photo: Barry Silver via flickr.
You've probably read claims about how the glaciers in the Himalayas are melting at such a fast pace that some of them could be entirely gone by 2035. I know I've made reference to the statement, made by Indian glaciologist Syed Hasnain and repeated around the internet, as have other posts on TreeHugger. Well, it seems according to a recent article in New Scientist by Fred Pearce, that Hasnain is backtracking on his assertion, saying that the statement was "speculative" and that he's never made that claim in any peer-reviewed journal. Yet it made it into the IPCC report of 2007:Claim Originates a Decade Ago...
Apparently the statement can be traced to its source in a New Scientist article from 1999 also by Pearce, where Hasnain made the remark in email and in reference to glaciers in the eastern and central Himalaya.
It then somehow morphed into referring to all Himalayan glaciers, into a WWF report on glacier melt, and on into the IPCC report. Not to mention the countless blog posts and other articles which have referenced it.
Hasnain's statement didn't go unquestioned at the time or since: Pearce quotes scientists saying full melting in the Himalayas is likely to take ten times as long; our own Alex Pasternack quotes a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences as saying a 5°C rise in temperatures would be needed for complete melting.
Glaciers Are Receding, Just Won't Be Entirely Gone in 25 Years
None of which is to say that the glaciers aren't receding at an alarming rate (one just has to look at basic photographic evidence to see that) and that this retreat doesn't pose future deadly serious problems in terms of water supply, but that one particular oft-quoted claim has taken on a life of its own. And one whose originator now says is off the mark.