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UN Admits Mistake Over Himalayan Glacier Claim

January 20, 2010

U.N. climate experts said Wednesday that a U.N. warning that Himalayan glaciers were melting faster than any other place in the world and may be gone by 2035 was not backed up by science “” an admission that could energize climate change critics, The Associated Press reported.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a 2007 report that the Himalayan glaciers are very likely to disappear within three decades if the present melting rate continues.

However, a statement from the panel now says there is not enough scientific evidence to back up those claims.

The IPCC said the warning in the report 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,” it said.

The report’s claim about the timetable for the Himalayan glacier meltings made in the Nobel-winning report was little noticed until The Sunday Times said the projection seemed to be based on a news story.

Chris Field, director of the ecology department at the Washington-based Carnegie Institution for Science, told The Associated Press that the leaders of the U.N. panel are currently investigating how the forecast got into the report.

The U.N. panel did not give a new estimate of when Himalayan glaciers might melt away, but said widespread mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century.

It did add that the melting glaciers would reduce the availability of water and change the seasonal water flows in major mountain rangers, including the Himalayas.

On Tuesday, India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh repeated his previous criticism of the panel’s initial assessment of the Himalayan glaciers.

Ramesh was quoted by The Times of India as saying: “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.”

The Himalayan glaciers were receding faster than any other place in the world, according to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report of 2007.

It said the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate.

However, the report also added the glacier’s total area will likely shrink from the present 193,000 to 36,000 sq. miles by the year 2035.

“The chair, vice-chairs, and co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance,” the U.N. climate change panel said.

But IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri on Tuesday defended the panel’s work, a position shared by other scientists, who say the Fourth Assessment Report’s core conclusions about climate change are inconvertible.

“Theoretically, let’s say we slipped up on one number, I don’t think it takes anything away from the overwhelming scientific evidence of what’s happening with the climate of this Earth,” Pachauri said.

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