Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian engineer who has headed up the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for 8 years, has failed as a leader of this important scientific and policy organization. The IPCC is tasked with putting together periodic comprehensive reports of the best climate science. In the last year, the world was treated to the unedifying spectacle of the press uncovering ridiculous mistakes in the IPCC's reports, e.g., Himalayan glaciers supposedly melting away by 2035, 40 percent of Amazon forests drying up, and African farm production reduced by 50 percent by 2020. It also didn't help that leaked emails from the prominent Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia showed climate scientists apparently attempting to exclude less alarmist views on climate change from the IPCC reports and trying to circumvent Freedom of Information Act queries.
Of course, it's possible for mistakes to creep into such massive reports, but the right way to handle them is to immediately admit to them and correct them, not stonewall as Pachauri did. In August, a report from the InterAcademy Council, an Amsterdam-based organization of the world's science academies, reviewed the IPCC leadership and processes. The report noted that the IPCC processes are less than transparent and needed to be made more open and more rigorous. The IAC report also recommended that the IPCC chair, and the heads of the various working groups be limited to participating in just one five year assessment "in order to maintain a variety of perspectives and fresh approach to each assessment." Translating the mild language of bureaucratic science: For the good of the IPCC and climate science, Pachauri should either gracefully step down, or if he refuses to go, he should be fired.
There is a rising tide of sentiment for Pachauri's departure as the head of the IPCC. In a scathing op/ed in this Sunday's Daily Mail, science writer Fred Pearce reviews Pachauri's sorry tenure and argues:
If governments won't fire [Pachauri] when the IPCC meets at the Korean seaside resort of Busan next week, he should fall on his sword. For the good of the battered reputation of climate-change science. For the good of the planet,
See Pearce's whole op/ed here.