Rajendra Pachauri, the beleagured chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has responded to his critics by saying “I am not going to stand down, I am going to stand up.”
As head of the United Nation’s climate science body, Pachauri has been a controversial figure for enviro-sceptics due to his unflinching stance on the impact of man upon climate change. These enviro-sceptics claim that Pachauri is too reliant upon unsubstantiated reports from climate change pressure groups and manipulates scientific data to suit this agenda. A recent high profile mistake made by the IPCC has led to renewed calls for Pachauri to resign.
The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report had claimed that there was a ’very high likelihood’ of Himalayan glaciers disappearing by 2035. This finding has been hotly disputed by some scientists recently and the Indian government itself gave a very different opinion of what was happening to the Himalaya glaciers. Last week IPCC vice-chairman Jean-Pascal van Ypersele admitted that the panel had made a mistake in their assertion.
Some critics have claimed that the flawed evidence is taken from a 2005 report by climate change pressure group WWF. A 1996 Russian study, however, previously stated that the Himalaya glaciers will have disappeared by 2350 and it may be that a simple clerical error has led to this 1996 report being misinterpreted.
Criticism of Rajendra Pachauri has been vociferous, with claims that the mistake has severely damaged the credibility of any of the IPCC’s findings. The error has come at a bad time for the climate change campaign with leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit previously dealing a hammer blow to the perception of credibility within the field of climate science.
Pachauri however insists that while this one specific error was made within the report the overall message of the report remains as relevant and pressing as ever: the glaciers are melting due to human impact on the environment, and action needs to be taken now to reverse this trend.
A defiant Pachauri has come out with all guns blazing. In a defiant statement he said: “I want to tell the sceptics who see me as the face of the science of climate change, I am in no mood to oblige them (by resigning); I am going to remain as chairman of the IPCC for my entire term.”
Whilst an unfortunate error has been made with regards to the 2035 claim, it cannot be said that the report as a whole is flawed. Pachauri and the IPCC still have a very important role to play in educating the world about climate science and overcoming the baseless claims of the enviro-sceptic lobby.
Just before I go, I was talking to my brother who works in economics and he says that judging from the price of home heating oil recently there is a very real possibility of a large portion of society not being able to heat their homes throughout the cold snap. It is a genuinely scary thought!