IPCC Chair Dr. Rajendra Pachauri cleared of yet another false claim against climate scientists. Should the media change course on how it handles attacks on climate scientists?
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has recently gotten some heat for supposed financial wrongdoings and conflicts of interest. The New York Times even covered the possible scandal, sharing much climate science disinformation with countless readers in the process.
Now, the verdict is out from KPMG, the professional services company that conducted the independent review of the issue, and (yet again) the climate scientist that got his reputation smeared in the media by "selfless climate skeptics" has been found innocent of any wrongdoings. KPMG began the investigation after media suggested late last year that Pachauri received money for advising several companies including Toyota and Credit Suisse.
KPMG found that payments made to Rajendra Pachauri were all made to Mr Pachauri’s non-profit organization TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), the Financial Times reports.
The issue this really brings up is how long society should listen to and put up with the unfounded claims of climate science skeptics or disinformers.
What is the real crime?
It is very easy for people to make claims that have no scientific or actual backing. It has become common to see claims that a climate scientist has done something wrong in the media. But what have climate scientists actually been convicted of after independent review? "So, no conspiracy, no collusion, no manipulation of data, no corruption of the peer-review process, no scandal; just an understandable reluctance to hand over data to dishonest people with a history of misrepresenting it," Australian ethicist Clive Hamilton writes in his ABC column “Climategate: The lion that squeaked" in regards to the largest of climate science "scandals".
Long before the independent reviews can confirm that a climate scientist is actually innocent, however, the big news that a climate scientist may have done something wrong (and usually controversial) spreads through the major media and all the world. How? As Michael Sinclair clearly displays in the video below, one media agency publishes information in a controversial and often even inaccurate way, another one picks it up without confirming or correcting the information, climate skeptics spread the news far and wide, and before you know it all the climate change news you see is about scandals and controversies.
On the other hand, to prove a claim wrong, the scientists must commission or spend their time coordinating with those conducting independent reviews. They must spend their time discussing individual pieces of the puzzle at length and defending their findings, showing repeatedly that they have not physically altered puzzle pieces to alter the look of the bigger picture, rather than helping the world to see the threat of climate change and start dealing with it. This process is not unique to climate scientists, and it is an important part of the legal system we rely on that others can demand a check on the claims that scientists, companies or others make, but in the instance of climate change, we are seeing how this right and safety measure can be abused to jam up society's movement forward on the issue.
Rather than help us solve serious world problems, skeptics or disinformers distract society, the media and politicians from the urgent task at hand.
So, the real question is, rather than the lay media (inadequately) engaging in the work of scientific bodies to review and critique the science behind what climate scientists find (or, as in the case above, the completely legal business practices of climate scientists), should the media stop giving so much weight to the claims of non-peer reviewed reports from oil and coal kingpins and their spokespeople and wait until something is actually proven controversial to smear the names and work of climate scientists?
Photo: World Economic Forum via flickr/Creative Commons