Posts Tagged ‘Lal’

Glaciers are retreating, but won’t be gone in 2035

January 28, 2010

(Nederlandse versie hier)

In the latest IPCC report the claim was made that the Himalayan glaciers would very likely be gone by 2035, if present rates of warming continued. That is not the case. The source for this statement was a WWF report, which in turn relied on a report from the International Commission on Snow and Ice (ICSI). This report however mentioned the year 2350, which was mistakenly taken over as 2035 in the WWF (and subsequently the IPCC) report. I.e. the IPCC used a secondary source, apparently without checking the primary source. Even then, the year 2350 is only based on extrapolation and is not strongly supported, as William Connolley points out.

This is absolutely wrong, and much more problematic than the whole stolen emails-affair. This statement should not have made it through the rigorous review process that IPCC reports undergo. It appeared in the working group 2 report, about effects of climate change. The scientific basis for this field (and apparently also the level of review) is not as strong as that for working group 1, about the physical workings of the climate system.

It doesn’t mean that everything is fine with the glaciers. The vast majority of glaciers worldwide are retreating, just not suddenly 25 times as fast as they did in the previous 40 years. The scientific basis of how and why the climate is changing (i.e. the topic of working group 1) has not been tarnished, despite claims to the contrary from the usual suspects. However, the chance of such a blunder occurring again should of course be absolutely minimized.

One of the Indian scientists involved, Murari Lal, has been falsely cited as having put the 2035 number in the report for political purposes; a quick check with him personally revealed that he didn’t. This kind of witch-hunt seems to have become the norm in climate science reporting, a very sad state of affairs.

See also the reaction of the IPCC, RealClimate and several other bloggers (SkepticalScience, Stoat, Deltoid, and a detailed account by Nielsen-Gammon and ClimateScienceWatch) and a good presentation about changes in glaciers, with on page 40 the context of the erroneous 2035-statement.

Update: More good posts at MoD, Deltoid

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