Hysterical: IPCC warns of melting Himalayan glaciers again — Pachauri says Glaciergate error was to put a definite date on meltdown!

The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting so fast they will affect the water supplies of a population twice that of the US within 22 years, the head of the world’s leading authority on climate change has warned.

“That’s something to be concerned about,” said Rachendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which this week starts releasing its first extensive report in six years on how the global climate is changing.

This is the panel’s first big study since it was mired in controversy four years ago over a mistaken suggestion in its last assessment in 2007 that the Himalayan glaciers could disappear as early as 2035, a date it admitted was “poorly substantiated”.

Mr Pachauri faced calls to resign at the time but on the eve of the new report’s release, he said the error should not overshadow the looming risks posed by the retreating glaciers, which feed water into rivers supplying some of south Asia’s most densely populated regions.

“Everything humanly possible has been brought to bear on this report to see that we don’t have any errors,” he told the Financial Times in an interview.

“That [glacier] error of course was highlighted round the world, and we apologised for it,” he said. “It doesn’t detract from the fact that the glaciers are melting across the globe, including the Himalayas.

“The mistake we made was using that figure of 2035, but that doesn’t in any way reduce the implications of glacier melt across the entire Himalayan range and that’s something to be concerned about, as it was then.”

While the glaciers may not vanish by 2035, he added, the pace at which they are melting is bound to affect vast numbers of people depending on them for water.

“Even before 2035 it’s going to start showing up in terms of changes in water flows, which affect, as we had estimated, 500m people in south Asia and 250m people in China,” he said.

The IPCC’s new assessment is only the fifth it has done in its 25-year history and its first since 2007. Leaked drafts of its final summary, which will be approved by the nearly 200 governments who belong to the panel in Stockholm this week, show it strengthens past findings that global temperatures are rising and humans are the main cause.
Mr Pachauri, who has chaired the panel since 2002, said the new report would differ from its predecessors in some ways, however.

It includes a far more comprehensive examination of issues such as how sea levels are changing, for example, and will also address another issue that has roused mounting interest since its 2007 report: the slowing rate of global warming in the last 15 years.
“We will have something to say on that,” he said, adding he thought people should bear in mind a recent World Meteorological Organisation report showing the first decade of this century was the hottest in 160 years.
One big difference in this year’s report, which will be released in stages over this year and next, is the number of scientists who wanted to compile it. Nearly 3,000 scientists were nominated to be authors of the latest report, up from 2,000 in the previous one, said Mr Pachauri. A total of 831 were selected as authors.

The scientists assess existing climate research, rather than carrying out original work. They mostly work for free, however, on what has become such a fast-growing field of research that it creates a demanding workload for those with busy day jobs.

This has led to calls for the nearly 200 governments that make up the IPCC to think about allowing it to issue smaller more targeted reports more frequently, rather than the enormous assessments it publishes every five or six years.

The governments are due to consider how the IPCC should do its work in future at a meeting later this year, but Mr Pachauri said he did not believe the existing system would need to change.

“I would say, based on our own experience, I’ve found the scientific community totally equal to the task, even though the magnitude and the complexity of the task has certainly grown over time,” he said.

“The workload has certainly increased, because there’s a lot more materials to be assessed now than was the case maybe 10 years ago, but may I say that the scientists have been equal to the task. They’ve just had to work much harder, and frankly, that’s a very heartening observation.”

He would also like to see governments study the IPCC’s work more carefully at the annual two-week UN climate change negotiations. This year’s meeting will take place in Warsaw in November. “Of the two weeks that are spent discussing what needs to be done about climate change, a minimum of three or four days should be spent focusing on the science,” he said. “Because I think it’s only when you realise the cost of inaction, and what it’s going to lead to in different parts of the world, that people would realise what it is to delay action.”


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