Pachauri – The Smears Continue

The people hounding him have failed to produce a single scrap of evidence to support their accusations, yet there’s no let-up.

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 1st September 2010

If ever you need evidence that a smear can keep spreading after it has been discredited, look no further.

Last week I showed that the Sunday Telegraph’s claims that Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has been “making a fortune from his links with ‘carbon trading’ companies”, profiting to the tune of “millions of dollars”, were entirely false.

A review by the auditors KPMG, of Pachauri’s full financial records and the accounts of the organisation he works for, shows that the story is without foundation. In the 20 months to December 2009, he received only his £45,000 annual salary and a maximum of £2,174 in outside earnings. The auditors’ report concluded that:

“No evidence was found that indicated personal fiduciary benefits accruing to Pachauri from his various advisory roles that would have led to a conflict of interest.”

But if people want a story to be true, no refutation, however powerful, can change their beliefs. When the InterAcademy Council published its review of the IPCC on Monday, deniers of man-made climate change and the newspapers which support them used it as an excuse to resuscitate the Sunday Telegraph’s falsified claims. Here’s what the Daily Mail said about Pachauri yesterday:

“The 70-year-old lives in an exclusive district of New Delhi and is said to enjoy a lavish personal lifestyle with a taste for expensive suits. He has dismissed claims he profited from his links to green energy firms, saying he gave away all the money earned from directorships.”

Well yes, he is said “to enjoy a lavish personal lifestyle with a taste for expensive suits”, even though the claim is completely untrue. As Pachauri revealed to the Guardian in December, his suits are made by a local tailor in Delhi, for 2,200 rupees (£30) apiece. Having seen them close up, I can believe it. They make Boris Johnson look elegantly attired.

I once heard one of David Icke’s followers assert that the editor of the Daily Mail is in fact a seven-foot lizard. Were the Guardian to adopt that paper’s editorial standards, it could report that Paul Dacre “is said to be a seven-foot lizard”, even though it knows that the story (as far as we can determine) is untrue.

The Mail’s claim that Pachauri said “he gave away all the money earned from directorships” is also false. Pachauri did not and could not give that money away, because it never went to him in the first place. What he did give away was an award for lifetime achievement, which he was perfectly entitled to keep.

The Australian newspaper, in the same vein, reported that Dr Pachauri “has been accused of conflicts of interest over his many business directorships”.

Yes, he has been, but falsely. And Richard North, one of the authors of the original Sunday Telegraph article, continues to assert that: “The main accusations against Pachauri stand.”

But he still fails to back up his claims. Loudly repeating a false accusation does not make it true.

So the Pachauri story now joins a host of other falsehoods about climate change which keep resurfacing, however many times they are disproved.

It’s a common feature of all conspiracy theories: falsified stories refuse to die. Zombie myths that people are desperate to believe keep circulating many years after they appeared to be dead and buried.