Commentary

IPCC Imperialism on Indian Glaciers

Climategate-I was the revelation that climate scientists crusading over global warming at East Anglia University had tried to censor inconvenient data and shut dissenters out of academic journals. Climategate-II is the revelation that the 2007 report of the International Panel on Climate Change, saying Himalayan glaciers might disappear by 2035, was not science at all but idle, unsubstantiated speculation.

It speaks volumes for the huge biases within IPCC that it took two years for this hoax to be exposed. Any hoax opposing the global warming thesis would be exposed in ten seconds flat. The IPCC is willing to swallow unexamined what it finds convenient, while raising a thousand technical objections to anything inconvenient. This is religious crusading, not objective science. The tactics being used to discredit and destroy heretics is reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition.

Climategate-II is also a sad example of green imperialism. Rather than accept the findings of foreign scientists alone, Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, appointed a panel of Indian scientists on Himalayan melting. “My concern is that this comes from western scientists … it is high time India makes an investment in understanding what is happening in the Himalayan ecosystem.”

The Indian panel, headed by V K Raina, looked at 150 years of data gathered by the Geological Survey of India from 25 Himalayan glaciers. It was the first comprehensive study of the region. It concluded that while Himalayan glaciers had long been retreating, there was no recent acceleration of the trend, and nothing to suggest that the glaciers would disappear. In short, the IPCC had perpetrated an alarmist hoax without scientific foundation. Scotching IPCC claims that the Gangotri glacier was retreating at an alarming rate, the Raina Panel said this glacier, the main source of the Ganges, actually receded fastest in 1977, and “is today practically at a standstill”.

Raina said that the mistake made by western scientists “was to apply the rate of glacial loss from other parts of the world to the Himalayas… In the United States the highest glaciers in Alaska are still below the lowest level of Himalayan glaciers. Our 9,500 glaciers are located at very high altitudes. It is a completely different system.” Justifiably, Jairam Ramesh felt vindicated. But the Raina report threatened the claim of IPCC scientists to omniscience and Nobel Prize status. Rajendra Pachauri, President of the IPCC, told The Guardian newspaper, “We have a very clear idea of what is happening. I don’t know why the minister is supporting this unsubstantiated research. It is an extremely arrogant statement.” He dismissed the Raina report saying it was not “peer reviewed” and had few “scientific citations”. He even went to the extent of calling it “schoolboy science.”

Well it takes a schoolboy to reveal that the Emperor has no clothes. We now know that the IPCC claim on glaciers was a hoax. It was based on a speculative comment made in 1999 to a reporter by Syed Hasnain, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University. This was then repeated by several green publications, without further verification.

Goebbels once said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will think it is the truth. The glacier fiasco is the latest example of this. Scientists are supposed to ask hard questions about spectacular new claims. Instead, the IPCC simply accepted without verification the reports of Himalayan glacial melting, and prominently highlighting this in its 2007 report.

Pachauri appointed Hasnain as a senior fellow at Teri. Together, they raised millions from international donors for research on glaciers at Teri. But when Climategate-II came to light, Pachauri declared that he had no responsibility for what Hasnain may have said! And Hasnain said, rather cheekily, that the IPCC had no business to cite his comments!

Pachauri is reported to have said in a telephonic interview, “We are looking at the issue and will be able to comment on the report after examining the facts. The science doesn’t change: Glaciers are melting across the globe and those in the Himalayas are no different. We’re not changing anything till we make an assessment.”

Clearly the true climate denier is Pachauri: he swears by glacial apocalypse even after its exposure as a hoax. When the Raina panel produced solid scientific evidence challenging the glacier melting thesis. Pachauri instantly decried it as schoolboy science and said condescendingly that it was not peer-reviewed. Yet he was happily willing to sanctify schoolboy speculation on glacial melting, and so were other members of the IPCC. All their high-faulting talk of peer-reviewed science proved to be just a tactic to keep out inconvenient views. IPCC scientists responsible for this fiasco must resign. The 2007 IPCC report must be amended, preferably with an apology.

Various green NGOs — including one I respect, the Centre for Science and Environment — backed the IPCC against the Raina Panel. They blindly echoed western scientists with less intimate knowledge of the Himalayas than our own scientists. Stalin would have called this a case of Indian compradors acting as the lackeys of western imperialists, and on this occasion I would find it hard to disagree with him.

These green groups claim to be watchdogs for civil society, and often do a good job. But in this case they blithely allowed a hoax to go unchallenged for two years.

Glacier alarmism is not new. Greenpeace once published photos showing the rapid retreat of the Uppsala Glacier in Argentina, ascribing this to global warming. But when I visited the glacier, I was told that global warming was too gradual to account for the dramatic retreat of the glacier, and clearly powerful local causes were responsible. Of several glaciers descending from the South Andean Icefield, Uppsala was retreating, Perrito Moreno was advancing, and several others were stable. Such varying outcomes obviously reflected local geoclimatic variations, not global climate at all.

Will Greenpeace admit it? Not a chance. But if the IPCC wants to make amends for Climategate-II, perhaps it can start by apologising for glacier alarmism. That will help restore its scientific credibility.

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar is a research fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.