A UN warning that Himalayan glaciers were melting faster than any other place in the world and may be gone by 2035 was not backed up by science, UN climate experts said Wednesday — an admission that could energize climate change critics.
In a 2007 report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the Himalayan glaciers are very likely to disappear within three decades if the present melting rate continues. But a statement from the panel now says there is not enough scientific evidence to back up those claims.
The warning in the report "refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers," the IPCC said. "In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly."
The Himalayan glacier claim, made in the group's voluminous, Nobel-winning report, was little noticed until the Sunday Times said the projection seemed to be based on a news report.
The leaders of the UN panel are investigating how the forecast got into the report, Chris Field, director of the ecology department at the Washington-based Carnegie Institution for Science, told The Associated Press.
The UN panel did not give a new estimate of when Himalayan glaciers might melt away, but said "widespread mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century."
This will reduce the availability of water and change the seasonal water flows in major mountain rangers, including the Himalayas, it said.
India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday repeated his previous criticism of the panel's initial assessment of the Himalayan glaciers.
"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," Ramesh was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report of 2007 said the Himalayan glaciers were receding faster than any other place in the world.
"The likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate," it said.
But, in a confusing note, the report added the glacier's total area "will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 square kilometres by the year 2035."
The UN climate change panel said "the chair, vice-chairs and co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance."