Accuracy, consistency and transparency are not attributes that come to mind when one considers the many pronouncements of Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In a March 1, 2012 TreeHugger.com interview with Jacob Gordon [h/t IPCC
Coordinating* Lead Author, Richard Betts via Twitter] Pachauri remains true to form.
[* 03/3/2012 04:28 PM PST Richard has advised me that he is a Lead Author, not a Coordinating Lead Author. Fortunately, unlike the IPCC, I am able to make this correction without convening a committee to approve ;-)]
Some excerpts from the transcript (all emphases are mine -hro):
TreeHugger: Explain for people what the IPCC is, what it does, how far it reaches.
Rajendra Pachauri: The IPCC was established in 1988 to carry out a scientific assessment of all aspects of climate change. It’s a body that’s truly intergovernmental in character, and all the decisions that are taken are essentially through consensus. That means every country that’s represented in the IPCC has to agree to decisions that are taken on behalf of the panel.
We mobilize the best scientists from all over the world to carry out our assessments. Just to give you an indication, in the fifth assessment report, which is currently in hand and we are working on it right now, we invited nominations from all the governments and several other organizations across the globe. We received about 3,000 nominations with the CVs of outstanding scientists from which we selected 831 who would be the lead authors as well as what we call review editors for the assessment.
And these teams of researchers and scientists work together. We carry out our assessment on the basis of published literature. So in other words, the IPCC is not doing any research of its own; it looks at the best published literature that’s available and then carries out an assessment and puts reports together. In the business of writing up these reports, each single draft which is written has to be peer reviewed. It’s sent out to expert reviewers and they provide a whole set of comments. To give you an indication from the fourth assessment report, it was completed in 2007 and had something like 90,000 different comments, and each one of these has to be taken on board by the authors.
If they accept or don’t accept the comment, they have to give reasons why it’s not accepted and that has to be put on the website. Now, I’m explaining all this because this is a totally transparent and completely objective exercise, […]
TH: Are you able to speak about any of the findings from the fifth assessment?
Pachauri: Well, the outline of the report which has to be approved by all the governments as well, and it’s put together with a great deal of care and thoughtfulness. In fact, we have typically what we call scoping meetings where about 200 scientists, government officials, and others who have some knowledge of the subject get together and draw up the outline of the report, which is approved by the entire panel, all the governments of the world.
All the governments of the world? Hmmm … I’ve heard that myth before. Until the IPCC is prepared – in the interest of transparency – to prominently display attendance records for the sessions/meetings at which such decisions are taken, I, for one, will take this claim with a very hefty grain of salt.
TH: This has been a very action packed month for climate debating. First the “No Need to Panic about Global Warming” letter ran in The Wall Street Journal follow by the rebutting letter. Then we had this whole scandal with the Heartland Institute: Peter Gleick, the president of the Pacific Institute, used a fake name to get documents from the Heartland Institute about its programs to discredit manmade climate change. Do you have any thoughts on this sort of warfare?
Pachauri: Well, I really don’t know enough to be able to comment on this. But since you mentioned these happenings, let me say there’s also been an assessment which clearly shows that 97 percent of the scientists who have worked on any aspect of the climate change are fully convinced that the changing climate we see, particularly since the last century, is largely the result of human action. So on the other issue, to be quite honest, I don’t know enough about it. When I do, I’d be happy to write my comments.
You’d think he would have made it his business to “inform” himself. Oh, well, perhaps UNEP honcho, Achim Steiner, hasn’t yet told him what he’s supposed to say about the increasingly disgraceful and desperate acts of the “climate concerned” and their media
stooges partners. The interview continues:
TreeHugger: As the chairman of the IPCC you aren’t allowed to make any prescriptive statements, or at least the IPCC isn’t. However, there’s been criticism both from those who support the IPCC and from those who don’t. People like Andy Revkin of The New York Times has said that your personal opinion tends to shine through too much, to a degree where it opens the IPCC up for criticism. What’s it like being the face of the organization yet still being a human being and having your own opinions about what to do with the implications of the science?
Rajendra Pachauri: Whenever I’m expressing opinion which is not directly drawn from the reports of the IPCC, I’ve always qualified it by saying that I’m saying it purely in my personal capacity. And I don’t want to comment on Andrew Revkin’s writings either recently or earlier. I know him very well and I’d much rather not comment on that. He holds his opinion. I don’t agree with his opinion. But he’s entitled to hold his opinion as I’m entitled to mine.
The findings of the IPCC reports, particularly the fourth assessment report, often get questioned in terms of: “Give us an example.” When we talk about mitigation actions we assess what these actions are and naturally, in the course of a discussion, a media person would ask, “Okay, well, give us an example.” And one has to give real life practical examples, and those may not be entirely in the letter of our reports but they very much flow out of the assessment that’s carried out.
So you know, I’m afraid this is an issue of interpretation of what I’ve been putting forward. Perhaps some people say it is policy prescriptive, but I can say this very clearly: I’ve never said anything which is policy prescriptive. And when you’re talking about generally global issues, you’re really not pinning down any particular society by prescribing any kind of policy actions.
I’ll just give you an example. If we want to stabilize temperature increase to around two degrees Celsius, the forth assessment report clearly says that if that has to be done at least cost, then global CO2 emissions must peak no later than 2015. Now, that’s not policy prescriptive in my view, that’s something that people must accept and base their policies on. So you know, these are things that often get misinterpreted either because there’s some ambiguity in the understanding of those interpreting them. Or in some cases, without ascribing any reasons, I will say that people have made up their minds that they see something like this as policy prescriptive. But I’m generally very careful about that, and I am prepared to get into a discussion with anyone who thinks that what I’m saying or have said has been policy prescriptive.
It is worth noting that at the conclusion of this interview, Pachauri succeeds in weaving in and echoing the latest and greatest buzzwords from the “sustainable development” crowd:
I think we should be aware of the fact that our actions, both with respect to consumption and production, can have major impacts on the ecosystems of this planet and the global commons. The atmosphere certainly can be counted as a global common, and if we’re increasing the concentration of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, certainly it has an impact and I think science has established that. That’s why in the fourth assessment report we said, “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
Now if we accept these realities, then when we carry out our own activities, when we lead our own lives, we should become a little more responsible in seeing that simple things like when moving from one room to the other, you should shut off the light if you don’t need it. If you have to travel someplace, if you’re going a quarter of a mile, don’t jump into a car and drive there. If you can walk, do so. If you can bicycle, do that. And if you have to buy a car, buy a fuel-efficient car. And where you got good public transport, please use that rather than using your own car. And when you buy products, please look at the labeling. Household appliances, for example. Use one which is more efficient. In most of these cases, even if there’s a slight increase in upfront cost, it pays back in a very short period of time.
In the fourth assessment report we have identified that by 2030 there will be six gigatons of CO2 equivalent of mitigation potential, which will be available at negative cost. In other words, if we were to do some of those things, we would actually be able to enhance your income and global income and global prosperity.
I think we just need to reflect on these truths. And this doesn’t mean that we have to change our lifestyle to go back and live in caves or wrap ourselves in sheepskin. I think we can do all the good things in life but do them in a manner that uses the Earth’s natural resources efficiently and protects the ecosystems of this planet, which are the only things that we survive on. You just need that realization, and I think that if we can do that, each one of us could make a difference.
And the beat goes on.