Four months ago, Dr Rajendra Pachauri was hardly a household name. But to the majority of those who knew him or knew of him, he was close to being a saint. This was the man who, as chair of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), had almost single-handedly put climate change on the map – and had a Nobel Peace Prize to show for it.
Pachauri is now better known but rarely is his name written in the media without the qualifier ‘embattled.’ More often than not, whenever he attends a public meeting, he is mobbed by journalists demanding to know whether he is going to resign. What happened to make such a change?
In short, the answer is a blog, more specifically a blog called EU Referendum which I write. Set up six years ago to campaign on the EU referendum then promised by Blair, it had since morphed into a general political blog, albeit with a strong EU tinge.
The story starts last December when it had been announced that the Corus steel works in Redcar was to be closed down by its owners, Tata Steel. I had worked out that the company was to benefit to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds from the sale of carbon credits that it no longer needed, and had been given to it free of charge under the EU's emission trading scheme.
But it also emerged that Rajendra Pachauri had links with the Tata group. His own research institute had been set up by Tata and had originally been called the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI). And, if there were links, a case could be made that Pachauri's interest in climate change was not wholly motivated by concern for the planet. There could be financial interests.
That indeed turned out to be the case and further research revealed a large number of links with companies and financial institutions, all of which could in some way benefit financially from an association with the chair of the IPCC. The details were duly recorded and a long blog post was written, listing some of the evidence.
There, most probably, it would have rested, but for Christopher Booker who approached the Sunday Telegraph with the outline of a story based on my work – leading to the publication of a full-page piece just before Christmas.
In the aftermath of the failed Copenhagen climate summit and with the controversy over the Climatic Research Unit ‘climategate’ e-mails still rampant, the effect was like a dam-burst. A torrent of media and blog coverage ensued. Soon Pachauri was being described as ‘controversial’ and then, shortly afterwards, he became ‘embattled.’
The latter appellation was not entirely of my doing. Through the Copenhagen debacle and the ‘climategate’ crisis, the IPCC and Pachauri had remained relatively untarnished. But in early January came a new controversy over the Himalayan glaciers after it had been discovered that the IPCC had made a false claim about their rate of melting.
This time, Pachauri was directly involved as he had dismissed earlier criticism of the glacier claim as ‘voodoo science.’ But it then turned out that it was the IPCC’s science that was ‘voodoo’ as it was based on an unsubstantiated report from the advocacy group WWF.
That was bad enough for Pachauri but then I published on my blog evidence that his institute, TERI, had benefitted from generous grants to research the effects of that which the IPCC had falsely claimed would happen. ‘Glaciergate,’ as it was then being called, took on new legs, leading to an invitation to appear on Indian TV when I called for the IPCC head to resign.
By then, it was ‘open season’ not only for the IPCC but for Pachauri himself – the two now being irrevocably linked. Numerous blogs were pouring over the details of the IPCC reports, finding errors and inconsistencies. Even the Indian media joined in, one newspaper reporting on Pachauri's links with ‘Big Oil,’ with devastating effect.
My blog, however, was now being watched by the mainstream media worldwide – details in posts on the blog were appearing, often with acknowledgement – in media reports throughout the world. But the next coup was closer to home, with the discovery that the IPCC had repeated its ‘trick’ on the glaciers and again used a WWF report to forecast dire events in the Amazon. Working directly with the Sunday Times, another controversy was launched which is running to this day.
Booker and I had meantime produced another exposé for the Sunday Telegraph, this one tracking down Pachauri's London-based outpost of his TERI institute, finding good evidence of false accounting, provoking an admission from its director that there were ‘anomalies’ in the accounts and triggering an investigation by the Charities Commission, one which is still ongoing.
That cleared the decks for the next ‘gate.’ This one was ‘Africagate,’ the IPCC once again relying on an advocacy group report, using this to make unsupported projections about loss of agriculture yields in Africa. Even the references cited in the report did not support the claim that in some African countries yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent by 2020. In fact, two out of the three countries cited expected an increase in yields.
It would be wrong to imply, even if by omission, that my blog was the major player in the field. Many more blogs fanned the flames, among them the famous Watts up with that? and Climate Audit in the US and our own Bishops Hill over here.
But it is nevertheless fair to say that it was my blog, with Booker, which put Pachauri on the rack and was responsible for more ‘gates’ than any other source. Through our collective efforts, climate science will never be the same again. The consensus has been blown away.
The ‘embattled’ Rajendra Pachauri would like to think that ‘powerful vested interests’ are ranged against him, a complaint he makes whenever given the opportunity. He and others from the warmist camp, including Oxfam and Greenpeace, allege that the agenda is being masterminded by ‘Big Oil’ with its legions of lobbyists.
An agency commissioned by Oxfam accuses us bloggers of being a ‘loose federation’ which has succeeded in accomplishing ‘the most impressive PR coup of the 21st century.’ But the truth is that the game changer was the unpaid blogger like me,bashing away on a laptop in a back room in Bradford, informed by the miracle of the internet. We reached parts the othermedia couldn’t reach.
Are we powerful? Yes. But it is the power of the blogosphere, and it still took the mainstream media to pick up and amplify our material. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that blogs and the mainstream media are not in competition. We are complementary, and achieve the most when we work together.
As for vested interests, I am still waiting for my cheque from ‘Big Oil,’ so far in vain.