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Updated: February 18, 2010 02:28 IST

Glaciers are indeed melting fast, says expert

Special Correspondent
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Julian Hunt, Emeritus Professor of Climate Modelling, University of Cambridge. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao
The Hindu Julian Hunt, Emeritus Professor of Climate Modelling, University of Cambridge. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

Supporting the argument on glacier melt, Julian Hunt, Emeritus Professor of Climate Modelling, University of Cambridge, U.K., showed evidence from a Chinese study to state that glaciers are indeed melting fast.

The study, conducted by the Beijing Climate Centre, showed that the depth of land frozen in the Tibetan plateau region is getting shallower every year, Prof. Hunt said. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, defending his position on the issue, had said on Tuesday that “contentions of snowfall discrediting the meltdown were incorrect and there was no ambiguity that the glaciers were melting.”

Prof. Hunt was in Chennai, at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, to talk on ‘Science and policies for Climate Change – What we should do now!’ during a visit coordinated by the British Council.

“The thing about science is that it is full of mistakes. We make them and then correct them,” he said. For a long while the effect of aerosols were not incorporated into the climate models; it came in later.

It was important to keep collecting data, and for countries to have their own data on climate change. “We must keep on producing evidence for ways in which to proceed,” Prof. Hunt said.

Scientists must engage in and encourage rational discussion on climate change, the possible implications and the options available to nations.

While stressing on the need to evolve methods to mitigate and adapt, he said, “The capacity to do so will be immense.” Integrating systems — such as building windmills on dykes in Holland, using thorium through nuclear fusion to generate reliable power, harnessing co-generation in power plants, building towns with green buildings, public transport and using food resources optimally — are all ways one could do this.

By not focussing on mitigation, it would only hasten the process of change and we would have to spend more money at controlling the damage ensuing so.

If one could ensure that changes occur at a slower pace, it would provide the time to adapt better; rather than if there were a greater number of extreme events or sudden rises.

Bringing in the market into his lecture, Mr. Hunt said it was key to change the definitions and targets for economic growth periodically. Nations would have to use markets to stimulate and effect change, as some carbon trading countries are already offering to do so.

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