2010-09-01 04:29:33BASIC rebuttal #75: IPCC were wrong about Himalayan Glaciers (Revised 9.3)
Nicholas Berini

nberini@gmail...
24.189.119.236

Himalayan Glaciers: Wrong Date, Right Message 

 

The IPCC made an error about the Himalayan glaciers.  Section 10.6.2 of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) states, “the likelihood of [the Himalayan Glaciers] disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate.  This statement did not come from peer-reviewed literature, nor did it meet the IPCC standards of evidence.

 

The error has raised some criticisms - both legitimate and illegitimate - about the the IPCC, the AR4, and climate science in general:

 

Did the IPCC respond to this error quickly and diligently?  The answer here is unfortunately no.  According to a review by the InterAcademy Council on the IPCC processes and procedures, the IPCC took more than a month to respond to the Himalayan Glacier error, and even then did not explicitly acknowledge the error or issue a retraction.  To make matters worse, it has been documented that the IPCC had responded more quickly to other supposed errors in the report (Leake, 2010; Reuters, 2010).  Though the IPCC has been recognized for its scientific contributions, there is certainly room for improvement in terms of communications. 

 

Is the AR4 terribly flawed?  It is important to note that this is one error in a roughly 3000 page technical document, an error percentage similar to the Encyclopedia Britannica.  The 2035 claim was not included in the Technical Summary, the Summary for Policymakers, or the Synthesis Report.

 

Does this error show the IPCC has an ‘alarmist’ bias – a tendency to exaggerate the negative impacts of climate change?  In fact, there are far more documented instances of the AR4 being too conservative, rather than too alarmist, on emissions scenarios, sea level rise, and Arctic sea-ice melt.

 

Does this in anyway undermine climate science in general?  To claim this error undermines the basic conclusions of climate change is absurd.  The error is part of Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, not Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis.  Anthropogenic climate change is still supported by multiple lines of independent empirical evidence, and nearly every national and international scientific body.

 

So what does the peer-reviewed science say about the Himalayan Glaciers? 

 

Many of the Himalayan Glaciers are retreating at an accelerating rate (Ren 2006) and roughly 500 million people depend on the melt water from these glaciers (Kehrwald 2008). 

 

The IPCC made an unfortunate error in a very long technical document.  Moreover, the response to this error was far from exemplary.  Highlighting this error to undermine climate science, however, is a classic example of cherry picking – a dangerous game to play with 500 million livelihoods at stake.  

2010-09-01 04:39:31
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

Pleasantly forthright!

"Tenants" should be "tenets."

See this fresh and timely USGS publication if you'd like some additional support for general conclusions:

Glaciers retreating in Asia

2010-09-01 05:37:58
Nicholas Berini

nberini@gmail...
24.189.119.236
Thanks Doug - tenets updated, and USGS link included.
2010-09-01 20:47:24
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17

Nicholas, can you explain to me what you mean when you say "nor did it meet the IPCC standards of evidence". The procedural appendix clearly states that grey material is used, but I wonder if that's what you are getting at here? 

I also think that if you are going to be forthright, then it's worth mentioning the defensive nature of responses to criticism - the error should never have made it to final publication, let alone it still being denied two years later. While these reactions are understandable in a climate of fear created by denialists, it is still unworthy - and I think we should be candid about this (but without calling for resignations!).

2010-09-02 02:30:29
Nicholas Berini

nberini@gmail...
24.189.119.236

Graham - that is what I was going for in that initial sentence.  There are ways for non peer reviewed material to make it into the assessment reports, but this piece obviously did not follow that procedure.

In terms of your second point Im not sure it would help to add in the "he said she said" element of this controversy.  Are you referring to the fact that Pachuri initially denied the error? I found this courtesy of mr. Inhofe: 

 

- "The chairman [Rajendra Pachauri] of the leading climate change watchdog was informed that claims about melting Himalayan glaciers were false before the Copenhagen summit...[he] was told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to correct it. He failed to act despite learning that the claim had been refuted by several leading glaciologists." 

http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.Speeches&ContentRecord_id=beea7f9b-802a-23ad-460b-a916391f6859 

 

Im not exactly sure what to make of this or if it deserves addition to this Basic post.  Other thoughts? 

2010-09-02 09:13:28Check the IAP report
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.105.199

http://reviewipcc.interacademycouncil.net/ReportNewsRelease.html

The IAP just finished a review of the IPCC: They generally like the science, but think some changes are needed. I believe the issue on the date of disappearance of Himalayan glaciers is addressed specifically.

 

2010-09-03 03:19:46REVISED (at top)
Nicholas Berini

nberini@gmail...
24.189.119.236

Thanks Neal, the updated version reflects the findings from the link you provided.  This should address Grahams concern as well. 

2010-09-03 08:25:07Yale article
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.249

I'd recommend adding a link to this extremely thorough detailing of the entire event by the Yale forum on climate change & the media.

Also, in the last sentence of the third paragraph, "its" should not have an apostrophe.

Overall it looks good though.

2010-09-04 00:50:55
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

This is good and quite sufficient for educating the averagely curious person.

Given the brouhaha over the IPCC in general perhaps all of the basic IPCC-related rebuttals should mention the recently completed "InterAcademy" report? More on that here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/thread.php?t=107 

2010-09-04 03:37:47
Nicholas Berini

nberini@gmail...
24.189.119.236
Dana - was led to the Yale Forum piece on this issue in prepping to write this, however i didn't want to link it into this basic version.  I think the link would certainly be appropriate from the intermediate or advanced versions and I did email the link to John suggesting that he maybe update the intermediate.  As you mention yourself it is "an extremely thorough detailing of the entire event."
2010-09-04 04:04:38okay
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.249
Okay.  Personally I don't think it would hurt to briefly mention and link to the article, for those who want to read further.  But if it's at least linked in one of the rebuttal levels, that's probably fine.
2010-09-04 14:19:562035 a possible typo? How not to admit to a mistake.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

Hi Nicolas:

Excellent overall.

"The IPCC made an unfortunate error in a very long technical document."

I would not end, or include anywhere within the rebuttal, the word "unfortunate" when admitting to a minor error that was made in good faith.

In my opinion, a mistake is not unfortunate if it has not done any harm; had no malicious intent nor was made in a spirit of irresponsibility; and was self corrected. Nor would I include it in the spirit of harmless exaggeration that most people make in apologizing or over apologizing for things that are not their fault.

The reason is, that our enemies will distort the tone of the apology to make it seem that we're groveling and thus imply that there was some serious wrongdoing after all.

On another note, I've heard somewhere, that the mistake was a typo. The year was supposed to be 2305 and the middle digits got inverted. If you can research and verify this it would make a good point in your rebuttal. It would highlight that it was typical human error instead of sloppy research.

VILLABOLO   

 

2010-09-04 17:33:08I'm good
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
81.152.234.172

Thumbs up from me then...

2010-09-07 22:45:32Rebuttal 75: Himalayan Glaciers
jimalakirti

jimalakirti@gmail...
70.56.240.163

 Excellent article.

 

I understand that the glaciers are actually growing in the Eastern Himalaya because of increased precipitation from higher humidity and shifting in track of the monsoons. I know some deniers have claimed that the glaciers are growing and wonder if we have an answer for that one yet.

2010-09-07 23:26:11The error was unfortunate
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.122.182

villabolo,

I do not agree with your disapproval of the word "unfortunate":

- There was a mistake

- It had a misleading effect

- The result was not good, therefore = unfortunate

 

When mistakes are made, we are right to admit them as soon as possible, not to cover them up with spin. The fact that the iPCC procedures were not thorough enough to do that is, in fact, the problem. An attitude of fearless openness will serve us better than refusing to admit to human error.

2010-09-08 03:48:20
Nicholas Berini

nberini@gmail...
66.206.120.2

jimalakirti - some glaciers are growing (at least temporarily) but most of the glaciers are receding (see the link Doug provided here Glaciers retreating in Asia)

 

Villabolo - I have to agree with Neal and stand by my wording.  It was unfortunate - While I do enjoy writing these rebuttals, the fewer the better, and the IPCC did not help its own case on this one. 

2010-09-09 04:18:05Approve
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.34.204
OK, go for it.
2010-09-10 01:58:38Tenets
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
I caution you against using the word “tenets”. Such language plays right into the hands of the “AGW is religion” crowd. Science doesn't have tenets, it has conclusions. Instead I’d say “the main conclusions of the report” or “the scientific consensus on climate change”.

Also, by chance I happened to notice that a couple of your internal links omit the “www” on the start of the address. You’d better fix this.

Otherwise, thumbs up.

villabolo -- ironically, you’ve got the date wrong as well! It was supposed to be 2350, not 2305.
2010-09-17 20:49:59Published
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.93.62

Thanks Nicholas, have gone live with this one.

For the record, 2035 is not a simple typo. The whole history of where it came from is given in:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/IPCC-Himalayan-glacier-2035-prediction-intermediate.htm

2010-09-18 04:24:59glaciers retreating
jimalakirti

jimalakirti@gmail...
63.231.109.109

Very fine article. Nicholas Berini: Yes, I understand that the glaciers are melting. However, some folks whom I argue with about climate matters cite, quite accurately, that some glaciers are actually growing because of changes in the jet-stream and monsoons.  I didn't make it clear that I thought it might be useful to explain why and how this happens to keep people from just declaring that some scientists claim that glaciers are growing and that proves that scientists don't agree/don't know what they are talking about.

I was recommending putting this information somewhere up front, to prevent deniers from taking this line of escape.

 

I think the article is very good as it is, and I personally know of this so I can counter the argument that "some glaciers are growing". 

 

I "Thumbs uped" this article earlier. It is even better than it was then.

2010-09-18 04:31:43glaciers retreating
jimalakirti

jimalakirti@gmail...
63.231.109.109
The next rebuttal on this list (unnumbered?) handles the "glaciers are growing" proposition very well.