Glacier melt date hot air, Pachauri faces the heat

In revelations that embarrass the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the UN body that has built the scientific base for action on climate change — and its chairman R K Pachauri, it's emerged that its key conclusion that there was high probability of Himalayan glaciers melting away by the year 2035 was based on unsubstantiated, indeed "speculative," evidence.

IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, which has been the main reference point for climate-change science, cited a 2005 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report to say that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear entirely by 2035 — "perhaps sooner" — if current trends in global warming continued.

That WWF report itself was based on an interview of Syed Iqbal Hasnain, an Indian researcher honoured with Padma Shri last year, published in the New Scientist in 1999.

WWF today admitted that its 2005 report "contained erroneous information". "Although scientists remain deeply concerned about glacier retreat in that region, this particular prediction has subsequently proved to be incorrect," the WWF said in a statement.

There were reports that Hasnain — who is working with the Pachauri-led The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) since last year — had himself admitted that the 2035 reference in his 1999 interview was nothing more than "speculation" but he was not available today for comment.

The IPCC is already under scrutiny following the emergence of some leaked emails of its scientists some months ago, the contents of which revealed attempts to exaggerate the scientific evidence on global warming. Pachauri himself has come in for criticism for using his position for commercial gains, allegations that he has denied.

But the latest episode is a shot in the arm for Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh who has been deeply suspicious of the "alarming" projections made in IPCC report on glacier melt and has insisted that many more studies required to be done to say anything with conclusive evidence.

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