ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On the Himalayan Glaciers Controversy

A huge controversy has been generated in recent weeks over the much quoted lines in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2007 report: “Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate” (Working Group 2: 493). We do need to question how a statement of such magnitude, without peer review, made its way into the IPCC report. However, to question the credibility of the science of the global warming, supported as it is by a wealth of empirical evidence, or to question IPCC’s work, as is happening in some quarters, is a gross exaggeration and sometimes driven by dubious and mala fide intentions.

More importantly, the ongoing debate ignores four key issues. One, that glacial melting, happening extensively in many regions and altitudes of the Himalayas, is already having an impact on people’s lives in the Indian Himalayan states. Two, science ignores people’s own perceptions of their reality and their context. Three, the critics have not properly placed the issue in the overall context and fragility of glaciers globally. Four, the situation is going to worsen, thereby deepening an unfolding crisis of access to water.

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