Robert Watson, one of the most outspoken and respected voices in the debate over global warming, was voted out of his position as chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Friday. IPCC member nations rejected Watson in favor of India’s Rajendra Pachauri, an engineer and economist as well as one of the panel’s current vice-chairs, by a vote of 76 to 49. Environmentalists accuse the U.S. government of engineering the replacement as a favor to the energy industry, which took issue with Watson’s conviction that human activity is fueling global climate change. (Under Watson, the IPCC began advocating more openly for global climate change policy, rather than just assessing the science.) Last year, lobbyists for ExxonMobil specifically asked the Bush administration to work to replace Watson; green groups see Friday’s vote as a sign that the U.S. heeded the call. As Cindy Baxter of the U.K.-based StopEsso campaign put it, ExxonMobil did not like the science coming out the IPCC, “so they changed the scientist.”

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