Corporate Backing for Research? Get Over It

John Tierney in The New York Times:

Research I find myself in the unfamiliar position of defending Al Gore and his fellow Nobel laureate, Rajendra K. Pachauri. When they won the prize in 2007, they were hailed for their selfless efforts to protect the planet from the ravages of greedy fossil fuel industries. Since then, though, their selflessness has been questioned. Journalists started by looking at the money going to companies and nonprofit groups associated with Mr. Gore, and now they have turned their attention to Dr. Pauchauri, the chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The I.P.C.C., which is supposed to be the gold standard of peer-reviewed climate science, in 2007 warned of a “very high” likelihood that global warming would cause the Himalayan glaciers to disappear by 2035. When the Indian government subsequently published a paper concluding there was no solid evidence of Himalayan glaciers shrinking because of global warming, Dr. Pachauri initially dismissed it as “voodoo science” beneath the I.P.C.C.’s standards. But then it came out that the I.P.C.C.’s projection was based not on the latest peer-reviewed evidence, but on speculative comments made a decade ago in a magazine interview by Syed Hasnain, a glaciologist who now works in an Indian research group led by Dr. Pachauri. Last week, the I.P.C.C apologized for the mistake, which was embarrassing enough for Dr. Pachauri. But he also had to contend with accusations of conflict of interest. The Telegraph of London reported that he had a “worldwide portfolio of business interests,” which included relationships with carbon-trading companies and his research group, the Energy and Resources Institute.

More here.