and confirmed the prize prompting Justice Verma and three other judges to resign in protest. TERI, however, rubbished these allegations when contacted.

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