Tabloid Climate Science

NEW DELHI – The scientists whose research has revealed the extent of global climate change are now getting the tabloid treatment. First came the scandal of leaked (actually hacked) e-mails at the climate institute of Britain’s East Anglia University. Now comes the supposed news that the Himalayan glaciers are not, in fact, retreating, and will therefore not disappear by 2035.

The first story was timed to appear just before December’s COP15 climate-change summit in Copenhagen. The second is designed to bury whatever hopes still exist for signing a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. Coming one after the other, these inflated scandals have, at least for now, dealt a massive blow to the credibility of the evidence that underpins the battle against global warming.

But how justified are these attacks, particularly the attacks on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body that has set the gold standard for analyzing global climate change? One tell-tale sign is the climate skeptics’ contempt for the actual data in the Indian government’s study, which is being used to undermine the IPCC report and the impeccable credentials of the scientist Syed Iqbal Hasnain, the source of the IPCC’s alarming quote on the Himalayas. There is also the unholy glee with which they have set about destroying an icon of the anti-global warming movement, the Nobel Laureate R.K Pachauri, by attributing financial motives to his research.

Hasnain, who is currently conducting a study of the accumulation of black carbon on snow at high altitudes in the Himalayas, is not some egotistical scientist seeking the limelight. He was Professor of Glaciology at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of Environmental Sciences and a fellow of the Indian Institute of Technology and of Delft Technical University in the Netherlands. Between 1995 and 1999, he chaired a working group on Himalayan Glaciology within the International Commission on Snow and Ice. He is also the author of Himalayan Glaciers: Hydrology and Hydrochemistry and scores of scientific papers.