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Himalayan blunder indeed, admits WWF

india Updated: Jan 19, 2010 01:03 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on Monday admitted that it was wrong in claiming in a 2005 report that Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had sent the alarm bells ringing when it picked up the report without a scientific review and said the Himalayan glaciers were on the brink. Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh had though termed the "findings" as alarmist.

IPCC chief R.K. Pachauri tried to wash his hands off the controversy, saying he had “absolutely no responsibility”. “It’s the work of independent authors... they’re responsible.”

Syed Iqbal Husnain’s report — the basis of the WWF claim — was published in 1999 when he was with Jawaharlal Nehru University, Pachauri said on Monday. Husnain is now a distinguished fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute, a body headed by the IPCC chief.

The issue was being reviewed and a statement would be issued this week, he said. The claim would be deleted from the IPCC report, a UN official told HT on condition of anonymity. The IPCC’s claim was based on a WWF study, Retreating Glaciers, in India, China and Nepal.

“It was an error on our part,” said Sirish Sinha, head of climate division, WWF-India. “We took the data presented by Husnain to New Scientist and Down to Earth and failed to verify it…”

Husnain, who led an International Commission on Snow and Ice’s study on the Himalayan glaciers, made a presentation at the Centre for Science and Environment, which brings out Down to Earth, in Feb 1999 and talked about the 2035 ‘meltdown’.

“We published what Hasnain told us,” Sunita Narian, magazine’s editor, told HT. “… It was a news report."

New Scientist spoke to Husnain about his claims in Down to Earth. A year later, when it found that the claims were not mentioned in the snow and ice commission’s paper on Himalayan glaciers, it spoke to Husnain again. It was then he admitted that the 2035 claim was speculative. Husnain, unavailable for comments since Sunday, however, failed to make public his wrong assertion.

“Glaciers will not disappear by 2035. Our limited study of 10 years shows 15-20 metres recession — not considered alarming,” said glaciologist D.P. Dhobal of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun.

Many were receding at a much slower rate of 5-7 metres per year and some weren’t receding at all, he said.

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