Intelligent Design

IPCC Publishes Anecdotal Speculations as Climate “Science”

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Remember that Intergovernmental Panal on Climate Change report that all the glaciers in the Himalayas were going to melt by the mid 2030’s?  Turns out it was complete bunk.  Is it time to start adding scare quotes around the “science” part of “climate science”?

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world’s glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

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. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

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.”

The IPCC’s reliance on Hasnain’s 1999 interview has been highlighted by Fred Pearce, the journalist who carried out the original interview for the New Scientist. Pearce said he rang Hasnain in India in 1999 after spotting his claims in an Indian magazine. Pearce said: “Hasnain told me then that he was bringing a report containing those numbers to Britain. The report had not been peer reviewed or formally published in a scientific journal and it had no formal status so I reported his work on that basis.

“Since then I have obtained a copy and it does not say what Hasnain said. In other words it does not mention 2035 as a date by which any Himalayan glaciers will melt. However, he did make clear that his comments related only to part of the Himalayan glaciers. not the whole massif.”

[ . . .]

Some scientists have questioned how the IPCC could have allowed such a mistake into print. Perhaps the most likely reason was lack of expertise. Lal himself admits he knows little about glaciers. “I am not an expert on glaciers.and I have not visited the region so I have to rely on credible published research. 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,” he said.

Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, has previously dismissed criticism of the Himalayas claim as “voodoo science”.

15 Replies to “IPCC Publishes Anecdotal Speculations as Climate “Science”

  1. 1
    O'Leary says:

    Barry, all this reminds me of something I had to deal with about, oh, fifteen years ago. A submission to a “selected readings” textbook was going to print, about the dangers of second-hand smoke.

    Declaration of non-interest: I have never smoked and don’t approve the practice and have never to my knowledge had relations with any industry that would benefit from smoking, and wouldn’t want any.

    That said, I was quite upset when I proofread the supposedly “science”-based article – which turned out to be merely a public opinion survey of what people thought at the time about second-hand smoke.

    I tried to explain to my executive editor: “But what people happen to think is not evidence. Is there medical evidence of deaths from second-hand smoke?”

    Of course, such evidence was possible. Maybe it was abundant. But that evidence is what should have been presented to students, not just a bunch of randomly chosen people’s opinions about what might be dangerous.

    Those same people might have agreed with the view that ribbon snakes are dangerous vipers (they are harmless) or that styrofoam insulation causes cancer (unlikely).

    This sort of thing – and I fear that many climate change scares fall into this same category – is best explained by: People are bothered by a fear and they seek confirmation that they are right.

    When it all evaporates, they seek another fear to be bothered by.

    Has anyone checked on the polar bear lately?

  2. 2
    REC says:

    Science by press release seems to have universally bad results!

    Seems like the Tamiflu Hoax, Climate debacles, even Cold fusion went down this way. Gear up the media department before the data is in…..

  3. 3
    Joseph says:

    “Junk Science” has weighed in the real inconvenient truth– hint- “man made climate change” is for chicken little-types.

    John Coleman on “climate change” (co-founder of the weather channel and meteorologist

  4. 4
    jerry says:

    Sounds like the evolution debate, as specious or trivial results get published like they are earth shattering. I am still waiting for someone who supports AGW to explain the hockey stick debacle. Once the hockey stick disappeared the whole climate debate disappeared with it. But they still go on like there is some science behind global warming dutifully spouting their CO2 numbers like automatons.

  5. 5

    It kind of makes a mockery of ‘peer review’ when the New Scientist and IPCC include something like this.

    As for global warming and hockey sticks – the rejection of the hockey stick graph doesn’t mean global warming from man made sources isn’t real, but it would probably mean that it is slower, in which case many of the knee jerk reactions are uncessary and the problem can be dealt with on a longer term basis – so less need to hike taxes, less need to have huge subsidies for ineffecient wind farms, less need for carbon trading that makes bankers richer, and more possibility for real life changing investment in the third world.

  6. 6
    jerry says:

    “the rejection of the hockey stick graph doesn’t mean global warming from man made sources isn’t real,”

    The rejection of the hockey stick means that in the distant past before the Industrial Revolution there was an age called Camelot where the summers were hotter than today. It must have been all that jousting.

  7. 7
    anonym says:

    The climate-change and obesity/nutrition controversies seem strikingly similar, on the evidence of this summary of carbohydrate-denier Gary Taubes’ new book Good Calories, Bad Calories. See in particular the summaries of part one http://higher-thought.net/comp...../#part-one and chapter 23 http://higher-thought.net/comp.....chapter-23 . (This page may not be up forever, so the author encourages readers to download the PDF http://higher-thought.net/wp-c.....lories.pdf .)

  8. 8
    anonym says:

    (Be aware that Mr. Taubes is a man who clearly likes a bit of controversy in his books. I’m not necessarily giving him my 🙂 prestigious endorsement.)

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    I am not an expert on glaciers.and I have not visited the region so I have to rely on credible published research.

    It kind of makes a mockery of ‘peer review’ when the New Scientist and IPCC include something like this.

    Agreed.

  10. 10
    camanintx says:

    jerry, #4

    Sounds like the evolution debate, as specious or trivial results get published like they are earth shattering. I am still waiting for someone who supports AGW to explain the hockey stick debacle. Once the hockey stick disappeared the whole climate debate disappeared with it. But they still go on like there is some science behind global warming dutifully spouting their CO2 numbers like automatons.
    ————————————
    Are you talking about the “hockey stick” which appears in every global temperature reconstruction from the last decade?

  11. 11
    jerry says:

    “Are you talking about the “hockey stick” which appears in every global temperature reconstruction from the last decade?”

    Yes

  12. 12
    camanintx says:

    jerry, #11

    “Are you talking about the “hockey stick” which appears in every global temperature reconstruction from the last decade?”

    Yes
    ———————————–
    Then how exactly has it “disappeared”?

  13. 13
    jerry says:

    “Then how exactly has it “disappeared”?”

    From what I understand it has been completely discredited and it has become an embarrassment for people to include it. But without it, the whole argument disappears. It is an icon so it will be interesting what they do with it. Climate change has died down since Copenhagen but I am sure it will rise again as people want their money. People always want money.

    I am certainly not an expert on this but there are apparently a couple versions of the hockey stick and in each one, it comes down to one tree possibly making the difference. In Dawkins new book on evolution he spends about 3-4 pages on tree rings and it is a very interesting discussion. He claims it is one of the more accurate ways of dating some things within the last 1500 years if the trees are available. Each year has a signature in the wood of a forrest based on weather patterns that year. You wouldn’t be able to compare a tree from California with one from Maine, but you could compare two trees near each other in California and Maine.

  14. 14
    Paul Giem says:

    But Barry,

    Don’t you realize that this is an argument from personal incredulity? Look, the evidence fits in with the overwhelming evidence for global warming climate change. How can you possibly doubt it? 😉

  15. 15
    camanintx says:

    jerry, #13

    “Then how exactly has it “disappeared”?”

    From what I understand it has been completely discredited and it has become an embarrassment for people to include it.
    ————————————–
    You understand wrong. The National Center for Atmospheric Research analyzed the data and got virtually the same results as Mann et al. The “hockey stick” is alive and well.

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