ExxonMobil, Bush Administration Succeed in Ousting Top Global Warming Scientist During Heated Geneva Meeting

World Panel Now Challenged to Remain Authoritative Source for Global Warming Science

WASHINGTON (April 19, 2002) -- Carrying baggage for ExxonMobil and other fossil-fuel industries, Bush administration representatives to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) succeeded today in ousting Dr. Robert Watson from the science panel's chairmanship. With industry and U.S. government backing, officials meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, today elected Dr. Rajendra Pachuari of India as IPCC chair for the next five years.

Lobbyists for ExxonMobil, Southern Company (the second largest U.S. electric company), and other polluting industries worked in Geneva with OPEC countries to round up the majority needed to oust Watson. This is the first time that the IPCC chair has been selected other than by consensus.

"The White House teamed up with ExxonMobil and other polluters in hopes of disrupting the IPCC's effectiveness as the global authority on climate science," said David Doniger, policy director at NRDC's climate center. "But the IPCC is a vibrant body that includes thousands of scientists. They and the new chair now have the challenge of demonstrating that they can continue to speak scientific truth to fossil power."

Watson, IPCC chair since 1996, is a respected atmospheric scientist highly regarded for his strong leadership of the complex organization. But earlier this month -- immediately following closed-door talks with oil, utility and auto lobbyists -- the Bush administration announced it would not renominate him. That same week, NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) released a confidential memo from ExxonMobil to the White House asking that Watson be replaced.

Operating under United Nations auspices, the 2,500-member expert panel provides policymakers around the world with rigorous, consensus-based assessments generally regarded as the most definitive word on global warming and its causes. The IPCC is widely recognized for meticulously maintaining political neutrality in its scientific assessments.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages

April 3, 2002, Confidential Papers Show Exxon Hand in White House Move to Oust Top Scientist from International Global Warming Panel

Additional Downloadable Materials for the Press

ExxonMobil Memorandum in PDF format, 232k.

NRDC letter to State Department in Microsoft Word format, 22k.