The debate on Climate change has taken a new turn in India with claims of a government report that there was no evidence that climate change has caused abnormal shrinkage of the Himalayan glaciers.
About two years ago The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), led by Rajendra Pachauri had warned that Himalayan Glaciers were receding at a fast pace, faster than those in any other part of the world and could altogether disappear by 2035, if not earlier. The IPCC’s forecast was based on Indian Space Research Organization data that said 1,000 Himalayan glaciers had retreated by 16 per cent between 1962 and 2004.
In addition, scientists have warned the river beds of the Gangetic Basin - which feed millions in northern India could run dry if the glaciers melt. At the same time, glacier melting in Himalayas may bring devastating floods in other parts of India
However, the new report claims that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to link global warming with what is happening and although some glaciers were receding, they were doing so at a rate that is not historically alarming. The report goes on to claim that the retreat of many Geologists from Regional Centre for Field Operations and Research of Himalayan Glaciology, Jammu University, who have studied Siachen glacier to record changes reaffirm that the the glacier must have advanced and retreated simultaneously several times in the geological past, resulting in complete obliteration and modification of older evidences. They also point towards field and meteorological evidence from the other side of Karakoram mountains that corroborate the fact that glaciers in this part of the world are not affected by global warming in the Himalayas has in fact slowed down, with some glaciers even expanding.
However, most of these studies have been on small scale- the Jammu University research is limited to Siachen and the government report is based on a study of a dozen or so glaciers, although there are close to ten thousand glaciers in the Himalayas. There are also issues pertaining to these works not been unsubstantiated, lacking sufficient citations and adequately peer-reviewed
Given that Himalayan ecosystem is very complex and the whole issue of glacier melting is extraordinarily complicated, it is important not to get complacent. While the need for further research of the subject is important to better understand the glacial movement, it is still very premature to dismiss the Climate Change perspective. If at all, we should err on the side of caution.
What should be the stand of India in Copenhagen vis a vis the issue of glacier melting?