Nobel Peace Prize winner under fire

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Three years ago, Rajendra Pachauri and Al Gore were being hailed for their climate work that won them the Nobel Peace Prize. Now Pachauri and his panel are facing harsh criticism, but he still has support in Norway.

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 30:  Nobel laureate Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, chairman of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, testifies before the U.S. House Select Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee on Capitol Hill January 30, 2008 in Washington, DC. Pachauri accepted the 2007 Nobel Prize on behalf of the panel along with co-recipient and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore because of their work warning the planet about the affects of man-made climate change.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Pachauri was back in the spotlight this week, after a special group appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon studied the work and organization of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The group concluded that while most of the panel’s work has been successful, too many mistakes creep into its reports. The panel also was criticized for a lack of openness and failure to catch and prevent mistakes.

The group’s report lists several proposals for specific improvements, as a means of preventing mistakes from hurting its credibility.

Pachauri, who has faced criticism in the past, has stressed that the panel’s main conclusions and recommendations remain unchanged and he didn’t interpret the group’s report as criticism of himself as leader. Others disagree, with the group itself suggesting that the panel’s leaders hold their jobs too long, and that terms should be limited to six years.

Pachauri himself says he has no intention of resigning, claiming instead that he now feels even more responsibility to follow up on the study’s recommendations.

Norway’s environmental minister Erik Solheim has supported Pachauri and told Aftenposten.no that he actually sees the new study as a vote of confidence in the panel. “The fundamentals of the report are that the panel has done a very good job,” Solheim said. “There’s a big difference between any claims of conscious errors and a need for better quality control.”

Pål Prestrud of the Center for Climate Change said the report offers some good recommendations, and notes that the panel already has addressed much of its criticism.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who has worked closely with Pachauri on climate issues, has said that he supports Pachauri and welcomes criticism of the panel, which he also thinks has taken steps already to correct mistakes.

Stoltenberg has stressed that the panel’s major contentions remain: “The polar ice is melting, the seas are rising and the earth is becoming warmer.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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