23 December 2009

Pachauri Responds

UPDATE #2: The TERI press release is online here.

UPDATE: Some additional details from the TERI press release
here.

Rajendra Pachauri has responded to the conflict 0f interest allegations levied against him in the Telegraph, which I discussed here several days ago. Dr. Pachauri's rebutal comes in the form of a press release issued by TERI, the organization that he directs in India. I am in possession of the press release, having received it from a colleague who sent it to an email list. Yesterday, I emailed the TERI media office to ask if I could post the release up here in full. I have not yet heard back from them, so I won't yet post it up in full. Presumably, they issued it to be read and I assume that The Telegraph will post it up sooner or later. The release ends with a threat to escalate the issue, presumably a reference to UK libel laws.

The release provides details on more than $250,000 in payments to TERI over the past three and a half years in exchange for Dr. Pachauri's services from companies with a direct financial stake in climate policy. I do not see how this information in any way clears up the issue. In fact, it raises more difficult questions for the IPCC and Dr. Pachauri, who based on this information is unambiguously in violation of conflict of interest policies of the WMO and UN, the parent bodies of the IPCC. This level of remuneration from parties interested in specific climate policy outcomes would clearly violate conflict of interest guidelines at most federal agencies with respect to service on science advisory panels (e.g., FDA has a threshold of $50,000 per year). The fact that the money goes to an organization that Dr. Pachauri directs rather than directly into his pocket is not relevant (to the FDA, WMO or UN).

The press release is being reported on in India, for instance:

In his rejoinder to the newspaper, Pachauri said: “IPCC makes no policy recommendations, and all its reports are in the public domain, widely distributed and disseminated across the world. There is nothing in this report that could have any proprietary benefit.”

The newspaper reported that Pachauri was part of groups, including green firms, which benefited from IPCC’s recommendations, terming this a conflict of interest.

The article said The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), which Pachauri is heading since the 1980s, maintains close links with the Tata group and assists it in developing its carbon trading business worldwide.

“This is far from the truth. The Tatas do enjoy the envious reputation of establishing many institutions of excellence and TERI was one among them. As TERI’s interest went beyond energy and included natural resources, we decided in 2001 to retain the acronym and change the expansion. This signifies our independence from any direct Tata connection,” Pachauri said.

It is odd that Dr. Pachauri would raise the policy irrelevance of the IPCC as defense. This is odd for two reasons. First, the IPCC is designed to be "policy relevant" and second,perhaps more than anyone, Dr. Pachauri routinely invokes the IPCC in support of very specific policy recommendations. This line of defense raises even further questions for the IPCC.

That the media -- other than the Telegraph -- is not on this issue is rather amazing. Writing recently in the Washington Post, Michael Gerson helps to explain these dynamics: "Climate scientists are clearly accustomed to deference. Theirs is a community coddled by global elites, extensively funded by governments, celebrated by Hollywood and honored with international prizes." If Dr. Pachauri were the head of a drug safety advisory committee, a Bush administration official editing agency climate reports or a different type of UN bureaucrat, allegations of conflict of interest would almost certainly get closer scrutiny.

It is not anti-science or anti-climate policy to ask that scientists be held to the same standard as everyone else. I'd argue that holding science to high standards is about as pro-science and pro-climate policy as one can get. The IPCC needs to be asked some uncomfortable questions. In the long run, climate science and policy will both be better for it.

20 comments:

  1. Perhaps he should look up
    Irvine vs. Lipstadt 1996 before embarking on a libel trial.

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  2. That the media -- other than the Telegraph -- is not on this issue is rather amazing.

    But not surprising.

    Now ask the next question: what else has the legacy media not been reporting?

    (BTW, Roger, the reason I keep commenting with different authentications etc is that blogger seems to accept or decline various credential randomly. I'm not trying to be sneaky about anything.)

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  3. Oh, the Monckton open letter has an interesting comment about TERI's independence:
    Notwithstanding the apparent softening of your institute's sponsorship, in reality its relation with the entire multi-billion-dollar Tata Group remains unaltered, as your communication manager Annapurna Vanchewsaran, explained in January 2003 –

    "We have not severed our past relationship with the Tatas. It [the name-change from Tata Energy Research Institute to The Energy Research Institute] is only for convenience."

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  4. For me, it is one of the mysteries, why certain pulicly visible people, say bishops, leaders of unions, heads of sportsclubs, stars of all sort, politicians are under permanent scrutiny of the media - but scientists are not. Are scientists considered non-human, over-human, free of interests, wielding no power or influence? Just harmless, ego-free people, who devote their lifes and energy to good cases, the goodness oif which is beyond all doubts?

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  5. Pachauri behaved inexcusably when he resorted to ad hominem attacks in defense of the (clearly wrong) AR4 section on Himalayan glaciers.

    I hate to see these issues of remuneration (which no matter how significant are unlikely to have been the cause of Pachauri's statements) elevated over the far more serious issue of scientific integrity.

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  6. On a previous blog post, someone suggested that Pachauri was an industrial engineer and not a scientist. His bio, however, on his website, shows he has a Ph.D. in industrial engineering and one in economics. Which would make him a scientist.

    Depending on how you define "scientist" which is an interesting discussion. One with a Ph.D. in the sciences? One who is currently actively doing peer-reviewed research in a specific field relevant to a specific policy question?

    Because one could argue that the latter is currently accepting funds for research and has an inherent conflict of interest in whether the topic is considered to be a problem or not. So we have a conundrum for researchers: those who know most are paid by someone, and are likely to want to maintain funding- so the most knowledgeable will always be most prone to conflict of interest.

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  7. Does laundering the money through TERI allow Dr. Pachauri to avoid niggling little things like withholding and income taxes?

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  8. -7-Donald

    There is no evidence that Dr. Pachauri ever personally benefits from the money or anything untoward is going on. Simply taking the facts as represented by TERI is plenty enough to raise serious questions of COI, and places him in a position contrary to UN and WMO COI policies.

    There is no need to speculate further here.

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  9. The Telegraph mentions other connections. On a Business Week website Pachauri's associations are listed with dates. 2009 to present, Chairman of the Advisory Group, Asian Development Bank. On 12/13/09 Reuters reports the head of the Asian Development Bank (Haruhito Kuroda) warned governments if Copenhagen does not reach a certain agreement the carbon market could collapse. Elsewhere Reuters reports the carbon market to be upwards of $150 billion. As regards Pachauri's academic credentials, the problem is he's identified (by the BBC and others) as the UN's if not the world's 'leading climate scientist.' He has no training in climate science.

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  10. Here is a video of Dr. Pachauri's response to the Telegraph's article: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMgztyvgWhA

    There is an article here also: http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article69689.ece

    It looks to me, that if TERI doesn't file a libel suit, that they will be in effect admitting the substance of the charges by the Telegraph. Not only does the money he controls through TERI need to be looked at, but also the sources of income of his relatives might merit some analysis.

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  11. Dr Pachauri's speech in Copenhagen (15 December 2009) is online here
    http://climate.ku.dk/news/presentationbydrpachauri_2009/webcast/

    At the end of his presentation (in which he confused growth rates of Co2 emissions and concentrations) he had a little video clip showing the benefits of solar energy to rural Indian communities. In this clip, TERI figured prominently. I thought this was a slightly unconventional way to finish such a high profile presentation from the IPCC chairman, to say the least.

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  12. "It is odd that Dr. Pachauri would raise the policy irrelevance of the IPCC as defense."

    Not if one is trying to establish that they are 'not a public' figure.

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  13. "That the media -- other than the Telegraph -- is not on this issue is rather amazing. "
    It's not, another scandal after the CRU gang would make it very hard to vent further AGW doom and gloom from IPCC, how can you defend press releases from a body directed by a person heavily involved in the fossile and financial industry? An argument used so many times when it concerned scpetics?

    "Are scientists considered non-human, over-human, free of interests, wielding no power or influence? Just harmless, ego-free people, who devote their lifes and energy to good cases, the goodness oif which is beyond all doubts?" Do you mean that this is not the case?

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  14. Depending on where he files his suit, it could be troublesome. The UK is a very plaintiff friendly country. Media types may consider lawyering up.

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  15. Roger, I'm not sure I agree with you @8: a number of Dr Pachauri's associations would normally be compensated. Even if he doesn't profit directly from a particular decision, the fact that he is compensated in any way would be an issue. Consider, eg, a judge who is also a board member of a corporation; we wouldn't accept that judge serving on a trial involving the corporation, even if the compensation was contractual and independent of performance.

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  16. "IPCC makes no policy recommendations"

    So, what that charlatan is saying is that the "Summary For Policy Makers", which is the MAIN FOCUS of the IPCC report, doesn't make any policy recommendations.

    Seeing him making such a bald faced lie, and no one in law enforcement anywhere getting upset about it, is the essence of exasperation.

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  17. -15-StY

    I don't think that we are saying anything different.

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  18. Dr. Pachauri is still on the defensive and has revealed he is in a weak position with the $250,000 payments.

    The Telegraph will not be giving an apology on the basis of this press release. I think they sense blood here and I would expect a lot more digging by the newspaper's journalists.

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  19. You might be interested in this article: http://www.globalpost.com/webblog/united-kingdom/pachauri-admits-300000-payments

    It also links to an IndianExpress article which contains the TERI press release.

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  20. @13 - I do believe that most non-scientists view science as a sort of mechanical process, believing that science always gives the true answers. That would make scientists unable to corrupt their results.

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