Who is Pachauri Calling 'Flat Earthers'?

by | Aug 4, 2008

A hat-tip to Anthony Watts, who points to an interview in the Chicago Tribune with head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri.

Q: What do you think about the small but vocal group of doubters still out there?

A: There is, even today, a Flat Earth Society that meets every year to say the Earth is flat. The science about climate change is very clear. There really is no room for doubt at this point.

Of course, no room for doubt = no room for science. But leaving aside Pachauri’s errors such as this, there is a bigger question about the way in which ‘science’ is used to make statements about the future of society.

We are creating conditions for the social structure to break down. If that happens, clearly there will be more conflicts. With coastal flooding, there could be hundreds of millions of environmental refugees.

The argument that Pachauri uses here is nothing more than environmental determinism; the idea that human history is shaped by its environmental circumstances.

There is no doubt that there is a degree to which the circumstances people find themselves in determine the outcome of their lives. We can take it as read that the human race evolved in circumstances which were beyond its control. But in today’s world, people’s lives are no longer dictated by their environments, not by virtue of environmental stasis, but because of our own abilities.

Society now thrives in a wide range of conditions, from the frozen arctic to the harsh deserts. Entire rivers have been diverted in order to irrigate fields, and serve new cities with water. Marshes have been drained, and low-lying areas raised. Cities have been constructed below sea level. Valleys have had dams built across them. But now, Pachauri claims that a mere few degrees change in temperature over the course of a century – the time it took us to develop the internal combustion engine, atomic energy, powered flight, cures for many diseases, to land men on the moon, the Internet… – will cause society to collapse.

Pachauri is simply wrong. Social structure has very little – and as we develop, less and less – to do with environmental conditions. Furthermore, social conditions are our defence against environmental conditions. For example, where there is industrial development, there is less vulnerability to the environment. Tsunamis, earthquakes and storms in the developing world kill thousands. Deaths from similar conditions in the developed world kill far, far fewer. This is a cold, hard, measurable, scientific fact.

That Pachauri gets things arse-about-face wouldn’t be so tragic if it didn’t threaten to undermine the very social structures he claims to wish to protect. In emphasising climate stability over industrial society’s influence over outcomes for people’s standard of living, he prioritises, wrongly, an anti-development agenda. This will leave more people more vulnerable to climate.

Pachauri is the flat earther. It is time he was exposed as such.


  1. 2Dglobalist

    Anyone who imagines the science is in on this question should watch out for Martin Durkin’s forthcoming Channel 4 documentary, ‘The Great Global Roundness Swindle’, in which – with the help of the Emeritus Professor of Bidimensional Geophysics at Poughkeepsie Institute and other notable experts in the field – he comprehensively demolishes this cosy establishment conspiracy.

  2. JMW

    “‘There is, even today, a Flat Earth Society that meets every year to say the Earth is flat. The science about climate change is very clear. There really is no room for doubt at this point.'”

    Not that this post has anything to do with the various ad hominems tossed at the skeptics, but it seems that comparing climate skepticism to other forms of anti-science cranks and medical quacks seems to be the [not so subtle] M.O. of one blog over at Science Blogs [even if they don’t go out of their way to actually make that comparison, having it on their list is enough to give one that impression]: http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/

    To be a climate skeptic is apparently akin to those vaccines-cause-autism people or intelligent designers or moon landing hoax conspiracy nutters, if you believed what these people had to say on the subject.

  3. DennisA

    Pachauri trained as a railway engineer and later became an economist, he certainly knew a gravy train when he saw one.

    His comment, “The science about climate change is very clear. There really is no room for doubt at this point”, echoes that of his predecessor at the IPCC, Professor Robert Watson, 11 years earlier: http://sovereignty.net/p/clim/kyotorpt.htm

    Waston was asked in a press briefing about the growing number of climate scientists who challenge the conclusions of the UN that man-induced global warming is real and promises cataclysmic consequences.

    Watson responded by denigrating all dissenting scientists as pawns of the fossil fuel industry. “The science is settled” he said, and “we’re not going to reopen it here.” (Sound familiar?)

    With that, the issue of science was omitted from any discussion at the proceedings.

    Robert Watson is now the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor to DEFRA and is the Director of Strategy at the Tyndall Centre for the Study of Climate Change.



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