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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Global warming row heats up
Bangladesh, sunset (BBC)
Smoke billows into the Bangladesh skyline
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Richard Black
BBC Science correspondent
The UN-sponsored scientific body charged with gathering evidence on global warming has started its annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

The meeting will be dominated by the election for chair, with the United States aiming to oust the incumbent, Robert Watson.

Environmental campaigners say the US position is due to lobbying from the oil company ExxonMobil.

Usually, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meetings are sedate affairs, as sober-suited scientists debate the techniques and methodologies of assessing global climate change.

But this year, it will be somewhat different. For the first time in the IPCC's history, the position of chair is being contested.

Big funding

Robert Watson, an American himself, has made no secret of his belief that President Bush's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol last year was wrong.

Bob Watson (Vt freeze frame)
Bob Watson says he is confident of winning
He believes the science of global warming is so well established that the US must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this month, the US State Department declared its support for a rival candidate for IPCC Chair, the Indian scientist Rajendra Pachauri, currently director of the Tata Energy Research Institute.

It announced its position shortly after the publication of a memo which went through the oil company ExxonMobil to one of President Bush's environmental advisors.

The memo asked whether it was possible to replace Dr Watson with a scientist who had a less "aggressive agenda".

The US Government maintains there is no link between the memo and its support for Dr Pachauri.

Robert Watson says he is confident of winning - but the US is one of the IPCC's biggest financial donors, and environmental groups fear that if Dr Watson does prevail, the Bush administration could withdraw its financial support for a body whose conclusions it disputes.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Americas
ExxonMobil hits back in memo row
15 Feb 02 | Americas
US scepticism over global warming
14 Feb 02 | Americas
Q&A: The US and climate change
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