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|The Nobel prize-winning United Nations
panel whose work was the benchmark for global climate negotiations
is being forced to re-examine its estimate on how fast Himalayan
glaciers are melting.
Research by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
suggesting Himalaya’s glaciers may disappear by 2035 needs to be
investigated anew following a report in the London- based Times
newspaper that flawed data may have been used, said Rajendra
Pachauri, head of the award-winning scientific group.
“We are looking at the issue and will be able to comment on the
report after examining the facts,” Pachauri said in a telephone
interview. “We’re not changing anything till we make an assessment.”
The UN group mandated to summarize climate research used by policy
makers around the world said in a 2007 report that the likelihood of
Himalayan glaciers vanishing within three decades is “very high” if
the Earth keeps warming at current rates. Melt from Himalayan
glaciers supplies water for hundreds of millions of Chinese and
Pachauri defended the finding that glaciers are shrinking as the
world warms. “The science doesn’t change,” he said yesterday.
“Glaciers are melting across the globe and those in the Himalayas
are no different.”
Pachauri chairs the IPCC panel that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace
Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. The IPCC’s practices
were challenged late last year after e-mails stolen from computer
servers at the University of East Anglia showed climate researchers
discussed keeping some scientific papers out of the IPCC report.
The British university said the e-mails were taken out of context.
The report has formed the basis for two years of global
Global Warming ‘Unequivocal’
The UN panel concluded in 2007 that global warming including melting
glaciers is “unequivocal” and rising human greenhouse-gas emissions
were “very likely” the main cause.
The environmental group WWF’s India unit, whose input was used by
the IPCC in its glacier report, said yesterday that the error is
unlikely to affect climate-change negotiations.
WWF-India “accepts its mistake” of referring to sources it couldn’t
verify and will issue a clarification, said Shirish Sinha, its head
of climate change and energy program.
“It gives a lot of fodder to the climate skeptics but this one
problem with the data or the date shouldn’t have too much
implication for the climate negotiations as they are now dominated
by several factors such as trade and economy and science is only one
of the factors,” Sinha said in a telephone interview.
India needs to undertake a scientific study of the Himalayan
glaciers before “drawing any conclusions” on how fast they are
melting, Jairam Ramesh said yesterday at a news conference in New
Delhi about the disputed UN study.
“Glaciers are a very serious issue,” India’s environment minister
said. “But to derive the conclusion that glaciers are melting
rapidly and will disappear is alarmist and not necessarily based on
Pachauri at the Copenhagen climate talks in December dismissed
allegations by global-warming skeptics that UN data were
If the “presumption” about the speed of the glaciers melting is
wrong, the assertion may be removed from future IPCC assessments,
the London-based Times reported Jan. 17, citing Murari Lal, who
oversaw the chapter on glaciers.
That assertion lacked scientific evidence and was based on
“speculation,” the newspaper cited Syed Iqbal Hasnain, an Indian
scientist credited with initial claims about the glaciers, as
Hasnain, Pachauri Ties
Hasnain, now a distinguished fellow at the Energy and Resources
Institute led by Pachauri, didn’t take calls on his mobile phone and
wasn’t available in his office. Pachauri is director-general of the
environmental research institute.
Gaps, meanwhile, remain in data for many glaciers in the Himalayas,
the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service has
said. Glaciers from the Andes to Alaska and the Alps shrank as much
as 3 meters (10 feet), the 18th year of retreat and twice as fast as
a decade ago, the group said last year.
India’s Chhota Shigri and Hamtah glaciers both lost about 1.4 meters
of thickness in 2006 with no new data available for 2007, the
monitoring group reported last January.