18 January 2010

Glacial Fallout and the IPCC

The IPCC's error with respect to Himalayan glaciers has all of a sudden gained enormous traction. Here is a quick round up of the latest.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, says that the Panel is revisiting the erroneous claims on glaciers:
"We are looking into the issue of the Himalayan glaciers, and will take a position on it in the next two or three days," Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told Reuters in an e-mail.
What this might mean isunclear since the AR4 is disbanded and it is not clear that the IPC has any policies or procedures for revisiting or addressing errors in previously published reports. Depending on how the IPCC responds, there likely will be other issues to be addressed, including of course the IPCC's egregious errors on disasters and climate change.

In Indian media, Pachauri also appears to have disavowed any responsibility for the IPCC error, while India's environment minister Jairam Ramesh claims to have been vindicated in his dispute with Pachauri and the IPCC:
India's Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh Monday said “I was right on the glaciers” while maintaining that the Himalayan glaciers are "indeed" receding, which is a cause for great concern, but the view that these rivers of ice would melt down completely by 2035 due to global warning is "alarmist" and without any scientific basis.

"It is a clear vindication of our position. (But) It is a serious issue. (Himlayan) glaciers are serious issues for India. Most of the Himalayan glaciers are in a poor state, but the report that suggested that the glaciers will vanish completely by 2035 is alarmist and misplaced," Ramesh told reporters in New Delhi.

He maintained that the causes for the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas needs to be carefull studies.

Ramesh was referring to the study by the Nobel prize winning group - United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 had - that claimed that most of the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035.

The Rajendra Pachauri-led UN panel had warned that the melting of glaciers would have far-reaching consequences for India. However, new evidence has emerged to suggest that the IPCC may have been mistaken.

The IPCC's claim was based on an article in a London-based science journal which had borrowed the statement from India's glaciologist Syed Iqbal Hasnain. “The study was not made on any scientific evidence,” a very happy sounding minister.

WWF-India Climate Change and Energy Programme chief Shirish Sinha admitted that there are "limitations to scientific models used for such studies."

"We need to look at new data and study. The larger issue is the coming of scientific data which is not validated," said Sinha.

The report was based on compilation of papers. We regret the report that was put out. The information used in the report was not validated and the predictions were based on scientific models. What WWF has seen is that smaller glaciers are more vulnerable but larger ones are not that vulnerable," Sinha has been quoted as saying by CNN-IBN television channel.

A little-known scientist Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, Syed Husnain who first issued the doomsday warning, has admitted that it was based on a news story in a science journal.

Pachauri, however, washed his hands off the report saying Husnain was not working with him but in the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) when he published it

"Husnain was with JNU when the report was published in 1999. I am not responsible for what he did in his past, can't say anything now. Have to assess facts first," Pachauri replied when asked if the misleading report was an embarrassment for The Energy and Resources Institute.
Hasnain now works for Pachauri at TERI.

[UPDATE: WWF Australia apparently removed their statement from their webpage (Why?). However it live on here.] WWF Australia has issued a statement apologizing for the error in its report and distancing itself from the IPCC. Here is an excerpt from the statement:
. . . In this case, we relied upon a published article rather than the original report for the information we cited in our own document. Referring to this article without double-checking the primary source was a mistake inconsistent with our high standards and one we sincerely regret. . .

How can the IPCC justify not having peer-reviewed this statement before including it in their report?

A: This is a question for the IPCC.