IPCC claims about Himalayan glaciers were not based on science

Friday, January 22, 2010

Part of a major 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which claimed that the glaciers in the Himalayas were likely to melt within thirty years, has been found to have not been based on scientific data.

The IPCC, a United Nations panel, admitted that the original claim was "poorly substantiated" and that "well-established standards of evidence were not applied properly" in the preparation of this section of the report. "The chair, vice-chairs, and co-chairs of the IPCC regrets the poor application of IPCC procedures", read a statement released by the panel. News reports have suggested that the claim originated in a 1999 article in the popular science magazine New Scientist, and was picked up by the IPCC when it was quoted in a 2005 report by the World Wildlife Fund.

Glaciers and glacial lakes in the Bhutan-Himalaya
Image: NASA.

Jairam Ramesh, India's minister of Environment and Forests, had criticized the estimate when the report was initially released. After the announcement, Ramesh reiterated his criticism and told The Times of India: "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."

According to The Times (UK), most glaciologists believe it would take hundreds of years to melt the Himalayan glaciers, with some doubting that it will ever happen. There is evidence of glaciers growing in the neighboring Karakoram mountain range.

Michael Zemp, of the World Glacier Monitoring Service told CNN that, "There are simply no observations available to make these sorts of statements."

"The other thing is that the report says the glaciers are receding faster than anywhere else in the world. We simply do not have the glacier change measurements. The Himalayas are among those regions with the fewest available data", Zemp added.

Nevertheless, the IPCC maintains that the melting of the glaciers is a concern to the region, which is home to over one billion people. It stands by its overall conclusion that "mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century, reducing water availability, hydropower potential, and changing seasonality of flows in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain ranges."

The IPCC had recently come under fire during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, when selectively leaked e-mails, hacked from the University of East Anglia, reportedly showed that some scientists were attempting to suppress findings by other climatologists that did not agree with their own findings.