Himalayan glaciers gone by 2035? IPCC mistaken.
The 2035 Himalayan glacier doomsday date in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was a mistake, say Indian scientists. But debate continues over how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting due to global warming.
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Some of that debate has been hashed out in the scientific journals. Ganjoo sides with a faction that argues there are so many factors involved in glacial melt that a finger cannot yet be pointed at rises in atmospheric temperature – i.e. global warming. He published a paper in August presenting evidence that the famed Siachen glacier has shown "hardly any" retreat. In a phone interview, he calls the melt rate "insignificant."Skip to next paragraph
He says the melt rate fluctuates too much between glaciers - and year to year – to make any prediction about when (or if) Himalayan glaciers will disappear. The IPCC apologized, and said it will remove the 2035 date from its report.
Hasnain, meanwhile, remains a leader of the other faction that sees strong evidence for global warming's dramatic impact on the glaciers.
"With reference to climate change and its impacts on Himalayan glaciers, can there be any doubt on the pathetic state of the Himalayan glaciers!" writes Hasnain, in a press release this week.
Hasnain notes glacier melt is born out by "satellite images consistently assessing even the remotest zones over a period of time" to counter such arguments about few glaciers visited.
Yet he doesn't dispute other local factors play some role: "Micro-level climactic as well as topographic variations "have strong influence on local level impacts of global warming."
Such important nuances of the debate, however, are often lost on the public.
"People are not reading the details and they are only looking at the executive summaries and commenting," says Chandra Bhushan, associate director of the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi.
But he also worries that those trumpeting the IPCC mistake are also jumping to false conclusions. "The glacier debate is playing into the hands of the polluters – by rubbishing the IPCC report, which I think it correct to question. But to say that climate change is not happening because someone wrote 2035 in chapter 10 is taking it too far."
Politics may play a role also in what is not said.
"There's not many scientists who have come into the debate, it's only politicians and environmentalists," says Darryl D. Monte, chairperson of the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India. "There are all kinds of injunctions from their superiors not to speak out to the media."
The Indian government has started to respond to the international pressure to both produce and disseminate more information about the Himalayan glaciers. The Ministry of Environment and Forests commissioned a survey of the scientific literature on the topic that was released in November. The report acknowledges that India has not put enough money into glacial research and announced the future creation of a new research institute.
[Editor's note: The original headline was corrected because it sourced the 2035 melt date to an Indian scientist, who denies he ever made the statement.]