Glaciergate Scandal Causing Heat

The scientific community of climate change is sweating bullets, and it is not because of the rising global temperatures. The UN’S Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is trying to find its balance-under the scorching glare of the media- after tripping over the huge blunder of claiming that the Himalayan Glaciers would melt by the year 2035 (a stunning 300 years wide of actual projection) without any credible research. Now that the secret is out in the open, the credibility, even the existence of the IPCC is being questioned. However, nobody is in it deeper than the Dr. R.K.Pachauri, the head of the IPCC; somebody who had accepted a Peace Nobel on behalf of the organisation in 2007.

It all began that same year; when the organisation released its fourth assessment report which, apart from the false estimate of the affect of global warming on the Himalayan glaciers, also contained many discrepancies  like overestimating the total area of the Himalayan glaciers by 15 times, dire predictions for the Amazon rainforest, (unverified)facts about global warming causing malaria. The report had caused a flutter in the world when it had been released, mainly because such an imminent danger to the glacier that provided water to one-fifth of the world population was something that warranted immediate attention.

But the revelation of the false claims made in the infamous report proved to be only the tip of the iceberg. As the media chipped the ice, the water became increasingly murky as more players began to emerge in the controversy, which suddenly became deeper than just some misplaced facts. One man chose to gain the most from alleviating the hype around global warming- Dr. Pachauri.

Not only is he the head of the global authority on climate change, he also holds the post of director-general of the Delhi based research institute TERI, which incidentally gets a large chunk of research grants from corporates and global welfare organisations. For example, since the alarming announcement was made in 2007, TERI has won a substantial share of the $500,000 grant from one of America’s leading charity, the Carnegie Corporation, as well as the 3 million euro research study funded by the European Union (EU).

That’s not all. A year after the report was compiled, the scientist whose claims had formed the basis of the report, Dr. Syed Hasnain was made the head of the glaciology dept. at TERI. The claim was later proved false by Dr. V.K.Raina, the country’s most senior glaciologist, who wrote in a government report that the rate of retreat of the Himalayan glaciers had not increased in the past 50 years- a report that was publicly condemned by Dr. Pachauri as “voodoo science” and “arrogant”.

The Glaciergate (or Pachaurigate, as it is now being called) scandal has not only tarnished the reputation of the IPCC and Dr. Pachauri, but has provided ammunition for climate change sceptics as well. It also gives an excuse to countries like US, UK and Australia-who were reluctant to commit to the Kyoto Protocol in the first place- to delay giving funds to developing countries in order to help them fight global warming. In the long run, the loss of faith in the scientific community could have far-reaching repercussion. The phrase ‘Once bitten twice shy’ could find truth in corporates and research grants might not be quite as forthcoming in future.

Of course, the incident will also ensure that IPCC again falls back on its verified sources and brings out a scientifically authentic fifth assessment report which is due in 2013-14. The climate change scientific community will have to work hard to silence its many critics, most of who will want hard facts to support any new claims made. They will also have to regain the trust of the people and remind them that, regardless of the Glaciergate blunder, climate change still remains one of the greatest threats to mankind.

Prerna Vohra

[Image courtesy:]