IPCC chief goes mum on Himalayan glacier blunder

RK Pachauri, head of the IPCC, refused to answer any question on the goof-up by the global scientists` group which made it carry in its 2007 report an unsubstantiated claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035.

Updated: Jan 21, 2010, 15:55 PM IST

New Delhi: An embattled RK Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Thursday refused to answer any question on the goof-up by the global scientists` group which made it carry in its 2007 report an unsubstantiated claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035.

Pachauri convened a press conference here to unveil a roadmap for India`s energy security, prepared by the other organisation he heads, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
Media representatives from around the world arrived to ask questions on the Himalayan glacier goof-up that has seriously dented the credibility of IPCC. It has led to a number of allegations of financial impropriety against TERI and Pachauri as well, and the British government is reported to be planning a probe.

But after a 90-minute presentation and discussions on India`s energy security roadmap, Pachauri refused to answer any question on the IPCC goof-up. He also refused to react when asked if he was going to resign from his chairman`s post. All he finally agreed to do was to convene a press conference on the subject on Friday.

The IPCC had made a statement Wednesday admitting the blunder. It said a paragraph in its 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".

The statement -- which came from Pachauri, IPCC vice chairs and co-chairs of its working groups -- said they "regretted the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance. This episode demonstrates that the quality of the assessment depends on absolute adherence to the IPCC standards, including thorough review of `the quality and validity of each source before incorporating results from the source into an IPCC Report`. We reaffirm our strong commitment to ensuring this level of performance".
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said: "The credibility of the IPCC depends on the thoroughness with which its procedures are adhered to. The procedures have been violated in this case. That must not be allowed to happen again because the credibility of climate change policy can only be based on credible science.

"Nobody is denying that the Himalayan glaciers are disappearing fast as a result of climate change. What is happening now is comparable with the Titanic sinking more slowly than expected. But that does not alter the inevitable consequences, unless rigorous action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is taken."

Syed Iqbal Hasnain, the scientist whose 1999 statement gave rise to the goof-up, meanwhile said here: "I have not given any date or year on the likely disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. The statement I gave (in 1999) -- on the basis of the results being found till then -- was: `All the glaciers in the middle Himalayas are retreating` -- and a scientific postulation was made that all the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could disappear in the next 40-50 years at their present rate of decline."

Hasnain told media: "The lead author of the chapter in the IPCC 2007 report should have got this information peer reviewed before including it. If that had been done, subsequent findings would have ensured that this information was not included, because it was outdated." The chapter`s author, MB Lal, has in turn blamed Hasnain.

The 2007 report brought world attention to IPCC and that year`s Nobel Peace Prize in conjunction with former US vice president Al Gore.

Hasnain`s 1999 statement had made it to the British magazine New Scientist, from there to a 2005 report of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and from there to the IPCC report.