Fred Pearce: I wrote the offending article. I stand by it

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Any journalist gets a buzz when their scoop goes round the world and leads to red faces in high places. But when the scandal unearthed began with a story you wrote 11 years earlier, the effect is dizzying.

Back in 1999, I wrote an article in New Scientist magazine quoting a leading Indian glaciologist that global warming was likely to melt all the Himalayan glaciers by 2035. Syed Hasnain told me that was his conclusion in an unpublished report to the International Commission on Snow and Ice. Eight years later, the same claim was repeated by the IPCC in a major report.

I write regularly about climate change. But I had stopped repeating the prediction years ago after British glaciologists warned me it was unreliable. So I was surprised when I saw it in the 2007 IPCC report, and defended late last year by the IPCC chairman. I figured it must have been fully authenticated, and mentioned it again myself, in an article before the Copenhagen climate conference.

So my jaw dropped when a Canadian glaciologist emailed me to say that not only was that 2035 date still nonsense, but that he had followed the trail of scientific references from the IPCC report and found it led to my old article. Moreover, Hasnain's report never contained what he had told me (and others) that it would.

I stand by my story. That's what Hasnain told me. He was the authority, I was the humble scribe. But my trust that scientists work to higher standards than journalists is dented. And perhaps our old stories should go back to wrapping fish and chips.

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