Sunday, January 23, 2005

More Than Meets The Eye

Way back in 2001, ExxonMobil wrote a letter to the Bush administration, suggesting the ouster of Dr. Robert Watson, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The US promptly announced that it supported Dr Rajendra Pachauri as chairman of the panel, and lobbied strenuously on his behalf. Watson was ousted, and Pachauri was elected.

Now, Dr. Pachauri has just announced that

he personally believes that the world has "already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and called for immediate and "very deep" cuts in the pollution if humanity is to "survive".


He told delegates: "Climate change is for real. We have just a small window of opportunity and it is closing rather rapidly. There is not a moment to lose."
The Independent article from which these quotes are taken is strange. It strongly implies that Pachauri is a Bush lapdog who turned on his master, and that this is a major embarassment for the United States.

It's not quite that simple, though. Pachauri was not only criticizing BushCo back in 2001, but actually called for a boycott of ExxonMobil in an editorial:
The movement started by some prominent artists and leaders of public opinion in Europe for boycotting the products of Exxon-Mobil, a company which is seen as a major supporter of George W. Bush’s disastrous climate change policy, is a good way to put economic pressure on the US. It would be most useful for a worldwide movement which boycotts American goods as a source of global pollution, and as the only means to bringing the US administration to a position of minimal fairness.
Comments like these led Al Gore, who supported Watson, to call Pachauri "virulently anti-American." So why did BushCo back him so strongly? Good question. Timothy Noah's argument is interesting, though. He says that Pachauri is
...hostile to market solutions in which U.S. companies upgrade inefficient plants overseas as an alternative to reducing carbon dioxide output in less-dirty plants in the United States. Which is, indeed, the approach favored by the Bush administration. The larger point, though, is that Bush would just as soon not do anything about global warming. Backing a candidate likely to embroil the IPCC in a paralyzing spat between Western and non-Western nations is a pretty good way to achieve that.
That makes a fair amount of sense. Dr. Watson is a US citizen born in the UK, and a respected atmospheric scientist. Pachauri, by contrast, is from New Delhi, has degrees in economics and engineering, and is by free-marketeer standards a wild-eyed, America-hating extremist. In short, he's far less credible to American audiences; he fits the racist right-wing stereotype of a dark-skinned socialist from the Third World, who wants to cripple America's growth with regulations, while letting poorer countries like India do as they please.

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