NEW DELHI: An Indian scientist at the centre of a new climate science storm has denied ever saying Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035 -- an alarming date that was used by the UN's top global warming body.
The controversy focuses on a reference by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the probability of glaciers in the Himalayas "disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high."
In a landmark 2007 report, the IPCC sourced the date to green campaign group WWF, which in turn took the prediction from an interview given by Indian scientist Syed Hasnain to New Scientist magazine in 1999.
The IPCC has said it is reviewing the figure and looks set to retract the assertion -- an embarrassing climbdown and a blow to its credibility as the reliable authority on global climate science.
"I am not an astrologer. I would not say by 2035 or 2040 the glacier mass will disappear," Hasnain said in comments broadcast on India's NDTV television channel on Wednesday.
"I said in the next 40 to 50 years the glaciers will lose mass. I didn't say they would vanish or that they would be confined to two kilometres or half a kilometre. They (the magazine) assigned a number to it," he said.
There is no evidence that the 2035 claim was published in a peer-reviewed journal, a cornerstone of scientific credibility.
In the 1999 interview with New Scientist, available on the Internet, the magazine quotes Hasnain as saying the Himalayan glaciers are "retreating" and says his research indicates they could disappear by 2035.
Hasnain is now a glaciologist with the New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute, which is headed by IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri.