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'The science is absolutely first rate'

Dr R K Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
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June 05, 2007
Rajendra K Pachauri is the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the influential world body of scientists, which has defined the extent of global warming and the perils it poses to our planet.

Dr Pachauri, who has been the IPCC's chairman since April 2002, has a double PhD from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA, in industrial engineering and economics. He has headed The Energy Research Institute (formerly the Tata Energy Research Institute) in New Delhi since 1981, first as director, and since April 2001 as director-general.

In the second part of a five-part interview with's Nikhil Lakshman, Dr Pachauri, 66, explains why he is satisfied with the quality of science involved in the IPCC reports, which has often been disputed by the anti-global warming lobby.

Part 1 of the Interview: 'Climate change reports were not diluted'

Could you describe to all the disbelievers -- people who question the science involved in the IPCC reports -- the science involved in drafting these reports? Do you believe that the science is absolutely flawless?

That's a matter of opinion. I can't change anybody's mind. But you look at the facts as they are. You have close to 600 people who are actually the authors of these working group reports. These are people who have been chosen on the basis of their track record, on their record of publications, on the research that they have done. They have been nominated either by governments or major international organisations.

There is a very careful process of selection. We had something like 2,000 such nominations and out of that less than 600 were selected. So it is not as though anybody can get in.

They are people who are at the top of their profession as far as research is concerned in a particular aspect of climate change. Then the process itself is such -- I mean they draft out their reports on the basis of clearly developed outlines of each working group report and these outlines are accepted by the plenary session of the IPCC.

And then at each stage of the production of the report it goes through a process of reviews and all the comments we get are carefully logged, each one is taken into account. It is not necessary that everything will be accepted, but everything has to be considered and then you know finally in the plenary session, there could be one country or two countries that may take a certain position, but there are several others who can counter that and they do.

So you can't think of a more transparent process, you can't think of a better set of qualified people than what we have in the IPCC. I would only put that forward as valid reasons to accept the science and the scientific assessments that are carried out.

Are you satisfied with the quality of science involved?

I think it is absolutely first rate. I've no doubt about it. The amount of work that is put in, the amount of labour that goes into this, the inputs that come in. I mean I am talking about less than 600 people who actually write the report. If you look at the number that review these drafts, if you look at the number that provide what is known as the contributions of the contributing author...

You know there may be someone who knows a lot about glaciers. We will get him to write something on glaciers and send it to the writing team. So if you look at all these inputs, you have well over 3,000 people who participate in this process.

The IPCC doesn't do any research itself. We only develop our assessments on the basis of peer-reviewed literature. So this is really hundreds and thousands of years of research efforts that go into the distinct material that comes into the report.

I can't think of a better process. There is not a parallel on this planet, in any field of endeavour as you have in the case of the IPCC.

Do you involve the naysayers, the people who doubt that global warming exists in this process?

Yes, of course. You know when we send out drafts or reviews, they go to everyone. They go to governments and governments can pass them out to all kinds of people. And if there are governments who have a cosy relationship with the naysayers, they would naturally send it to these people.

And we take every single comment into account. We have a person called a review editor whose job it is to ensure that each particular comment is taken into account. So you know there is a kind of a monitor that takes care of the process being followed accurately.

Ultimately, would you think the reports that you released, do you think of them as scientific reports or political reports? After all, ultimately, the politicians and policy-makers have the final say on what goes in, don't they?

They have the final acceptance. But you know that doesn't necessarily... Somebody accepts a report, let us say if a politician accepts a scientific report, it doesn't make the report political in any way. It's a scientific document. You have policy-makers who are accepting it. That doesn't change the character of the report. And as I said, all the basic findings of the report are pretty much intact. You can carry out a word by word comparison if you want between the draft and what was finally accepted.

So the science didn't get hijacked by the politicians?

Not at all. As I said, you have 114 countries, there would have to be a grand global conspiracy for all of them to hijack this. I mean these are people with different points of view, these are people who are very serious about the issue of climate change, they are not going to allow three or four or five countries to hijack this whole thing. They are not sitting as dummies.

I think overall the process has a very strong leveling effect and you can't have too many people who are deviant in any way as far as this report is concerned and its acceptance.

Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Part 3 of the Interview: Climate change: 'We are likely to see growing water scarcity'

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