The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has now admitted that it made a mistake in asserting that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035 in its last report, and the climate change deniers have been having the predictable feeding frenzy. But as IPCC chair Dr. Rajendra Pachauri told the BBC News Jan. 25, “Let me emphasize that this does not in any way detract from the fact that the glaciers are melting, and this is a problem we need to be deeply concerned about.”
The IPCC is handling the blooper responsibly, admitting the claim needs to be investigated anew. “We are looking at the issue and will be able to comment on the report after examining the facts,” Pachauri told Bloomberg Jan. 19. “We’re not changing anything till we make an assessment.”
The story was first broken in the London Times Jan. 17:
In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC’s 2007 report.
It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.
Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was “speculation” and was not supported by any formal research…
Professor Murari Lal, who oversaw the chapter on glaciers in the IPCC report, said he would recommend that the claim about glaciers be dropped: “If Hasnain says officially that he never asserted this, or that it is a wrong presumption, than I will recommend that the assertion about Himalayan glaciers be removed from future IPCC assessments.”
On Dec. 1, a story on the climate-skeptic Pielke Research Group claimed to have uncovered the source of the goof:
According to Prof Graham Cogley (Trent University, Ontario), a short article on the future of glaciers by a Russian scientist (Kotlyakov, V.M., 1996, The future of glaciers under the expected climate warming, 61-66, in Kotlyakov, V.M., ed., 1996, Variations of Snow and Ice in the Past and at Present on a Global and Regional Scale, Technical Documents in Hydrology, 1. UNESCO, Paris (IHP-IV Project H-4.1). 78p estimates 2350 as the year for disappearance of glaciers, but the IPCC authors misread 2350 as 2035 in the Official IPCC documents, WGII 2007 p. 493!
The account gloats: “So we have a raging debate about impending glacier melt-down because of sloppiness of some IPCC authors!” But aside from Pielke Research Group’s own sloppy citation (two parenthesis open but only one closes), the notion that the glaciers could disappear in 300 years is not exactly comforting news. In geological terms, that is the wink of an eye.
This is the second recent propaganda windfall for the climate skeptics. The first was the incriminating text in e-mails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia—strategically, in the build-up to the Copenhagen climate summit—in which researchers appeared to discuss using “tricks” to manipulate data. Climate-watcher George Monbiot in his column in The Guardian Nov. 25 reproached the Climatic Research Unit scientists for “secrecy and suppression” in failing to forthrightly address the charges. But on Nov. 23 he put the imbroglio in some perspective:
[D]o these revelations justify the sceptics’ claims that this is “the final nail in the coffin” of global warming theory? Not at all. They damage the credibility of three or four scientists. They raise questions about the integrity of one or perhaps two out of several hundred lines of evidence.
All these “scandals” prove is that climate scientists are people too. They sometimes suffer from dyslexia and play the ubiquitous game of “spin the media.” But it is pretty funny to see the well-lubricated denial set, who have built their careers around contorting the research and obfuscating the evidence, suddenly become sticklers for rigor and exactitude.
See our last post on the climate crisis