Rajendra Pachauri, the disgraced former head of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), has produced an ingenious defence against the sexual harassment charges he is now facing in an Indian court.
It turns out that, no he didn’t pester, bombard with emails, and grope the attractive female employee at his TERI climate research institute.
Rather, the whole thing is the result of an evil conspiracy by climate change sceptics and right-wing think tanks, funded by Big Oil. Apparently they hacked into all his computer accounts and, without his knowledge, sent a series of flirtatious emails and love poems to his unnamed accuser.
Pachauri was given generous space to make these extravagant claims by John Vidal, one of the numerous environment editors who works at the Guardian – in this case its Sunday edition the Observer – and who for years has uncritically championed the world-saving, Nobel-prize-winning work down by the IPCC.
He says: “I have repeatedly received death threats anonymously over the years. In recent months I have received these threats over the telephone from numbers that were valid when East Germany was a nation. I am not sure how these people have numbers pertaining to that defunct international code.”
He says he suspects strongly, but cannot prove, that there has been a coordinated attempt to destroy him professionally and personally and that money may also be involved. Ever since he was elected to lead the IPCC in 2002, he says the IPCC has been vilified by climate sceptics and rightwing free-market thinktanks, often known to have been funded by powerful fossil-fuel interests.
For sceptics to force the resignation of the head of the UN’s climate panel would be a coup, undermining its scientific credibility and possibly derailing global agreement, he says.
If – as Pachauri claims – this really was a hack, then his persecutors certainly have a twisted sense of humour.
One of the emails he supposedly sent reads:
“I will go on a fast after a cricket match … I will break the fast only when you believe I love you with sincerity and unfathomable depth.”
I have never felt so overwhelmingly in love as I have been with you, and even though you gave me so much pain, I will always be your well-wisher and carry beautiful memories of the joyous moments between us, limited as they might have been.
Whoever wrote them has captured perfectly the clumsiness and absurdity of the cricket-loving, ice-shunning, vegetarian, yogic guru, as best displayed in the erotic novel Pachauri published a few years ago, Return To Almeira.
Here is a sample from that classic work:
Afterwards she held him close. ‘Sanjay I’ve learned something for the first time today. You are absolutely superb after meditation. Why don’t we make love every time immediately after you have meditated?’
If Pachauri’s allegations are correct it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that the evil agents of Big Oil have been caught out harassing – and worse – the innocent, blameless, heroic and noble climate science community.
Last year, you may recall, one of the world’s leading polar ice experts – Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University – revealed that three of his colleagues had died in mysterious circumstances.
Was it because they knew too much about global warming? Professor Wadhams certainly suspected so and blamed the dark forces of Big Oil.
But his theory received short shrift from the widow of one of the victims:
Fiona Strawbridge, Professor Laxon’s partner, said that she had seen similar claims by “ridiculous conspiracy theorists” on the internet but she was certain his death was an accident. She said that she knew Dr Giles and it was clear that her death was also an accident.
Perhaps Rajendra Pachauri will have better luck with his Indian court case. If the judge and jury are as credulous as the Guardian‘s John Vidal, then he may stand a chance.
Sadly, though, it would appear that the Guardian article is already the subject of much ridicule in the Indian media.
First, Pachauri’s claims of hacking have already been rejected by the police investigators, who found no evidence of it.
Also, the offending messages came not only from Pachauri’s computers but also in form of text messages from his phone.
Furthermore, the complainant has vigorously denied – through her lawyers – that she was paid to make these allegations against her employer.
“The complainant has informed me that Mr. Pachauri can be rest assured, she has not been approached by anyone at any point of time and it is just his acts which have cause immense pain and suffering to her for her to initiate cases against him.”
Finally, as this article in India’s HuffPo points out – it’s not just climate sceptics who find Pachauri rather disgusting. Lots and lots of people do…
It is important to mention here that Pachauri has not only come under attack from people who are unconnected with the debate on climate change. Prominent human and women’s rights activists Indira Jaising and Vrinda Grover have spoken out against his continued charge of TERI. Others who demanded his resignation and action against him include former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, All India Progressive Women’s Association secretary Kavita Krishnan, Jagori director Suneeta Dhar, senior journalist Pamela Philipose, PUCL national secretary Kavita Srivastava, and JNU professor Nivedita Menon, as reported here.
Still, at least this affair won’t remotely damage the credibility of the IPCC which stubbornly kept Pachauri on as its boss for years and years after he’d been subject to allegations about incompetence, corruption and malfeasance and despite the fact that as a railway engineer by training he has special knowledge of climate change.