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Indian scientist denies UN glacier melt date
NEW DELHI, Jan 20 (AFP) Jan 20, 2010
An Indian scientist at the centre of a new climate science storm denied on Wednesday saying that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035 -- an alarming date used by the UN's top global warming body.
But Syed Hasnain did acknowledge making comments suggesting that many of the glaciers could disappear by the middle of this century.
The controversy focuses on a reference by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 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 Hasnain to the 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.
There is no evidence that the 2035 claim was published in a peer-reviewed journal, a cornerstone of scientific research.
Hasnain issued a statement on the comments he made to the New Scientist, saying the 2035 date was "a journalistic substitution" which had been made without his knowledge or approval.
"I have not given any date or year on the likely disappearance of Himalayan glaciers -- neither in any interview nor in any of my publications," he said.
However, he added that in 1999 "a scientific postulation was made that all the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could disappear in the next 40 to 50 years at their present rate of decline."
Hasnain said he and other experts were the victims of "a concentrated campaign to denigrate scientists who have established the impact of climate change."
The Indian scientist is now a glaciologist with the New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute, which is headed by IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri.
Pachauri defended the Nobel-winning panel's work on Tuesday, telling reporters at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that even if the 2035 prediction was wrong, the effects of global warming were undeniable.
"Theoretically, let's say we slipped up on one number, I don't think it takes anything away from the overwhelming scientific evidence of what's happening with the climate of this earth," he said.
Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh -- often sceptical of the exact link between global warming and melting glaciers -- has said the IPCC panel "has to do a lot of answering on how it reached the 2035 figure."
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