UN climate panel chief defends research at review

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The head of the United Nations' climate change panel defended the body Friday before an academic council charged with reviewing its research methods after a string of challenges to its findings.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), admitted an error was made in warning that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035, but said there was nevertheless some value in the finding.

"Alright, there was this error, but there is a whole lot of valid information and assessment related to the glaciers which we can only ignore at our own peril and the peril of generations yet to come," he told a public meeting in Amsterdam of the InterAcademy Council (IAC), webcast live.

"Even if the Himalayan glaciers do not melt (by 2035), this is what is happening to the glaciers around the world."

Melting glaciers, said Pachauri, have "already contributed around 28 percent of sea level rise since 1993.... This is something that should cause concern."

The IPCC, made up of several thousand scientists tasked with vetting scientific knowledge on climate change, has come under fire from several quarters over its 2007 report.

Its reputation was damaged by its warning over melting Himalayan glaciers, a claim that has been widely discredited and fuelled scepticism about climate change.

More recently, it has been criticised for a finding that a one-metre (three-foot) rise in sea levels would flood 17 percent of Bangladesh and create 20 million refugees by 2050.

Critics said this ignored the role of at least one billion tonnes of sediment carried by rivers into Bangladesh every year in countering sea level rises.

But Pachauri ascribed the silt argument to "non-peer reviewed research".

"You really can't take one single study like that into account," he told the review panel.

"There are several questions that have to be answered: will that level of siltation we see today continue in the future? Is that silt strong enough to withstand the threat of sea level rise?"

The IAC, which groups presidents of 15 leading science academies, has been tasked with an independent probe of the IPCC's procedures and processes.

"Ever since this problem cropped up with the Himalayan glacier, my colleagues and I in the IPCC have gone to great lengths to see how at every state of the fifth (next) assessment report writing process we bring in these checks and balances," said Pachauri, welcoming the IAC review.

"We are going to do everything humanly possible but we would be grateful for any suggestions that come out for implementation by which we try and make this as foolproof as is humanly possible."

© 2010 AFP

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