Guardian Eco publishes an interview with IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, which very surprisingly returns to the subject of the melting of Himalayan glaciers.
The [IPCC] report included an estimate that “if the present rate [of melting] continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high (IPCC-speak for 90 percent-plus likely) if the earth keeps warming at the current rate.” This prediction came from a 1999 magazine interview with India’s leading glaciologist, Syad Iqbal Hasnain, not an article in a peer-reviewed journal.
So, yes, a small lapse, and within 24 hours the IPCC had acknowledged it. But how significant was the error? It happened that I had interviewed Hasnain in New Delhi in 2009; he told me that he had slightly modified his projections on the basis of new data compiled over the intervening decade. What he said now was, “If the current trends continue, within 30 to 40 years most of the glaciers will melt out.” It was hard to be more precise, he said, because so much of the affected region in India, Pakistan, and Tibet is off-limits to researchers for national security reasons. So most of the glaciers are very likely to be gone by 2040 to 2050, rather than allthe glaciers are very likely to be gone by 2035.
If I were one of the 1.5 billion Asians whose future survival depends on meltwater from the Himalayas, I’m not sure I’d grasp the fine distinction.
Now, my understanding is that even on the inflated IPCC estimates, the correct figure is 2350, not 2040 or 2050. If so, then the Guardian’s decision to publish this is…astonishing.