IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri has "no intention of backing off."
In an interview with the journal Science, the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra Pachauri defended himself against attacks on his consulting earnings and dismissed as largely unimportant some recent scandals that have surrounded the IPCC and its scientists.
"I don't think the credibility of the IPCC can be dented," Pachauri said. "If the IPCC wasn't there, why would anyone be worried about climate change?"
This might be a bit of an overstatement, but his point is simply that to dismiss the IPCC's decades of work based on a few pseudo-scandals in the last few months is not just shortsighted but downright stupid. The IPCC's credibility aside, though, some opponents have been calling for Pachauri to step down in light of his advisory positions with Toyota, Deutsche Bank and others. He has insisted that all money has gone to The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), for whom he serves as director general, and that there is no conflict of interest involved in his various roles.
"I don't see any conflict at all. Science has to be used for decision-making. IPCC's work is supposed to be very clearly policy relevant. How can I establish policy relevance if I shut myself in an ivory tower and say I will not say anything about climate change? I feel totally comfortable in the role of adviser to anybody. I would even advise some of the newspapers that are writing all these lies. And my first advice to them would be, stop writing these lies. Because how long can you continue lying? We are not living in an age where these things will never be caught. They should realize that sooner or later the truth will catch up with them."
Them's fightin' words, Rajendra. When asked specifically about Toyota, a company clearly heavily intertwined with greenhouse gas emissions and energy technology, he waxed downright poetic:
"I mean, the kind of transportation technology that they are involved in is revolutionary. I mean, it is not just hybrids. You should go and see that they have now set up a division on battery technology because they realize that in [the] future, electric vehicles are going to be run through battery-technology improvements."
Okay, somewhat poetic. All in all, one of the world's most visible climate scientists seemed confident and defiant in his interview, but truly doesn't seem to care that his integrity and the integrity of the IPCC has been questioned.
"I know that all this nonsense which is going on is ephemeral, it is temporary, and I think based on the performance that we show to the whole world and the leadership that I provide to the IPCC, these opinions by a few motivated individuals will be washed away. I have no doubt about it at all."
He even went the I'm-better-than-the-last-guy route at one point:
"Let's face it, my predecessor [at IPCC, Robert Watson] was working with the World Bank and he was getting a salary from the World Bank while he was essentially working for the IPCC. You could say that he was serving the interest of the World Bank, which a lot of people would criticize. I see absolutely no conflict of interest since I am a salaried employee of TERI and if I provide advice to any organization."
I'm not sure you're going to see 69-year-old industrial engineers in such an attack dog mode all that often, but Pachauri's passion for the larger environmental issues was clear in the end, even after being asked about his personal problems repeatedly. Toward the end of the interview he was asked if he sees himself becoming a "thorn in the side of vested interests." To the man's credit, he insisted he will stay at least through the IPCC's fifth assessment report, and doesn't seem scared of the scandals:
"I have no intentions of backing off. I am not going to tailor the truth to suit the vested interests of those who would like to continue with business as usual."