Glacier melting blunder puts Nepal in a fix

KATHMANDU: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body dealing with climate change issues, on January 20 pointed to an error in the report while drafting estimates of the rate of recession and mentioning the date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. It is ridiculous that a global hub of more than 2,500 scientists from around the world came to know about the mistake after more than two years of turbulent debates on the issue. The IPCC’s fourth assessment report published in 2007 had clearly stated that the Himalayan glaciers were retreating faster than in any other part of the world and at the present rate of retreat they could disappear by 2035. But two full years after much water has flown down the Himalayas, IPCC has admitted that the data taken were baseless and regretted the mistake on glacier melting. Finding some errors in the report may be excused, but acceptance of the mistake after such a long time by a global institution cannot be taken lightly.

The admission of mistake came after pressure was exerted by the Indian Environment and Forest Ministry report on glaciers that indicated that glacier melting and global warming could not be linked and clarified that glacier melting is not uniform in the Himalayan region. In the report published about two months before the Indian research team’s report, the Chairman of IPCC Rajendra Kumar Pachauri vehemently argued that everything was correct

in the IPCC report. But after

two months Pachauri has

accepted that the statement

in the second assessment report on the disappearance of the glaciers was a blunder.

The experts here also believe that the date of the disappearance of the glaciers in the Himalayas was not justified

by any glaciologist around the world. Yet, in the IPCC report

it is documented that most of glaciers would disappear by

2035 due to the rapid melting of the ice on the Himalayas. The IPCC has also been accused of taking glacier melting on the Himalayas lightly. The reports clearly show that the Himalayas are melting at a faster rate and IPCC agrees on the issue too while saying some data are mistakes and that it should have given the correct figure.

Keeping the world in dark about glacier melting will adversely affect vulnerable nations like Nepal. Even before the report was published by IPCC and in the initial days after the report was published, world renowned scientists reacted on the disappearance date consistently, but IPCC remained surprisingly nonchalant.

It is shocking that such important data were taken from a newspaper interview of one of the glaciologists. It is also

a matter of shame for all the scientists who prepared such a

document, which was also honoured with Noble Peace Prize for its contribution in drawing the attention of the world towards climate change.

The present debate on the climate change is basically centred on the fourth assessment report of IPCC published in 2007, and there are few scientifically proven indicators on the basis of which the debate on climate change is gaining momentum. The sea-level rise, increase of average earth temperature and the melting of the ice on the snow caps are major facts established till date. All these facts and figures are analysed on the basis of these main findings. A vulnerable nation like Nepal is likely to face more controversies on the issues on melting of glaciers as the efforts to falsify this fact are intense across the world. The IPCC report has very few things included about the Himalayas, and one of the statements included in the report about the glaciers was found to be incorrect after a long time. So what did IPCC do over the years when the issue of glaciers was debated intensely worldwide? Not only the scientists, but the media also reported about the data controversy frequently.

The impact of IPCC press statement for Nepal is of immense importance. The main agenda of the nation on the issue of climate change has been the melting of the Himalayas, but indirectly the IPCC admits the glacier data is a mistake, weakening the arguments of a nation like Nepal, which has consistently been lobbying on the issues of the Himalayas and demanding large scale support to combat its impact. Secondly, the reliability of the data generated on the other issues of the Himalayas has come under cloud. The IPCC document has lost its credibility, which can help the climate change skeptics to raise their voice more loudly. Thirdly, the developed world may do a rethink on the funds committed for the least developed countries like Nepal to fight climate change. IPCC about the glacier melt data which had widely spread the message that the Himalayas are alright and there is no need to worry much.