From the CLIMATE NUREMBERG HUMOR SECTION
Fans of Rajendra Pachauri are hoping a laugh-a-minute monologue he delivered at a fundraiser yesterday stimulates interest in his earlier work.
The polymathic technocrat’s sense of humor tends to be eclipsed by his preëminence as ‘the top UN climate scientist,’ which is understandable enough; if there’s one thing nobler than winning the laughter of the masses it’s winning their tears.
But Pachauri’s wittier, more subversive moments have not gone unappreciated either. A Nuremberg reader and resident pachyologue lists a few highlights from a long life of laugh-jerking:
We caught an early glimpse of Dr Pachauri’s comic genius in 2009, after a typo brought him briefly into the critical spotlight. That’s when the good doctor debuted his pitch-perfect parody of a paranoid, intolerant eco-extremist:
I would say there are nefarious designs behind people trying to attack me with lies, falsehoods… They are people who deny the link between smoking and cancer; they are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder. I hope that they apply it to their faces every day…
There is clearly a very obvious intent behind this whole thing. I’m certainly not going to be affected by it. I’m totally in the clear. I have absolutely nothing but indifference to what these people are doing.
(Obviously, Dr Pachauri—a famously humane thinker who cites Gandhi as an ethical template—would never speak like this. That’s why it was so funny to hear him do so.)
Pachauri parlayed his love of irony into a full-length novel with Return to Almora, a 400-page tour-de-France of faux-crap writing. Almora‘s antihero, Sanjay Nath, has nothing in common with his creator beyond a shared inability to suffer frustrated morons gladly.
The humor, of course, arises from the fact that unlike Pachauri himself, Nath never seems to grasp that he’s every bit as frustrated as the next moron. He is portrayed as a deeply shallow, exceptionally mediocre thinker who stumbles onto a cult following in spite of, not because of, his personal qualities. Nath—a lecherous male chauvinist—is incapable of intellectual penetration and only intermittently successful in the genital variety.
Pachauri says he based the character on a friend.
Finally, let’s not forget Pachauri’s Kaufman-influenced period, which culminated in an audacious 2002-2015 punking of the United Nations’ IPCC.
It was hilarious enough that a known crony of George W. Bush could be nominated to run the august organization, but when Pachauri actually won the office it was icing on the comedy cake! In what the blogger Dr William Connolley describes as an episode in “idiot cunning,” the railway engineer “was deliberately appointed by Bush to be an unsuccessful Chair.” And yet—far from being the sole province of pony-tailed rodent-based edit warriors—this knowledge was an open secret; everyone from Vice President Al Gore to Professor Naomi Oreskes was aware that Pachauri’s candidacy was a trick all along!
Like all practical jokes, his Chairmanship had to come to an end sooner or later. You can, after all, fool some of the world’s top 2,500 scientists some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the world’s top 2,500 scientists all the time.
It only took the cli-sci world 13 years to cotton on to the prank. When it did, the IPCC’s rank and file reacted almost overnight, prevailing on Pachauri to step down this February. But the short-lived jape had already become an instant classic in the art of performance comedy.