London: The release of flawed data about Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035 has resulted in a loss of public confidence in climate science, a top US academic has claimed.
Dr Ralph Cicerone, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, said American opinion polls point to a general deterioration in people''s faith in science after the UN''s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its chief Dr. R. Pachauri said global warming would reduce all glaciers in the Himalayan range to water by 2035.
The IPCC claim had no valid scientific backing.
Speaking about "transparency and integrity in science" today at the world''s biggest science conference in San Diego, California, Dr Cicerone said there had been a loss of public trust in climatology that appeared to be spreading.
Addressing the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), The Independent quoted Dr. Cicerone, as saying: "I think the damage has spilled over to other kinds of science. I don''t think it''s fair, but we have to address our fundamentals in any case as we improve science. Let''s do it, and I hope we can set a new level of transparency and trust."
A distinguished climate scientist, Dr. Cicerone led a National Academy of Sciences study on the current state of climate change and its impact on the environment and human health.
He was highly critical of the IPCC''s handling of its mistake, which resulted in an embarrassing retraction after being brought to light by New Scientist magazine.
The body admitted that "clear and well-established standards of evidence" had not been properly applied. However, it insisted the glitch did not undermine the large body of evidence showing that human activity was causing climate change.
Dr Cicerone pointed out that the IPCC was widely viewed as the foremost authority on climate change, adding: "the greater the stature of the institution, the harder the fall".
He said: "The IPCC could have gone public with all the information and said, ''Here''s what happened and we screwed up''.
"It didn''t and I think that hurts the reputation of the institution," he said.
Lord Rees, Astronomer Royal and president of the Royal Society, said two particular aspects of climate science made it difficult to communicate to members of the public. First, it was "diffuse and international", and secondly it was "remote in time".
"The consequences will only affect the next generation and not us," he told the meeting.
First Published: Saturday, February 20, 2010, 20:31