Barun Mitra, the director and Founder of Liberty Institute, was on “Face The Nation” with Sagarika Ghose. Here is the transcript of the program:
Is the climate change really happening, or is its extent being hyped and exaggerated? As Northern hemisphere and the North India struggles with a bitter winter, the question is being asked whether global warming is a reality, and carbon dioxide emissions are causing the earth to overheat. And the Himalayan glaciers may not be melting after all. The UN intergovernmental panel on climate change has finally admitted its mistake. The climate change panel says its predictions were wrong and has issued an apology.
The controversy over the UN Climate Science Panel’s observation of the Himalayan glaciers has taken a new turn. The IPCC has finally admitted that it made a mistake in asserting Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035. In a statement issued from Geneva, the IPCC clarifies: “In drafting the paragraphs on question (On Himalayan glacier melting) the clear and well established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.” The UN body’s claim that the Himalayan glaciers could disappear in 2035 originated in 1999 with an Indian glaciologist Syed Iqbal Hasnain. Hasnain now says that he never mentioned the time. In his interview published in New Scientist Magazine. In a media release he clarifies: “Whatever got published in New Scientist was a journalistic assumption interpolated by the interviewer, over which I had no control. I must stress that a journalistic substitution of the year 2035 was made without my knowledge and approval.” Incidentally, Hasnain now works for TERI, which is headed by R.K. Pachauri, who is also the head of IPCC. R.K. Pachauri said” Professor Hasnain was at JNU when he made that statement in 1999. I have absolutely no responsibility for what he said at that time.” Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has already stated that the claims of IPCC may have been exaggerated.
Meanwhile the entire Glacier gate controversy has given a boost to climate change skeptics who for long have maintained that climate predictions are exaggerated. Last month, UK’s Daily telegraph newspaper accused R.K. Pachauri of making a fortune of his links with a carbon trading company.
Joining us tonight are Syed Iqbal Hasnain, glaciologist and a senior fellow at TERI, Prof. J. Srinivasan., Chairman, Divecha Centre for Climate Change ,Barun Mitra, President of Liberty Institute, and Mahesh Rangarajan, professor of History at Delhi University , and co-author of a very prestigious environmental history. Also joining us would be Richard North, a journalist with Daily Telegraph. He wrote an article on Daily Telegraph questioning the role of R.K. Pachauri.
Sagarika Ghose: Syed Iqbal Hasnain, How could you escape the responsibility from your statement that the Himalayan glaciers are going to melt by 2035?
Syed Iqbal Hasnain: It was a telephone interview conducted by a Journalist in 1999. I said that the glaciers will shrink in the next 40 to 50 years. The journalist gave a date to it. I am not the person to give a date to anything.
Sagarika: Why didn’t you crosscheck it before it was reported?
Hasnain: I came to know of it after 6 months. What I said was an approximation. Everybody does that. Even in Copenhagen they have an approximation about the North Pole. That doesn’t mean any journalist can give a date to it.
Sagarika: Hasnain, you are saying that the glaciers are shrinking. There are other scientists who say that glaciers are advancing. Who do we believe?
Hasnain: No. That’s not scientific. We have been studying it from 1985. All the glaciers are out of equilibrium. Of course, the response time will be different. We have the western Himalayas and the South west monsoon. In the western Himalayas the winter is the accumulation time. In 1994, I specifically said about the central and eastern Himalayan glaciers. I talked about the small glaciers. And they are shrinking.
Sagarika: Has the incident cast doubt on the entire science of climate change?
Mahesh Rangarajan: I think we should be clear that ecology as a science is incredibly complex. It is very difficult for the scientists to tell you exactly what is going to happen. There is a substantial body of evidence, substantial enough to convince the Government and other bodies to look into the issue of human induced climate change. There is an absence of rigor from the side of IPCC. There are of course people who wish to exaggerate. But, that doesn’t mean that there is no problem.
Sagarika: Barun Mitra, do you agree with that? None among the 192 countries are in climate denial. Yet, you believe this all hype.
Barun Mitra: The climate always changes. The issue is whether it is man induced, anthropogenic global warming or it is a natural cycle of various factors from solar cycles to the ocean temperatures. I think the issue is not so much the science. I think the fundamental problem is the tendency to use science for a particular policy outcome. I think the science is never and answer. Science is a continuous search for truth. If you force science to deliver an answer we want, we get an outcome which the IPCC got.
Sagarika: So, science cannot give us an answer?
Mitra: Science cannot give us an answer on anything. We search for answers, and each of us decides to what extent we should accept the answers which the science of the day is saying or not. The problem with the IPCC’s approach is that they want to build science of climate change as a consensus as if the whole community of scientists consensually believes that this is what is happening and therefore we should act. That to me is fundamentally flawed, because science cannot work on consensus.
Sagarika: Srinivasan, How do you respond to what Barun Mitra is saying? There is no consensus on global warming.
Srinivasan: That’s not true. If you look at the papers published in the last 50 years, 90% of the papers say that global warming is happening because of greenhouse gas emissions. It is peer reviewed by a lot of scientists and there is no doubt that what we are experiencing is an outcome of increased greenhouse gases.
Rangarajan: I agree with Barun. Science is a quest. But, we should be very careful. Science, however incomplete is vital for policy decisions. There is a vast body of literature which says of the human impact. John Mccain has a very good book on the history of the planet in the 20th Century. Mankind has used more energy in the past 100 years than they have used in the past 1000 years. It has consequences.
Sagarika: Human beings are burning more fossil fuels in the recent past. That’s bound to have some impact?
Hasnain: Pollution is also happening, especially in our part of the world-India and China.
Mitra: When we think of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today, we must recognize that historically, in the geologic time frame, carbon dioxide and geologic gases in the atmosphere have been much higher and much lower.
Rangarajan: He is absolutely right. The planet will survive even if these changes happen. The question is “What will its impact be?” If there is a buildup of greenhouse gases, what will it’s impact be on human well being and human welfare? Barun is a very respected commentator on this issue. He is not a scientist. Nor am I. We have to look at the science critically. But, we shouldn’t go to the other extreme and become climate change deniers.
Sagarika: We have to do something.
Mitra: We are doing something. This country is a standing example of which has made famine history. Droughts and famines were our brothers and sisters for the thousand years of recorded history. But, in the last 40 years, we have made famines history.
Sagarika: Growth will cr