Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has stepped down from the panel after a sexual harassment accusation was leveled at him.
A leading climate change advocate, Pachauri, 74, stands accused of allegedly sending inappropriate texts and emails to a 29-year-old female research employee at The Energy and Resources Institute, the Delhi, India, think tank that he runs.
The IPCC and Al Gore shared the Nobel Prize in 2007. Pachauri’s second (and presumably final) term as IPCC chair was due to end in October 2015.
Apparently sexual harassment is a criminal offense in India, and Delhi police are conducting an investigation into the allegations. Today, a Delhi court granted Pachauri what is called “interim bail” until a March 27 court date and possible arrest, The Indian Express reported.
During this time, the court is prohibiting the global warming expert who allegedly got hot and bothered from entering his office or having any contact with any person involved in the case. He was also ordered not to leave India without a judge’s permission. “Prosecution lawyers had opposed Pachauri’s bail, saying that he had not been cooperative with the investigations,” the International Business Times reported.
The former U.N. official has denied the allegations and claims his phone was hacked. Pachauri is currently hospitalized and receiving treatment for a heart condition.
In November, Pachauri’s committee issued a report warning of the grave dangers posed by climate change and man-made global warming and also called for a ban on fossil fuels.
“Mr. Pachauri was installed as chairman in 2002 after the U.S. government considered his predecessor too alarmist. A specialist in transport economics, he was expected to take a more balanced approach to environmental and development interests. He became a leading voice about the dangers of man-made climate change, warning about an imminent threat that deserved more action from the international community. In 2010, Mr. Pachauri was forced to back down and apologize for a disputed claim from the panel that there was a high chance the Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035. The assertion has since been discredited,” The Washington Times observed.
The United Nations apparently won’t be launching a sexual harassment investigation of its own. Upon receipt of Pachauri’s resignation letter, a spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary General said that “we have seen the press reports of the case and I understand the case is being investigated by national authorities and that is where it stands.”
In his resignation letter to the U.N., Rajendra Pachauri wrote in part that “The IPCC needs strong leadership and dedication of time and full attention by the chair in the immediate future, which under the current circumstances I may be unable to provide…” In the letter, Dr. Pachauir also described climate change as his “religion.”
[Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images]