Professor Hasnain confirmed that he had given an interview to Fred Pearce, of New Scientist, when he was still working for Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1999. “I said that small glaciers in the eastern and central Himalaya are declining at an alarming rate and in the next 40-50 years they may lose substantial mass,” he said. “That means they will shrink in area and mass. To which the journalist has assigned a date and reported it in his own way.” Mr Pearce was not immediately available for comment.
Despite the controversy, the IPCC said that it stood by its overall conclusions about glacier loss this century in big mountain ranges including the Himalayas. “This conclusion is robust, appropriate, and entirely consistent with the underlying science and the broader IPCC assessment,” it said.
The scandal threatens to undermine the panel’s credibility as it begins the marathon process of drafting its Fifth Assessment Reports, which are due out in 2013-14. Georg Kaser, a leading Austrian glaciologist who contributed to the 2007 report, described the glacier mistake as huge and said that he had warned colleagues about it months before publication.
The error is also now being exploited by climate sceptics, many of whom are convinced that stolen e-mail exchanges last year revealed a conspiracy to exaggerate the evidence supporting global warming.
Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Environment Minister, said on Tuesday the scandal vindicated his position that there was no proof that Himalayan glaciers were melting abnormally fast. “The IPCC claim that glaciers will vanish by 2035 was not based on an iota of scientific evidence,” he said.