Remember that claim by the United Nations’ climate authority that the Himalayan glaciers were likely to disappear by 2035? If not, don’t worry — you weren’t really missing anything.
It turns out, the Times of London reports, that this “scientific” conclusion was based a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) campaign report, which in turn took its “scientific” information from an interview in a magazine in which one — yes, just one — Indian scientist made the claim. Now, that scientist says the whole thing was just speculation on his part.
All of which would be bad enough if that’s where the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) left it. But, the Times reports:
When finally published, the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study but went further, suggesting the likelihood of the glaciers melting was “very high”. The IPCC defines this as having a probability of greater than 90%.
However, glaciologists find such figures inherently ludicrous, pointing out that most Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of feet thick and could not melt fast enough to vanish by 2035 unless there was a huge global temperature rise. The maximum rate of decline in thickness seen in glaciers at the moment is 2-3 feet a year and most are far lower. (emphasis added)
So, based on the observed evidence, it would take far more than a quarter-century for the glaciers to disappear. Even this initially alarming report from Indian scientists, saying the Himalayan glaciers have retreated by 1.5 kilometers (almost a mile) in the past 30 years, acknowledges that the glaciers, which measure 30 kilometers in some cases, would take centuries to disappear without a dramatic acceleration of global warming. And as all the temperature data of the past decade show, that isn’t happening.
Now, why might the IPCC have gotten this so wrong? Perhaps it’s because the man who oversaw the chapter of glaciers, Murari Lal, himself told the Times that he is “not an expert on glaciers and [has] not visited the region….The comments in the WWF report were made by a respected Indian scientist and it was reasonable to assume he knew what he was talking about.” Notice that word “assume,” as one basis for governments across the world reworking a huge chunk of their economies.
The IPCC chairman, Rajenda Pachauri, who shared in Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize for work on climate change, has dismissed previous criticism of the U.N.’s work on glaciers as “voodoo science.” Looks like he had it backward.
This story once again points out the fundamental disconnect among scientific theory, observed changes and — the one that gets most of the attention — the overwrought predictions about what will come next. If anything is accelerating, it is our awareness of this disconnect and why we should act far more cautiously than the doomsayers want.
It was just last week that the U.K. Met Office, the country’s weather authority and one of the leading sources of climate change hysteria, knocked down a prominent report from researchers in Germany claiming that sea levels could rise by 6 feet in the next 100 years. The real change — which, again, is still based on imperfect forecasting models — will probably be much smaller, the Met Office said.
Add all of this to the Climategate scandal, and the question is: When will we recognize the apocalyptic scenarios for the gross exaggerations that they are, and demand a more sober approach?