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April 8, 2002
Volume 80, Number 14
CENEAR 80 14 p. 8
ISSN 0009-2347
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U.S. plans to support new chairman who would replace respected chemist


The State Department on April 2 announced its support for Rajendra K. Pachauri, an engineer and director of the Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi, to head the United Nations panel that reviews research on global climate change.

Robert T. Watson, atmospheric chemist and chief scientist at the World Bank, has headed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 1996. He is highly regarded in the scientific community, and, according to a spokesman at the IPCC secretariat in Geneva, many countries have expressed a desire that he be reappointed. The IPCC governing body meets in mid-April to select a chairman.

Watson has been an outspoken advocate of the idea that if present trends continue, climate change is likely to have dire consequences during this century, and, therefore, countries should take strong action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Energy industry lobbyists have been working for more than a year to replace Watson. In February 2001, Arthur G. Randol III, senior environmental adviser for ExxonMobil, sent a memo to the White House asking, "Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the U.S.?" and recommending that "none of the Clinton/Gore proponents are involved in any decisional activities" at the upcoming IPCC meeting.

Ralph J. Cicerone, chemistry professor and chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, has written to the State Department asking it to support Watson's reelection. If the department refuses to endorse Watson, it should throw its support behind another atmospheric scientist, Cicerone says. Choosing Pachauri would "take the emphasis away from climate science in the IPCC," he explains. Cicerone chaired a National Research Council panel that assessed the IPCC's climate analyses last year.

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