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Rajendra Pachauri
Image Credit: AP

Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, industrial engineer-turned head of the UN’s climate science panel and one-off sex novel author died on Thursday, India media reported. He was 79.

Pachauri, a vocal advocate of tough action against global warming, had many career ups and downs. A major ‘down’ period saw him stepping down from his role as head of the UN’s climate science panel – United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Pachauri was admitted to the Escorts Heart Institute with a prolonged cardiac ailment and was put on life support on Tuesday.

In 2015, he stood down as head of the IPCC following allegations that he sexually harassed a 29-year-old woman researcher from the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the Delhi think tank he heads.

The founder and ex-director of TERI accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of IPCC during his tenure and was showered with national honours and honorary doctorates during his lifetime.

Statement

A statement from TERI said: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing away of Dr R K Pachauri, the Founder-Director of TERI. The TERI family stands with Dr Pachauri’s family in this hour of grief.

“‘TERI is what it is because of Dr Pachauri’s untiring perseverance. He played a pivotal role in growing this institution, and making it a premier global organisation in the sustainability space,’ said Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General, TERI, who succeeded Dr Pachauri in 2015.”

Controversies

He had to weather calls for his resignation after gross errors were found in a landmark IPCC report, and faced widespread ridicule for an attempt at erotic literature.

In 2007 he held aloft the Nobel jointly awarded to the IPCC under his chairmanship, and to former US vice president-turned climate campaigner Al Gore.

But three years later Pachauri was mired in controversy when errors were found in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report.

An erroneous claim that Himalayan glaciers could be lost by 2035 was allegedly taken from a press article instead of a scientific study.

Pachauri refused to accept personal responsibility for the error and rejected pressure to step down, claiming “ideologically-driven posturing” was behind attacks on the IPCC.

An international review at the time called for fundamental reforms at the IPCC, including an overhaul of the post of chairman which Pachauri first took up in 2002.

Some critics have questioned where his loyalties lay, given his business dealings with carbon trading companies.

According to a CV on the TERI website, Pachauri had during his IPCC tenure also served on the boards of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and natural gas company GAIL.

Having penned more than 130 academic papers and nearly 27 books, mainly related to energy and the environment, Pachauri generated warming of a different kind when he tried his hand at creative writing with the 2010 novel Return to Almora.

The offering is laced with steamy references to the sexual urges of protagonist Sanjay Nath who, like Pachauri, studied engineering.

His very appointment was controversial. Pachauri was regarded as a compromise candidate to replace the outspoken British-American scientist Bob Watson whom sources claimed was forced out by the climate-sceptic Bush administration.

– Inputs from AFP