The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has expressed “regret” over “poor application of well-established procedures” in substantiating an estimated rate of recession and date for the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers.
In a statement, the United Nations body has admitted that in drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly. “The chair, vice-chairs and co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of well-established procedures in this instance. This episode demonstrates that the quality of the assessment depends on absolute adherence to the IPCC standards, including thorough review of the quality and validity of each source before incorporating results from the source into an IPCC report,” the statement said while reaffirming its commitment to ensure this level of performance.
The regret comes three days after a British newspaper quoted Professor Syed Iqbal Hasnain, one of the authors of the paper on the Himalayan glaciers, as saying his conclusion was ‘speculative’.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests had challenged the outcome of the IPCC by bringing out a report of its own which said the health of the glaciers was a matter of concern but some glaciers like the Siachen were, in fact, increasing while others like the Gangotri were receding.
Reacting to the IPCC statement, Minister of State for Environment Jairam Ramesh said it was only to be expected. “I am glad they have issued a regret but let us not forget that the health of the Himalayan glaciers is poor and we need to take immediate remedial measures.”
In its statement, the IPCC has said ‘The Synthesis Report’, the concluding document of the Fourth Assessment report of the IPCC (page 49) stated: Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century, reducing water availability, hydropower potential, and changing seasonality of flows in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain ranges (Hindu Kush, the Himalayas and Andes) where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives.
“This conclusion is robust, appropriate, and entirely consistent with the underlying science and the broader IPCC assessment. It has, however, recently come to our attention that a paragraph in the 938 page Working Group II contribution to the underlying assessment refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers.”