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UN climate body to review Himalayan glacier forecast

The head of the UN's top body on climate change said the panel would investigate claims its doomsday prediction for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers might be mistaken.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2010 21:27 IST

The head of the UN's top body on climate change said on Monday the panel would investigate claims its doomsday prediction for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers might be mistaken.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that glaciers in the Himalayas were receding faster than in any other part of the world and could "disappear altogether by 2035 if not sooner".

At the weekend, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported that the 2035 claim was taken from an interview given by an Indian glaciologist to New Scientist magazine in 1999.

The claim -- which was of questionable scientific value and may not have been backed up by research, according to the paper -- was used by campaign group WWF before making its way into the IPCC's research in 2007.

"We will take a view of this," IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said in comments broadcast on the CNN-IBN network.

"We are studying the new evidence," the Hindustan Times newspaper quoted Pachauri as saying on Monday when asked to comment on the report.

The Sunday Times said the IPCC was likely to retract the figure, which would be a humiliation and a further boost for climate sceptics after a scandal last month dubbed "climategate."

The role of the IPCC is to provide a consensus of credible scientific evidence on climate change that can be used as a basis for international policymaking.

Emails from scientists at Britain's University of East Anglia, a top centre for climate research, were leaked and seized on by sceptics last month as evidence that experts twisted data in order to dramatise global warming.

Some of the thousands of messages expressed frustration at the scientists' inability to explain what they described as a temporary slowdown in warming.

In its fourth assessment in 2007, the IPCC warned that the rivers of the Gangetic Basin, which supply hundreds of millions in northern India, could run dry once glaciers high in the Himalayas disappear.

Another expert, J Graham Cogley of Trent University in Canada, has said the 2035 forecast was an "egregious" error which may have originated in an older document predicting a massive melting of glaciers by 2350.

In December, the BBC quoted Cogley as saying that the authors of the IPCC report "misread 2350 as 2035."

Indian scientists are split on how fast Himalayan glaciers are receding and whether or not climate change is responsible for this.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has repeatedly challenged the IPCC's claims, saying there is no "conclusive scientific evidence" linking global warming to the melting of glaciers.

In November, Ramesh backed a controversial study by Indian scientists which supported his view, causing Pachauri to label his support "arrogant."