The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize for its warnings on global warming, has been harshly criticized for what turned out to be a false claim that the Himalaya glaciers could melt by 2035 because of the warming climate.
"This mistake has certainly cost us dear, there's no question about it," Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, told British newspaper The Guardian. "Everybody thought that what the IPCC brought out was the gold standard and nothing could go wrong."
He said, however, that he would not apologize for the mistake printed in the IPCC's fourth assessment report from 2007, calling such demands "populist."
"You can't expect me to be personally responsible for every word of a 3,000-page report," he said.
The likelihood of the Himalaya glaciers "disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high," the report said, drawing on information not by scientists, but by green conservation group WWF.
Pachauri called on the public to "look at the larger picture" and not get "blinded by this one mistake."
Yet the mistake has damaged the credibility of the panel. Its 2007 report was widely hailed as the most comprehensive and detailed scientific account of climate change. It formed a basis for the ongoing U.N. negotiations to produce a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.
Climate science received a major blow when leaked e-mail exchanges indicated that scientists at the University of East Anglia might have suppressed data pointing to global cooling.
Politicians say the scandals don't affect the overall situation.
"It's right that there's rigor applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it's somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there," British Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband told the latest edition of the weekly Observer on Sunday.