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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
10NEWDELHI93 2010-01-20 12:13:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy New Delhi
Cable title:  

Glacial Melt Forecast Controversy Unlikely to Impact Indian

Tags:   SENV TRGY PREL ECON KGHG IN 
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INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 000093 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES/PCI, OES/EGC, AND SCA/INS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV TRGY PREL ECON KGHG IN

SUBJECT: Glacial Melt Forecast Controversy Unlikely to Impact Indian
Position on Copenhagen Accord



1. (U) Summary: Controversy erupted recently when a leading glacier
scientist told the press that the section of the 2007 assessment
report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had
misquoted his work. The IPCC report indicted Himalayan glaciers
very likely would disappear by 2035. The IPCC has said it will
retract this assessment of glacial melt. Several commentators now
have questioned the validity and credibility of the IPCC's science.
However, India is unlikely to change its position on the Copenhagen
Accord as a result of this controversy. End Summary

Background




2. (U) The 2007 fourth assessment report of the IPCC indicated that
the Himalayan glaciers could shrink from the present 500,000 sq km
to 100,000 sq km by 2035. This assessment was attributed to
statements made in 1999 by leading glaciologist Dr. Syed Iqbal
Husnian, who was then a professor in the Centre for Environmental
Studies in New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University and Chairperson
of the International Commission on Snow and Ice. Based on Husnain's
interviews with "New Scientists" and "Down to Earth" magazines,
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India in 2005 published a report on
Himalayan glaciers that stated "if the present rate [of melt]
continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 is
very high." The WWF report, in turn, was used as a basis for the
IPCC's Working Group II report on Himalayan glacial melt.
Controversy erupted when Dr. Husnain recently told the media that
his 1999 statements had been misquoted and the Himalayan glaciers
will not disappear by 2035.



3. (U) WWF India has now conceded its 2005 report "contained
erroneous information." A WWF India contact acknowledged to ESTOFF
that parts of its report were anecdotal and drawn from popular
articles rather than peer-reviewed scientific articles. IPCC
Chairman Dr. R.K. Pachauri, who received the Nobel Prize on behalf
of the IPCC, and who also serves as Director-General of The Energy
and Resources Institute (TERI) working on environment and energy
issues, has stated that the IPCC will retract its assessment on the
glaciers.

Expect Ongoing Debates on Climate Change Impacts




4. (U) The controversy has provided ammunition to those who allege
the IPCC's science is "speculative" and its peer review processes
are unreliable. It has been a blow to the credibility of Dr.
Pachauri, who also has been under fire for exploiting his IPCC
position for personal gain, a charge he vigorously has denied.
Several commentators have cited the glacier issue to support
arguments that India "should not rush into" climate change
commitments. The leading business daily Mint, in a January 19
article entitled "Voodoo Science, Voodoo Policy," claimed that when
"scientists get enmeshed in political agendas" the search for truth
is left behind.



5. (U) Nonetheless, there is little support for ignoring the
conclusions of the IPCC Working Group II report, even if some parts
of it are recognized to be flawed. Although there is considerable
disagreement about impacts and timing of climate change, there are
few voices in the Indian debate denying anthropogenic causes of
global warming. Most climate change scientists and advocates here
agree that there is a need for greater study of the Himalayan
glaciers and that concluding results for the entire Himalayan range
based on partial assessments would be a mistake.

Little Impact on the India's Copenhagen Accord Commitments




6. (U) The controversy over the Himalayan glacier melt and its link
to climate change notwithstanding, the Government of India appears
unlikely to change its position on the Copenhagen Accord. While the
GOI views the Himalayan region as a fragile area and has included
the Himalayan ecosystem in its National Action Plan on Climate
Change, India's climate change positions were not directly linked to
the IPCC glacier melt forecast. Indeed, MOEF consistently has
claimed there is insufficient scientific evidence to prove climate
change is the cause of glacial melt in India. Releasing a November
2009 MOEF report on the Himalayan glaciers in India, MOEF minister
Jairam Ramesh acknowledged that the glaciers are in a poor state of
health, but insisted that statements on disappearing glaciers were
"sweeping" and "alarmist." Dr. Pachauri, among others at the time,
criticized Ramesh's assertion that it is premature to conclude that
the Himalayan glaciers are retreating abnormally because of global
warming.



7. COMMENT: (U) Ramesh, relishing the opportunity to say "I told you
so," has continued to call for policies to be backed by scientific
facts. However, neither he nor any other GOI official has made any

NEW DELHI 00000093 002 OF 002


statement indicating a need to a reassess India's commitments under
the Copenhagen Accord or questioning the fundamental premises of
climate change science.


ROEMER