January 31, 2010

Climate Chief Hid False Glacier Claims At Summit

The Times Online reported that the chairman of the leading climate change watchdog was indeed informed that claims made before the Copenhagen summit about melting Himalayan glaciers were false.

Rajendra Pachauri said that when he found out the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, he waited for months before correcting it. 

He also failed to announce the false claims despite several leading glaciologists refuting it.

The IPCC's report reinforced the proposals at Copenhagen for drastic cuts in global emissions.

Pachauri, who was a big part of the summit, corrected the error last week after taking scrutiny from the media.  On January 22, he told The Times that he only knew about the error for a few days.

He said, "I became aware of this when it was reported in the media about ten days ago. Before that, it was really not made known. Nobody brought it to my attention. There were statements, but we never looked at this 2035 number."

When he was asked whether he deliberately kept silent about the error, he said, "That's ridiculous. It never came to my attention before the Copenhagen summit. It wasn't in the public sphere."

However, one science journalist said he asked Pachauri about the 2035 error last November. 

Pallava Bagla, a writer for the Science journal, said when he asked Pachauri about the error his response was "I don't have anything to add on glaciers."

Most glaciologists believe that because the Himalayan glaciers are so thick and at such high altitude, it would take several hundred years for them to melt at the present rate. 

Some of the glaciers are actually growing, and many show little sign of change.

Pachauri once dismissed a report by the Indian government that said the glaciers might not be melting as much as some feared.  He said the report was "voodoo science."

Bagla interviewed Pachauri for Science last week and asked him why he decided to overlook the error before the Copenhagen summit.  The journalist asked "I pointed it out [the error] to you in several e-mails, several discussions, yet you decided to overlook it. Was that so that you did not want to destabilize what was happening in Copenhagen?"

Pachauri's response was "Not at all, not at all. As it happens, we were all terribly preoccupied with a lot of events. We were working round the clock with several things that had to be done in Copenhagen. It was only when the story broke, I think in December, we decided to, well, early this month "” as a matter of fact, I can give you the exact dates "” early in January that we decided to go into it and we moved very fast.

"And within three or four days, we were able to come up with a clear and a very honest and objective assessment of what had happened. So I think this presumption on your part or on the part of any others is totally wrong. We are certainly never "” and I can say this categorically "” ever going to do anything other than what is truthful and what upholds the veracity of science."

Pachauri was also accused of using the error to win grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.


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