Environmentalists Critical of Rajendra Pachauri's cosyness with corporations
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) elected new leadership last week in Geneva, Switzerland, unanimously re-electing the Indian economist Rajendra Pachauri as chairman but choosing new heads of the three working groups that coordinate the writing of its massive reports.
The most significant race was for the leadership of Working Group I, which evaluates the basic science of climate change. Swiss climate modeller Thomas Stocker came out ahead after two initial votes narrowed a field of four to him and Francis Zwiers, a senior scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis in Toronto.
Stocker heads the climate and environmental physics unit at the University of Bern and has been a coordinating lead author in Working Group I during the past two assessments. He sees plenty of work to do in assessing sea-level rise, carbon-cycle feedbacks, and regional impacts. Qin Dahe, who heads the China Meteorological Association, stays on as co-chair representing a developing nation.
"The value of the IPCC is utterly dependent on top scientists such as these as co-chairs to lead the assessment process," says Susan Solomon of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado, who served as lead co-chair of Working Group I for the most recent assessment in 2007.
Working Group II, which assesses impacts and adaptation, will be chaired by Chris Field, an ecologist who heads the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology in Stanford, California. His co-chair will be Vicente Barros, an oceanographer at the University of Buenos Aires.
For the next assessment, Field says he wants to further integrate the sciences pertaining to impacts and adaptation. He also wants to drill down to "the levels of processes" instead of just listing the types of changes that can be expected under climate change. He will also push for a separate chapter on oceans to look at acidification, warming and loss of ice cover.
Working Group III, which assesses mitigation options, will be headed by Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. He says he wants to give business people and policy-makers a larger role and "be a bit more precise" about the advantages, costs and risks of different options.
All the co-chairs support further integration among the three working groups (ses 'Spending the Nobel prize'). They differ in their attitude to special reports — targeted assessments to address pressing policy questions. Edenhofer favours their use; Field and Stocker don't emphasize them as much. The panel is currently preparing a special report on renewable energy, and Edenhofer says he has secured an agreement from the German government for additional resources for such purposes.
In a departure forced by a tight vote and procedural complications, Edenhofer will have two co-chairs: Ramón Pichs Madruga, an economist at the Center for Research on the World Economy in Havana, and Youba Sokona, a Malian environmental scientist who heads the Sahara and Sahel Observatory in Tunis.
"It was a political compromise allowing everybody to save face," says new IPCC vice-chair Jean-Pascal Van Ypersele, a climatologist at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. "It was not perfect, but it in the end it was accepted by everybody."
Pachauri's environmental credentials are suspect
R K Pachauri headed UN climate group has proposed solutions like “a major expansion in nuclear power, use of GM crops to boost biofuel production, and reliance on unproven technologies…” to mitigate adverse climate change. Such solutions have put the group on a collision course with those who argue that simply replacing one set of technologies with another set of technologies won't work. Nuclear reactors are dangerous and land clearance and chemical pesticides and fertilisers used to grow fuel crops can cause huge environmental damage. Pachauri is also a known supporter of Interlinking of Rivers project involving massive land use change-a listed cause of climate change as per Kyoto Protocol.
It is shocking to note that Pachauri headed The Energy Research Institute (TERI) is advising the Government of India to undertake polluting incineration technology based municipal waste to energy projects that has failed in US and Europe. Rationalising the same, he says, "The stress is on India because we are a developing nation so we need energy more. But developed countries shouldn't be pointing fingers at us because they have done their bit to pollute the environment. So they should set their own house in order first." TERI in its study done for Indian Environment Ministry estimates that municipal solid waste to energy projects have the largest potential of around $400,000 every year.
In fact TERI itself in one of its other studies on solid waste management in India has pointed out that the techno-economic feasibility of such projects is not established. Therefore, their recommendation to undertake the same is baffling given the fact that waste incineration is mentioned in the annexure A of the Protocol as a source of green house gas emissions. Although by now it is fairly well known that carbon trade does not alleviate poverty, Pachauri remains a votary of this trade in the name of poor.
It must be remembered that Pachauri, an Indian engineer and an economist had replaced Robert Watson, a US atmospheric scientist in 2002 as the Chairman of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Watson has been the chairman of IPCC since 1996. Pachauri received 76 votes as a result of George Bush administration’s reported campaign against Watson who got only 49 votes. At the behest of fossil fuel lobby, the US campaign worked on a strategy for Watson’s removal to ensure industry friendly officials at IPCC. The world's biggest oil company, Exxon-Mobil among others had proposed this strategy in liaison with oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia. His industry friendly approach manifested itself in all the seminars, conferences and workshops he organized either as IPCC or TERI by taking sponsorship from all those corporations who are known for heinous corporate crimes. When the Indian Ministry of Water Resources Resolution dated 24 February, 2003, made him a member of the Task Force on Interlinking of Rivers project constituted “with a view to bringing about a consensus among the states,” it became evident that he represents corporate interest and not the public interest that has rejected the mega project. A December 2002 resolution of Government of India has presented it as a panacea of all water problems that cannot be questioned.
Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited in his speech “Transforming India Towards a New Development Model” on 21st August 2007 said, “We can converge civil engineering and agriculture to build a trans-India water resources system. This can be done by linking rivers on an unprecedented scale. It can result in adequate water resources for agriculture, particularly to put marginal land to productive use and benefit marginal farmers.” He was speaking at the sixth Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture organized by TERI.
Pachauri, TERI, Ambani and others who support the ecologically disastrous networking of rivers project ignore the way it would contribute to global warming by replumbing of the earth and rewriting of geography. Among other environmentally destructive consequences, it is noteworthy that Prof V. Rajamani of Jawaharlal Nehru University had brought out consequences of the proposed project on the South West monsoon. Unmindful of the fact that one of the major outcomes of `development' is water-scarcity, according to Pachauri this mega project would flood proof and drought proof the country, improve agriculture through canal irrigation, provide alternative transport, additional electricity, higher GDP growth, employment etc. What he does not pay attention to is that these projects cause near total removal of suspended sediment load from the stream flow, which would otherwise get deposited on land through flooding. Consequently, irrigation water would become nutrient depleted and this would necessitate the extensive use of chemical fertilizers for agriculture.
Connecting the rivers is an engineer's dream but Pachauri chooses to remain oblivious of massive human displacement, disappearance of villages, water logging of millions of hectares of agricultural land for the benefit of contractors, engineers and industrialists. According to a report of earth scientists, “The benefits of the monsoon rainfall to the entire ecology of India as well as to the human-centric economy need no reiteration. The adverse effects of reduced run-off to the Bay of Bengal because of river linkages appear to be real.” This report was co-authored by earth scientists such as Prof. Rajamani, U. C. Mohanty, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, R. Ramesh, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, G. S. Bhat, P. N. Vinayachandran and D. Sengupta, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India; Prasanna Kumar, National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, and R. K. Kolli, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and published in Current Science.
Is it believable that likes of Pachauri, TERI and Ambani do not know about these grave ramifications of their megalomania- a psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, genius, or omnipotence?
TERI’s varsity campus not all that ‘green’
New Delhi, September 12 As President Pratibha Patil was inaugurating the new ‘green and cool’ campus of The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) on Thursday, a group of environmentalists were up in arms against what they called “lack of environmental responsibility” in the construction of the university building on the protected ridge area in Vasant Kunj.
A memorandum has also been sent to the President requesting her to put a stop on any further constructions on this 640-hectare ridge area.
“This ‘green building’ was built on the Capital’s most sacred natural heritage, the ‘gloriously pristine’ Delhi Ridge, as it is described in the Masterplan. It is a subterfuge to have a green building that destroys the Green Ridge — our oldest natural heritage”, reads the memorandum .
TERI’s spokesperson Rajeev Chibber contested the argument. He said the new campus is not on the protected area, but just behind it. “The new building is just off the ridge,” he said. “Ours is the first ‘green’ campus in Delhi, which is actually enhancing the whole system with its underground water management system. It enhances the use of renewable sources of energy,” he said.
The area is protected as ridge in the Masterplan: it was demarcated so by the Geographical Survey of India, 1997; as a forest by the Environment Protection and Control Authority, 1999; and as a pure water recharge ‘notified’ area by the Central Groundwater Authority in 2004.
“We find it irresponsible on part of an organisation that talks of combating climate change but does the reverse at home. It is misusing the word ‘green building’ to mislead the public. A green building can never replace a green ridge,” said Diwan Singh of the Ridge Bachao Andolan.
“It is also a vital water recharge area with an ability to recharge up to 80 per cent of rain that falls on it (according to a 2004 CGWA report). It can give USD 2 billion worth of pure mineral water to the city if preserved,” said Dr Vikram Soni, Research Scientist with the National Physical Laboratory.
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