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Glaciologists defend IPCC

A group of glaciologists has defended the scientific standards of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggesting its error in estimating the melt date for Himalayan glaciers might have been a typographical mistake.

delhi Updated: Jan 21, 2010 23:31 IST
Anika Gupta

A group of glaciologists has defended the scientific standards of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), suggesting its error in estimating the melt date for Himalayan glaciers might have been a typographical mistake.

“A bibliographic search suggests that the second WG-II sentence is copied inaccurately from a study in which the predicted date for shrinkage of the world’s total (glaciers) is 2350, not 2035,” write the authors in Thursday letter in the journal Science. It comes a day after the IPCC apologised for incorrectly estimating the melt date.

“We will have better internal cross-checking in the next report,” Georg Kaser, one of the authors and a lead writer of the IPCC’s fourth assessment report, told HT.

He stressed climate-change has been “unequivocally proved,” and the mistake occurred only in a portion of the report.

In its 2007 report, the panel had predicted that rising global temperatures might result in a total loss of Himalayan glaciers 2035. It turned out that the prediction was speculative and didn’t come from any accepted scientific literature.

“The claim that Himalayan glaciers may disappear by 2035 requires a 25-fold greater loss rate from 1999 to 2035 than that estimated for 1960 to 1999,” the authors say. “It conflicts with knowledge of glacier climate relationships, and is wrong.”

The write-up comes amid a raging debate over how the IPCC came to include an erroneous figure in its report.

The error was a case of misreading a published study, the Science article claims. A common theory, extensively quoted on science blogs, suggests that the IPCC lifted the “2035” from a report by a global nonprofit.

The nonprofit had picked the figure from an interview conducted by a popular science magazine with Syed Hasnain, an Indian glaciologist. Hasnain has since said the magazine made a mistake.

“The glaciological community has to review not only core glaciology chapters, but also chapters where glaciers appear only among many other things,” said Kaser.