Thursday, January 21, 2010

Climate Change Authority Admits Mistake

The use of news reports as sources calls a key finding into question.
One of the most alarming conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a widely respected organization (not so widely nowadays) established by the United Nations, is that glaciers in the Himalayas could be gone 25 years from now, eliminating a primary source of water for hundreds of millions of people. But a number of glaciologists have argued that this conclusion is wrong, and now the IPCC admits that the conclusion is largely unsubstantiated, based on news reports rather than published, peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Still there: The Khumbu glacier, in front of Mount Everest, is one of the longest glaciers in the world. Though the Himalayan glaciers are being affected by global warming, they won’t disappear in 25 years, as the authors of a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change incorrectly predicted.

Credit: Subel Bhandari/AFP/Getty Images
In a statement released on Wednesday, the IPCC admitted that the Working Group II report, "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability," published in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (2007), contains a claim that "refers to poorly substantiated estimates. " The statement also said "the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedure, were not applied properly." The statement did not quote the error, but it did cite the section of the report that refers to Himalayan glaciers. Christopher Field, director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, who is now in charge of Working Group II, confirms that the error was related to the claim that the glaciers could disappear by 2035.
The disappearance of the glaciers would require temperatures far higher than those predicted in even the most dire global warming scenarios, says Georg Kaser, professor at the Institut für Geographie der Universität, Innsbruck. The Himalayas would have to heat up by 18 degrees Celsius and stay there for the highest glaciers to melt--most climate change scenarios expect only a few degrees of warming over the next century. Read more.

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