It’s official: We have the right to question science!

[Please note “caveat” in update below -hro]

As I have noted in the past, Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a man of many hats, who is not known for consistency – except when he’s in “non-policy prescriptive” advocacy mode.

When he wears his “world’s leading climate scientist” hat, Pachauri has certainly been known to shoot from the lip, as he did, for example, during a “side-event” at Rio+20 last year:

“I would submit that the time has come that we shouldn’t really wait for governments,” he said.
[…]
“Climate change is in a sense the 10-tonne gorilla which is in the room and you’re not going to get rid of him easily.” [emphasis added -hro]

The was part of his address at the launch of yet another Statement from yet another advocacy organization of which you may (or may not) have previously heard: The Climate Change Task Force which claims to be:

A synergy of climate experts, world leaders, nobel (sic) peace laureates, and shapers of opinion – helping create the political will to address climate change

But speaking of Nobel Peace Laureates … Not unlike the IPCC, of which he is the face and voice, Pachauri is rarely loath to ignore this monopoly‘s own rules. In December 2012, the IPCC issued a “Statement about the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize”, which included the following:

The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its work on climate change, together with former US Vice-President Al Gore.
[…]
The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner. It would be correct to describe a scientist who was involved with AR4 or earlier IPCC reports in this way: “X contributed to the reports of the IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.” [emphasis added -hro]

Notwithstanding the above, while Pachauri appears to have doffed his “world’s leading climate scientist” hat in favour of a considerably more modest “noted environmentalist” hat, he (or someone who should know better!) is still promoting an image of himself (as you will see below) as a “Nobel Peace Laureate, 2007”.

But The Times of India (TTOI) must have read the IPCC’s memo on this [h/t DennisA]:

HYDERABAD: This summer’s Uttarakhand tragedy, in which thousands of people lost their lives, was not induced by human activity and such events are likely to reoccur in the future with a bulk of them within short spells of time, said noted environmentalist R K Pachauri, chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Citing examples such as declining population of coral reefs across the world and rapidly dwindling population of sparrows and vultures in India as well as that of bats in north eastern parts of the USA are evidence of climatic changes that are being observed world over.

[…]

Climatic change is a subset of a larger problem. The bigger issue really is that the society is having an unsustainable growth. There are moral and ethical concerns of climatic change which cannot be ignored even though certain sections of the society show inertia and resistance and don’t want to accept the situation,” he added. [emphasis added -hro]

This “10-tonne gorilla which is in the room” (or at least it was a year ago!) is only a “subset”?! OMG, it must be worse than we thought!

TTOI continues:

Addressing an audience of 1,300 students from various countries at the Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN) meet in the city, Pachauri said past generations left the present generation with a gamut of problems to grapple with.

Pachauri said that though the [IPCC] is currently not under the umbrella of the UN, it might play a more catalytic role in the future to deal with climate change.

“We are at the threshold of major changes in society. Preservation of biodiversity is not a luxury but a necessity. The generation of today must develop sustainable environment while respecting nature and ensuring wellbeing of all,” said Pachauri. [emphasis added -hro]

Well, I suppose facts have rarely (if ever) been Pachauri’s strong-point. So regardless of the “catalytic role” he now envisions (for an organization of which his days as leader are numbered – to the relief of many, one suspects), his apparent ignorance of the IPCC’s “parentage” – i.e. it is indisputably a “child” of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) – is not particularly surprising. Nor is this the first time he has uttered such a claim:

The Economist: That seems odd compared to the standards of scientific publication, or the standards of the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation, which both have conflict of interest rules. Isn’t it rather remarkable that you should have this organisation that does not have any procedure for dealing with conflict of interest, regardless of whether there is conflict of interest.

Dr Pachauri: Well, those are UN organisations and they are bound by UN rules, and you know that the IPCC is not a UN organisation, it is an intergovernmental organisation and in that sense we are distinctly different from UNEP and WMO or any of those organisations.

Since he is so “convinced” that the IPCC is not a UN organization, I wonder if Pachauri gave even a moment’s thought as to why he might have been invited to be a speaker who was given top billing by the HMUN organizers as “Nobel Peace Laureate, 2007 and United Nations IPCC Chief” (albeit in very small print!)

I haven’t seen the actual text of Pachauri’s, no doubt, “historic” address to these potential UN-ocrats of the future; perhaps it was in keeping with his “spiritual” mode, as the text of HMUN’s advance billing quote, attributed to Pachauri, suggests:

When we started studying Gandhi’s sayings, his utterances on the environment, we found they were so profound. We have a book we’ve brought out on Gandhi called Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology. And he seems to have the most apt answer for every environmental problem that we have. It’s very inspiring. This is an aspect of Gandhi that was not known earlier. He was a great environmental thinker and philosopher. He was very ahead of his time.

Everyone has the right to question science [strong red-lettered text in original -hro]

Look at that, folks! “Everyone has the right to question science”. Furthermore, this appears not to have been a mere slip of the tongue (nor was the faux Nobel Laureate claim) – as can be seen from this almost larger than life linked posture ooops … sorry, “poster”:

Pachauri-question-science

Amazing. Simply amazing.

UPDATE: 08/19/2013 Oh, drat! Looks like our “right to question science” may have some “restrictions”. During a junket to Finland recently, Pachauri evidently (breaking yet another of the IPCC’s “rules”) provided his audience with a “sneak preview” of the findings of AR5 … in his typically “non-policy prescriptive” way, of course:

IPCC chair Pachauri seeks cleantech help in climate battle

The United Nations’ panel on climate change, the IPCC, is now drawing up a new report on global warming. The head of the panel provided a sneak preview of its findings on Monday in Joensuu.
[…]
Now the IPCC is drawing up its Fifth Assessment Report, which will again be co-edited by the IPCC’s chair, Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri of India. On Monday, he provided a sneak preview of its findings at a “Changing Climate” seminar in Joensuu, eastern Finland, also featuring Heidi Hautala, the Finnish Minister of international Development.

According to Pachauri, the most important way of limiting the harmful effects of climate change is making polluters pay for their carbon dioxide emissions.

Well, that’s about par for the Pachauri course, I suppose. But here’s the kicker, folks:

The IPCC will reveal the first part of its Fifth Assessment Report in Stockholm in late September. Its director is bracing for a range of criticism of the report — or perhaps even looking forward to it.

“We love debate, after all science only drives (sic) under debate. We welcome it, as long as it’s objective and well-intentioned,” says Pachauri.

So, let’s be careful out there, folks … and make sure all our questions are “objective and well-intentioned”, eh!

4 thoughts on “It’s official: We have the right to question science!

  1. In the TTOI article, it’s interesting that Dr. Pachauri says rapidly dwindling population of sparrows and vultures in India are evidence of climatic changes. There has been a dramatic crash in the vulture population, starting in the 1990s, but this (or so I’ve read, anyway) has been down to the use of diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug used on cattle, which is deadly to them.
    http://www.birdlife.org/action/science/species/asia_vulture_crisis/diclofenac.html

    As for sparrows in India, at least according to another item in TTOI earlier this year, the causes could include changes in the way houses are built and also the use of pesticides – again, climate change doesn’t seem to get a look in:
    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-03-21/varanasi/37902296_1_house-sparrows-nests-birds

    Mind you, as a noted environmentalist, Dr P might be privy to information unavailable to us outsiders. ;)

    “Climatic change is a subset of a larger problem”. I wonder whether this is more fallout from “the pause”. Earlier this year, the UK’s outgoing Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington, said on TV that an increase in world temperatures was “just one of the symptoms” of climate change, similarly downplaying the recent lack of actual global warming.

    In the meantime, I’m relieved that we now have the right to question science – uncommonly generous of Dr. P!

    • I’m not sure whether it’s a fallout from “the pause” or not … I’m inclined to think that as one after another of their precious tenets/icons crumble (the latest being “the hotspot”), even though Richard Betts tries to brush things off (as he did the hockey-stick) by claiming that “science has moved on” … and, of course, nothing ever depended on [whatever the latest downfall happens to be!]

      In the meantime they’re shifting the alarmist goalposts [again!] with all the “extreme” weather hype that seems to be moving to “centre stage”, so to speak!

      This seems to have led the ignoramus-in-chief, otherwise known as President Obama, to declare that “carbon pollution” is the “enemy” of choice (well, at least for this month!) while Pachauri sticks to his tried and (not so) true “non-policy prescriptive” “polluters [must] pay for their carbon dioxide emissions”.

      What an amazing confluence of something-or-other, eh?!

  2. The real target and goal of the IPCC et al is revealed in one phrase: “unsustainable growth”. It is hatred and fear of growth which drives the whole shambolic vehicle.

    What they are incapable of comprehending is that growth evolves. The Egyptian Dynastic culture demonstrably grew and elaborated for millennia. But it was supplanted by a different kind of growth, supporting and benefitting far more people. So it will be with future growth: it will invent forms of wealth and use resources of which we have little inkling at present.

    The growth-fearers see none of this. They extrapolated current requirements and panic when the numbers get big.

  3. For the record … I received the following E-mail this morning:

    From: aditya@xxxxx On Behalf Of Partnerships
    Sent: Monday, August 19, 2013 8:48 AM
    To: hostrov@xxxxx
    Subject: Harvard MUN India- Reg. error with Dr. Pachauri’s title

    Dear Hillary,

    I am Aditya from The Harvard Model United Nations India team. We came across your blog and noticed that your blog contains information from our social media channels about the error with Dr. Rajendra Pachauri’s title.

    Dr. Pachauri pointed out the mistake made by us regarding his title during his speech at the conference. We have taken note of the error from our side and have corrected his title on all our social media channels. We are still looking through our old tweets and facebook posts to make the necessary corrections.

    It was an error from our social media manager and we request you to add this clarification on your blog. Thank you for pointing out the mistake. This also serves us as a reminder for us to double check posts being made by our representatives on social media.

    Regards,
    Aditya

    Not sure why she just didn’t post a comment here … But I note that the page from which I had sourced the above image – and other details of Pachauri’s “Nobel” status – remain the same.

    It is also worth noting that, unlike TTOI, the New India Express was not aware of the “mistake”. Either that or the source of their article was not actually present for Pachauri’s presentation!

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