Rajendra Pachauri, who heads the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on Friday said the chances of the U.N. panel having made more errors in its benchmark 2007 report were “minimal if not non-existent”, while again admitting the “regrettable error” that has raised questions about its credibility.
The global panel of over 2,500 scientists is facing flak for having said Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 — a statement made without sufficient peer review and which the IPCC has already retracted.
Mr. Pachauri said in a statement here that the report’s general conclusions that Himalayan glaciers were retreating due to global warming were “robust, appropriate, and entirely consistent with the underlying science and the broader IPCC assessment. The statement on glacial retreat in the technical report is a regrettable error arising out of established processes not being diligently followed”.
Mr. Pachauri said the incident had led to “an appreciation of the need for better quality data and research and heightened awareness about the real threat to the Himalayan glaciers”.
The IPCC chief asserted that the possibility of there being more errors in its 2007 report “is minimal if not non-existent.” The IPCC has laid out well documented procedures on the use of literature both peer-reviewed and grey by way of which the scientists develop the reports, he said.
“The responsibility of assessing the quality of this literature and ensuring its availability for future use lies with the authors within the larger process. After the finalisation of the chapters by authors, there is a well-defined review process that is undertaken,” he said.
“The chapters are then put in the public domain for inviting comments. After the comments are addressed the chapters are also sent to country governments for review and comment and all these processes have been followed.”
Reacting to the report released by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in November 2009, which had described the IPCC conclusions as alarmist, Mr. Pachauri said: “The science of glacier retreat or advancement is extremely complex and conclusions can be reached only after studying both the area and the mass. The ministry report does not indicate that both these aspects have been fully addressed.
“In any case, this issue of the error in the IPCC report cannot be used to authenticate the findings of the ministry report.”
Asked if the IPCC would take action against scientist Syed Iqbal Hasnain whose comments led to the goof-up, Mr. Pachauri said: “Attributing responsibility on specific experts may not be desirable, particularly since the error was more of one of judgment. We would be reviewing and strengthening our processes henceforth.”
He was confident “that this regrettable issue should not in any way detract from the work done by hundreds of eminent scientists carefully selected and nominated by governments”.
Mr. Pachauri also addressed the charge that The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) — the think-tank he also heads -- gained from the alarmist report by getting projects worth billions of dollars.
He said: “Research on Climate Change in TERI goes as far as back as 1987 — before the IPCC had been formed. Our work on glaciers started two years ago recognising the need for greater field-based data generation and modelling. The IPCC report has also pointed out the need for more research in these areas.”
Recent media reports have referred to a particular project, called Hi Noon, funded by the European Union. Mr. Pachauri said: “TERI participated in this competitive bid as one partner in a consortium of institutions led by a European institution and involves several other Indian institutions including IIT Delhi and IIT Kharagpur. Each institute has a well defined role and TERI is addressing the issue of socio-economic impact assessment.”
There was also a charge that the alarm had helped TERI get a project from Iceland. On that, Mr. Pachauri said: “The Global Centre, Iceland received support from Carnegie Foundation for glacier related work. Our collaboration with this Centre is for the purpose of training and teaching in glaciology.”