ABU DHABI — The chairman of the UN's panel of climate scientists defended his Nobel-winning group on Tuesday against criticism that it had erroneously forecast an early disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers.
A section of a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the probability of glaciers in the Himalayas "disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high."
IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, addressing reporters at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, said that even if the remarks on Himalayan glaciers is incorrect, it does not undermine evidence supporting the existence of climate change.
"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.
"I've never used that figure in any of my talks, because I think it's not for the IPCC to make predictions of outcomes or dates. We always give ranges, and that's scientifically the way to do it. We always give ... scenarios of what might happen."
Pachauri, whose panel was harshly criticised by India's environment minister, said the IPCC will respond to the criticism by the end of the week.
"Before the end of the week, we will certainly come to a position and make it known. We are looking into the source of that information, the veracity of it and what it is that the IPCC should say on the subject."
In New Delhi, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh was quoted on Tuesday by the Hindustan Times as saying "the IPCC claim that glaciers will vanish by 2035 was not based on an iota of scientific evidence.
"The IPCC has to do a lot of answering on how it reached the 2035 figure, which created such a scare."
Ramesh said he felt "vindicated" after repeatedly challenging the IPCC's work on glaciers. He believes there is no "conclusive scientific evidence" linking global warming to the melting of glaciers.
At the weekend, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported that the reference to 2035 came from the green campaign group WWF, which in turn took it from an interview given by an Indian glaciologist to New Scientist magazine in 1999.
There is no evidence that the claim was published in a peer-reviewed journal, a cornerstone of scientific credibility, it said.
Responding to a question, Pachauri said he feels he is being attacked personally over the potential flaw.
But he put a positive spin on the situation, saying: "You know, you can't attack the science, so attack the chair of the IPCC."
The IPCC is already under attack over hacked email exchanges which skeptics say reflected attempts to skew the evidence for global warming.
The new row has boosted climate skeptics, who have questioned scientific evidence behind global warming in the past and are on a roll after a scandal last month dubbed "climategate."
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