The U.N. environment chief has come out in strong support of the embattled climate change panel led by R.K. Pachauri, hitting out at sceptics whose criticism of the body and its Indian chair, he said, had reached “witch-hunting proportions”.

Contending that a “typographical error” was at the root of the glacier error, Achim Steiner said: “The IPCC is as fallible as the human beings that comprise it.”

The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change erroneously claimed that the Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035.

One original source of the IPCC report, he mentioned, had spoken of the world’s glaciers melting by 2350, and not 2035 as came out in it, terming it a “typographical error”.

The head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) criticised the pundits and media who were rejecting the reality of climate change blaming them for causing confusion among the public.

“Some strident voices are even dismissing climate change as a hoax on a par with the Y2K computer bug,” he wrote in an op-ed piece of the Turkish national daily, Today’s Zaman.

“As a result, public has become increasingly bewildered as unremitting questioning of the IPCC and its chair assumes almost witch-hunting proportions in some quarters,” he added.

“Indeed, caution rather than sensation has been the panel’s watchword throughout its existence,” Mr. Steiner wrote, defending the IPCC.

“Some in the media, and those who are sceptical about climate change, are currently having a field day, parsing every comma and cough in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2007 assessment,” Mr. Steiner noted.

He underlined that IPCC was not “sensationalist” and its body of work had documented the course of climate change from its first assessment in 1990, and had often invited criticism for being too “conservative” in its predictions.

“Rather than undermine IPCC’s work, we should renew and redouble our efforts to support its mammoth task in assembling the science and knowledge for its fifth assessment in 2014.”

In 2007, the IPCC shared the Nobel Peace Prize with environmentalist Al Gore.

While admitting that the credibility of the IPCC had been damaged because of the errors, Mr. Pachauri had recently refused to resign. “You can’t expect me to be personally responsible for every word in a 3,000-page report,” the scientist said.

“The IPCC is as fallible as the human beings that comprise it,” Mr. Steiner wrote. “But it remains without doubt the best and most solid foundation we have for a community of more than 190 nations to make these most critical current and future global choices”.