| Pachauri (right) with his son Ash in New Delhi on Friday. Telegraph Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Oct. 12: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is led by a man who once turned down a seat at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, to become a railway engineer where he helped build diesel locomotives.
Rajendra Pachauri, 67, has been the chair of the IPCC — the UN organisation tasked with evaluating the likelihood, the risks and the possible impact of climate change — since May 2002.
A tough job dealing with a controversial science.
The cricket-crazy engineer turned his attention to energy economics for a quarter of a century before extending his expertise to climate change diplomacy, seeking to get experts from some 130 countries agree on the crisis posed by global warming.
In the mid-1960s, when soot-spewing steam locomotives still dragged train coaches across India, Pachauri was a young mechanical engineer with the Indian Railways in Varanasi trying to phase out steam locomotives.
Academics took him to the US where he got one Ph.D in industrial engineering; a second PhD in economics. When he returned to India, he became director of the The Energy Research Institute, set up by the Tata Group, for analysis of energy policies. Pachauri once told The Telegraph that his growing involvement in climate change seemed a “natural progression” from energy economics.
His appointment as IPCC chairman wasn’t without controversy. He won amid allegations by some that the US had opposed a second term for the outgoing chairman Robert Watson, an atmospheric scientist, after an oil company lobbied against him.
The IPCC relies on the research work of thousands of scientists from around the world, evaluating their findings to draw world consensus documents on how the climate is changing and what impact it will have on humankind.
“There were some concerns whether an economist would fit into this job,” said a senior atmospheric scientist in India who was a member of a task force of the IPCC.
“But he’s done an outstanding job.”
Born in Nainital in the foothills of the outer Himalayas, Pachauri is a hard-core vegetarian, partly due to his religious beliefs as a Hindu and the impact meat production has on the climate. Married with three children, Pachauri has received the Padma Bhushan.
The past five years have been among Pachauri’s busiest — sometimes his visits are so short, he attends a meeting and then catches a flight home, or to another country. But he always returns for his corporate cricket matches.
There’s one tomorrow.