UN climate panel admits error; glaciers keep melting

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

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  1. Pachauri lies
    It’s been reported here that Pachauri was informed that the report was false, but he didn’t correct it until after the conference, in which he received huge piles of funding based on the falsehood.

    Then he lied, saying “I became aware of this when it was reported in the media about ten days ago.”

    This has nothing to do with “being human” (whatever that means). It has everything to do with a community that ignores and rewards liars.

    Science is suffering, since the purveyors of lies are pointing the fingers back at science itself, claiming that corruption is natural, humans are flawed, and we just have to get used to being unable to trust scientists.

  2. Evidence
    You mention evidence a number of times. Unfortunately all evidence is now in question. If you want to continue blindly following Pachauri I suggest that it is because you are looking to fill a religious void. If you believed in God, by which I do not mean Jesus, Allah or any other deity (sp?), you would not neet to put faith in Pachauri, which is all it is. Faith.

    When Bill Clinton told us he ‘did not have sexual relations’ but then it turned out he did, I’m sure alot of people wanted to believe him because they had put their FAITH in the man. Changing one’s faith is difficult, but sometimes necessary.

    Pachauri is now claiming he ‘did not have sexual relations’ with the data, although it most certainly seems that he was screwing with it from day one. If you choose to continue following this man, it is because of faith. You have put a large effort into building this page, and I’m sure you have pride in it. Remember, this page may be used as a tool to tell the world the truth, and it can be a platform from which to preach.

    You must look deep inside yourself and discover whether you truly believe what you are telling people. It is okay to have faith in the planet’s ability to balance itself out. It has done so for billions of years. There was a time when there were no fossil fuels buried under the earth. These carbon sinks used to be plants and trees and animals, LIFE. By releasing the carbon, we are releasing LIFE. Our dynamic world will have no problem finding something to do with that carbon.

    1. Meaningless gobbledee-gook
      You guys are too funny. For years you have been putting your faith in a handful of gadflies who are handsomely funded by oil companies and power utilities to dissent loudly from the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community. The global retreat of glaciers and ice-shelves, the disappearance of lakes, the expansion of deserts, the thawing of tundra, the altitude shift of alpine zones, the growing ferocity of hurricanes—all are dismissed as meaningless anomalies in order to defend the apparent God-given right of fat Americans to keep riding around in SUVs. And now someone among the ranks of the rationalists accidentally inverts two digits—and, perhaps, with his career and reputation on the line, is less than forthright about it—and you guys start making accusations of blind faith and prostituted science?

      And then, just to prove how little science actually means to you, you throw in some meaningless gobbledee-gook about how “carbon is life” and therefore we don’t have to worry about climate change.

      Get outta here.

    2. No Excuses
      Life on Earth learnt how to maintain gas and material flows, optimum for the evolution of biodiversity. Carbon Dioxide, although essential to the process of life, was being introduced into the atmosphere by volcanic processes at disruptive levels, throughout geologic history. But the gas has not concentrated in the atmosphere, because it was sequestered by living things and put away out of circulation from the biosphere of living carbon. This store of carbon was fossilized and has been slowly accumulating over the last few hundred million years.
      The atmosphere oscillates in respect of its gasses but is kept in a balance by life’s processes. The first human driven change that affected the local and regional climates was the massive loss of the global standing forest stock with the advent of colonization. This loss represents a debt to the nation that lost its forests as well as a debt to planetary atmospheric equilibrium. This debt can be settled by re-establishing the sequestered stocks that were lost.
      But once this debt is settled there will be no more room on this planet to plant more trees to sequester the fossil carbon. However we examine it, it is the 2193 more or less Gigatonnes of biomass carbon that operate the current biosphere. It is this biomass that has to grow in order to sequester the lost biotic carbon. Much of this biomass is now low as seen in degraded ecosystems around the planet, but what these degraded ecosystems do have, is great growth potential. If the restoration of these degraded ecosystems to achieve optimal biomass becomes a global goal, the amazing magic of photosynthesis could indeed help change our current dire course and create a new paradigm on growth. But this process should not be used as an excuse to keep on burning fossil fuel.

  3. Inquiry finds no distortion of climate data
    A second inquiry has cleared climate researchers at the University of East Anglia of allegations that they distorted the scientific evidence for human-caused global warming. “There was no hint of tailoring results to a particular agenda,” an independent panel of scientists said in a report submitted to the university April 14. In March, a British parliamentary committee cleared the research unit of manipulating the evidence. (Reuters, April 14)