30 August 2010

Should Rajendra Pachauri Resign?

If you want people to take action, then you obviously would make the arguments that require a certain set of actions.

Rajendra Pachauri, August 2010, Wall Street Journal
I spoke with a lot of reporters today in the US and UK about the IAC IPCC Review report.  An overwhelming focus of their interest was on Rajendra Pachauri and his future with the IPCC.  The speculation comes from the following statements in the IAC report (PDF, p. 41):
 A 12-year appointment (two terms) is too long for a field as dynamic and contested as climate change. . .

Recommendation: The term of the IPCC Chair should be limited to the time frame of one assessment.
When asked for a specific comment about Pachauri by Seth Borenstein of the AP I said:
"It's hard to see how the United Nations can both follow the advice of this committee and keep Rajendra Pachauri on board as head"
I followed this statement by emphasizing that the reforms of the IPCC go well beyond one individual.  Removing Pachauri and doing nothing else would do little to fix the IPCC.  Conversely, doing everything else recommended by the IAC and leaving Pachauri in place would go a long way to improving the organization.  So in many respects I see the focus on Pachauri as a distraction. (Somehow those comments did not find a place in the AP story!)

That said, as I've detailed before (e.g., here and here and here), Pachauri has many issues of potential conflict of interest.  He would all but certainly be found to have conflicts of interest under the WMO and UN guidelines that the IPCC is exempt from following.   The IAC Review finds the fact that the IPCC has no such guidelines to be unacceptable, recommending:
The IPCC should develop and adopt a rigorous conflict of interest policy that applies to all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports, including senior IPCC leadership . . .
Should Pachauri be deemed exempt from the recommended one-term term limit (as some have suggested) then it would not only make a mockery of the report, but also set the stage for a damaging battle over developing conflict of interest guidelines and how those should be applied to existing IPCC officials.  The IPCC could of course decide that Pachauri's conflicts do not disqualify him from the position.  Any such efforts to circumvent the IAC recommendations would risk further damaging the IPCC.

The bottom line?  The IAC Review has unambiguously recommended that the IPCC Chairman serve only one term.  Rajendra Pachauri has now served more than one term.  On this basis alone he should go.  However, even if an exception were made for him, he faces significant issues of conflict of interest that would result in his potential disqualification as the IPCC chair (should the IPCC implement policies anything like those of the WMO or UN or NRC).

If the IAC Review recommendations are to have any meaning at all then Pachauri should go.  Talk of retroactive application and grandfathering of the rules are a slippery slope back to the same sort of ad hocracy that got the IPCC into trouble in the first place.