A Greener Festival Logo
Blog » AGF Blog » Glacier melt claim a clear mistake

Glacier melt claim a clear mistake

The UN’s climate science body has admitted that a claim made in its 2007 report – that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 – was unfounded. But the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, has now said that whilst the UN body will exercise more surveillance to ensure such a mistake does not occur again, he will not resign. Admitting the mistake for the third time in four days at a press conference in New Delhi, Pachauri said the criticism did not take away from the IPCC report’s overall conclusion that glaciers in the Himalayas were receding saying “I have no intention of resigning from my position. I was elected by acclamation by all the countries of the world and I have a task, I have got to complete the fifth assessment report and I shall do it and make sure that we come up with a robust report”. The admission today followed a New Scientist article last week that revealed the source of the claim made in the 2007 report by the IPCC was not peer-reviewed scientific literature – but from a media interview with Indian glaciologist Syed Hasnain conducted in 1999. Hasnain told the New Scientist last week that “it is not proper for IPCC to include references from popular magazines or newspapers.

Several senior scientists have now said the claim was unrealistic and that the large Himalayan glaciers could not melt in a few decades. The IPCC has now said the paragraph “refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.” The IPCC says the broader conclusion of the report is unaffected: that glaciers have melted significantly, that this will accelerate and affect the supply of water from major mountain ranges “where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives”. The Indian environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, said earlier in the week: “The [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][glaciers] are indeed receding and the rate is cause for great concern … [but the claim is] not based on an iota of scientific evidence.” Georg Kaser, an expert in tropical glaciology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria and a lead author for the IPCC, said he had warned that the 2035 prediction was clearly wrong in 2006, months before the report was published. “This [date] is not just a little bit wrong, but far out of any order of magnitude,” he said.

This news, and the news that Professor Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, has been forced to stand down while an investigatoin takes place into the truth of leaked emails allegedly showing that he attempted to conceal data that was requested by climate change sceptics does little to help in the fight against climate change. Indeed it plays into the hands of climate change sceptics and the oil, coal and gas industries.

The facts that are clear are this: CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat and warms the earth – and burning fossil fuels pumps billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. But whether glaciers are retreating,  sea levels are rising, sea ice is melting and global tempertures rapidly rising need to be careful researched and presented in a non-sensationalist way.

See the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/24/climate-change-un-row and the Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6999975.ece[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]