UN's IPCC says sorry for glacier error

The UN's top climate change body has issued an unprecedented apology over its flawed prediction that Himalayan glaciers were likely to disappear by 2035.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said yesterday the prediction in its landmark 2007 report was "poorly substantiated" and resulted from a lapse in standards. "In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly," the panel said.

"The chair, vice-chair and co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of IPCC procedures in this instance."

The stunning admission is certain to embolden critics of the panel, which is already under fire over a separate scandal last year involving stolen emails that mentioned suppressing data to freeze out climate change sceptics.

The 2007 report, which won the panel the Nobel Peace Prize, said the probability of Himalayan glaciers "disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high".

It caused shock in Asia, where about two billion people depend on melted water from Himalayan glaciers for their supplies during the dry seasons.

It emerged last week that the prediction was based not on a consensus among climate change experts but on a media interview with a single Indian glaciologist in 1999.

That scientist, Syed Hasnain, has now said he never made such a specific forecast in his interview with New Scientist.

"I have not made any prediction on date as I am not an astrologer, but I did say they were shrinking fast," Professor Hasnain said.

"I have never written 2035 in any of my research papers or reports."

Professor Hasnain works for the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, which is headed by Rajendra Pachauri, head of the climate change panel.

Dr Pachauri, who yesterday held a lengthy news conference in Delhi on Indian energy security but refused to answer any questions on the IPCC report, has previously tried to distance himself from Professor Hasnain by saying that the latter was not working at the institute in 1999.

Dr Pachauri said yesterday it did not "make sense" to respond to accusations that the error had damaged either his or the IPCC's credibility.

Jeremy Page, The Australian, January 22 2010