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

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Missing the Wood for the Trees

The IPCC's errors about the Himalayan glaciers cannot undermine the reality of human-induced climate change.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has always faced opposition to its central claim that human-induced climate change is a reality and something which can be addressed by taking measures to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Till recently, much of this opposition has been in the form of either ignoring the research and recommendations of the IPCC or highlighting the areas where the panel’s claims had some amount of uncertainty to deny its entire work. Fortunately, with the mass of scientific evidence and lived reality adding up over the years, the climate change deniers have found it increasingly difficult to reject the truth of humaninduced climate change while respect for the work of the IPCC has only grown.

Unfortunately, in the recent past, two events have dented this reputation of the IPCC and allowed the climate change deniers to elbow their way into mainstream debates. The first was the controversy over the leaked emails of scientists from East Anglia University in the United Kingdom whose work has been used widely in IPCC documents. The emails showed that some of these scientists were unwilling to consider data which proved their hypothesis wrong and were willing to take strong-arm measures to keep alternate views out. Then came the expose about the claim made in the report of IPCC’s Working Group II (which looks at Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerabilities) that the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035 AD was wrong. Not only was it not a scientifically verified claim, there was a strong possibility that it was a typographical error where one study’s estimate of 2350 AD was mistakenly used. The initial reaction of the IPCC and its chairman, R K Pachauri, terming those who questioned the claims on Himalayan glaciers as “practicing voodoo science”, added to the final denouement. What further aggravated the issue were indications that The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), of which Pachauri is director general, may have benefited with large project funding for research on Himalayan glaciers on the basis of this claim in the IPCC document.

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