IPCC on thin ice for inaccurate report on Himalayan glaciers' melting

17:18, January 26, 2010      

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by Xinhua writer Yang Jun

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently apologized for its disputable claim that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, which it said was not based on actual scientific data.

In a 2007 report, the IPCC said the Himalayan glaciers are very likely to disappear within three decades if the present melting rate continues. But a recent statement from the panel says there is not enough scientific evidence to back up the claim.

The Himalayan glacier statement, made in the group's voluminous Nobel-winning report, has drawn little attention until The Sunday Times said on Jan. 17 that it seems the projection was based only on a news report, not a study based on scientific review.

The IPCC report was based on an interview published in the New Scientist journal 10 years ago, which attributed the prediction to Syed Iqbal Hasnain, a noted Indian glaciologist, who denied he gave such a date.

Hasnain said he saw the mistake 10 years ago, but did not seek a correction because it did not appear in a scientific journal.

The IPCC climate change assessment report warned that Himalayan glaciers were receding faster than in any other place in the world due to global warming.

"If the current pace continues, they may disappear by 2035. If the Earth keeps warming at the current rate, they will disappear sooner," the IPCC report warned.

The 2035 deadline comment has been questioned by some glaciologists, but little attention was paid at that time.

Last week, Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh repeated his previous criticism of the panel's initial assessment on the Himalayan glaciers.

"The health of the glaciers is a cause of grave concern, but the IPCC's alarmist position that they would melt by 2035 was not based on an iota of scientific evidence," Ramesh was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc told media: "If one scientist makes a mistake, it doesn't mean the whole report is wrong. Science is not just about forecast, it is also about finding solutions."

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, who called the statement on Himalayan glaciers a "human error," ruled out the possibility of his resignation on the issue.

Pachauri, who is now under attack over the IPCC's report, said the mistake was "unfortunate."

"I have no intention to resign from my position. I have a task. I am going to complete the Fifth Assessment Report," he told Indian media in New Delhi.

"There are huge problems on climate change. Climate change is not limited to Himalayan glaciers. Rational people will continue to repose faith in IPCC," he said, adding that the IPCC consists of hundreds of eminent scientists selected by different governments.

The IPCC chief said that the panel's 2007 report was a "robust report." However, the error regarding the conclusion on Himalayan glaciers was "unfortunate."

"This was a human error. We will do everything to see that such mistakes are not repeated," he assured.

Scientists in the world did not challenge the spurious date for years. Now, some warn that, in fact, our understanding about Himalayan glaciers is based on insufficient data.

But one thing is sure -- debate will continue over how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting due to global warming.

According to many scientists, although it is certain that by 2035 the Himalayan glaciers will still be there, it cannot be denied that they are melting. There is also no doubt that the Himalayan glaciers' melting will have a serious impact on billions of Asian people.

Source: Xinhua
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