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The IPCC is not infallible (shock!)

Filed under: — group @ 19 January 2010 - (Italian)

Like all human endeavours, the IPCC is not perfect. Despite the enormous efforts devoted to producing its reports with the multiple levels of peer review, some errors will sneak through. Most of these will be minor and inconsequential, but sometimes they might be more substantive. As many people are aware (and as John Nieslen-Gammon outlined in a post last month and Rick Piltz goes over today), there is a statement in the second volume of the IPCC (WG2), concerning the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are receding that is not correct and not properly referenced.

The statement, in a chapter on climate impacts in Asia, was that the likelihood of the Himalayan glaciers “disappearing by the year 2035″ was “very high” if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate (WG 2, Ch. 10, p493), and was referenced to a World Wildlife Fund 2005 report. Examining the drafts and comments (available here), indicates that the statement was barely commented in the reviews, and that the WWF (2005) reference seems to have been a last minute addition (it does not appear in the First- or Second- Order Drafts). This claim did not make it into the summary for policy makers, nor the overall synthesis report, and so cannot be described as a ‘central claim’ of the IPCC. However, the statement has had some press attention since the report particularly in the Indian press, at least according to Google News, even though it was not familiar to us before last month.

It is therefore obvious that this error should be corrected (via some kind of corrigendum to the WG2 report perhaps), but it is important to realise that this doesn’t mean that Himalayan glaciers are doing just fine. They aren’t, and there may be serious consequences for water resources as the retreat continues. See also this review paper (Ren et al, 2006) on a subset of these glaciers.

East Rongbuk glacier 1921 and 2008East Rongbuk glacier just below Mt. Everest has lost 3-400 ft of ice in this area since 1921.

More generally, peer-review works to make the IPCC reports credible because many different eyes with different perspectives and knowledge look over the same text. This tends to make the resulting product reflect more than just the opinion of a single author. In this case, it appears that not enough people with relevant experience saw this text, or if they saw it, did not comment publicly. This might be related to the fact that this text was in the Working Group 2 report on impacts, which does not get the same amount of attention from the physical science community than does the higher profile WG 1 report (which is what people associated with RC generally look at). In WG1, the statements about continued glacier retreat are much more general and the rules on citation of non-peer reviewed literature was much more closely adhered to. However, in general, the science of climate impacts is less clear than the physical basis for climate change, and the literature is thinner, so there is necessarily more ambiguity in WG 2 statements.

In future reports (and the organisation for AR5 in 2013 is now underway), extra efforts will be needed to make sure that the links between WG1 and the other two reports are stronger, and that the physical science community should be encouraged to be more active in the other groups.

In summary, the measure of an organisation is not determined by the mere existence of errors, but in how it deals with them when they crop up. The current discussion about Himalayan glaciers is therefore a good opportunity for the IPCC to further improve their procedures and think more about what the IPCC should be doing in the times between the main reports.

Update: This backgrounder presented by Kargel et al AGU this December is the best summary of the current state of the Himalayas and the various sources of misinformation that are floating around. It covers this issue, the Raina report and the recent Lau et al paper.

1,804 Responses to “The IPCC is not infallible (shock!)”

  1. 51
    Garrett Jones says:

    If you think we have reached peak oil, you may wish to buy a bridge I own in Brooklyn or a Senate seat I control in Mass. Oil, gas and coal reserves increase every year they are measured.

  2. 52
    Tom Fuller says:

    It’s not the mistake, it’s what Rajendra Pachauri said two weeks ago. You all are allowed–even encouraged–to err while searching for the answers to these questions. But if Pachauri had said two weeks ago that ‘I guess we need to look into this and correct any mistakes that we find’ instead of “I’d like to find out the secret source of this divine intervention… I don’t understand the logic of this… I am puzzled where this magical science has come from… This is something indefensible.” and “IPCC studies only peer-review science. Let someone publish the data in a decent credible publication. I am sure IPCC would then accept it, otherwise we can just throw it into the dustbin.”

    …then we could be doing other things right now, such as your excellent recent posts on Plass and your critique of Lindzen and Choi.

    [Response: Perhaps you could point to the exert in the Indian Minister's report where he mentions the IPCC or the 2035 number? And then perhaps you can explain why that piece of un-peer reviewed grey literature is better than the un-peer reviewed grey literature they mistakenly relied on in the first place? Despite everyone's seeming desire to personalise this, the real issue has nothing to do with Pachauri at all. This is an institutional issue, and would exist regardless of who is chair. - gavin]

  3. 53
    Oakden Wolf says:

    Louis C. Smith at #17

    Thanks for posting that. I was going to post that reference if nobody else did.

  4. 54
    jyyh says:

    I’ll put this up before someone else does… as I think will in anycase happen:
    Has someone measured the deep ocean temperature changes in +-0.01K accuracy to verify that this is not the case? Or is it so that once the ocean acidification reaches depths below the photosynthetic layer the hCO2 anions will not settle to solid carbonates with the dead biota falling towards ocean bottom? There’s been quite a while after my chemistry courses so I have to ask can the temperature be measured with such an accuracy and what was the composition of the falling biotic material in ocean and can some constituents in it solidify the CO2(aq) in such (a bit more acidic presently, it’s been told) conditions?

  5. 55
    Didactylos says:

    rosie hughes said:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, all this fixation on get-it-right, got-it-wrong is obscuring the real issue: the truth is what we define it to be, and the truth is that mankind is a scourge on the planet. The sooner we can limit the right to breed, the sooner the planet will recover.

    Rosie, while I sympathise with your motives, you seem to have missed an incredibly important point: population isn’t the key factor in increasing consumerism and high energy use. Ironically, it is quality of life that matters most.

    History tells us that as quality of life increases, population will eventually stabilise. Many of the most developed countries have a stable or even declining population (possibly compensated by immigration).

    Taking just one aspect of the problem as an example: the rapid rise of the middle class in countries such as India and China is creating a correspondingly large increase in the demand for meat. Western consumers are used to casually consuming obscene amounts of meat daily – we hardly pause to think that this isn’t how humanity evolved, or that our meat consumption has a larger impact.

    Yet it does have a larger impact – land is needed for raising cattle, more land, water and chemicals are needed to grow the grain to feed the animals.

    I’m not speaking rhetorically. This phenomenon is the major cause of recent global food price increases.

    I believe the correct question to be asking is “How can we improve quality of life without falling victim to rampant selfish consumerism and destroying the planet?”

  6. 56
    Tim Jones says:

    Regarding the source of the IPCC statement being discussed:

    I’m sure that the WWF isn’t incapable of citing a scientific paper. Wasn’t the WWF quoting an article in The New Scientist regarding a four year study?
    “The IPCC report sources the prediction to a document published by the environment group WWF in 2005; this document quotes the
    New Scientist article as its source. The WWF report describes the
    prediction as “disturbing”, without specifically endorsing it.”

    Here’s the WWF paper
    © WWF Nepal Program, 2005
    “As discussed in the thematic introduction to this regional status review, there is particular concern at the alarming rate of retreat of Himalayan glaciers. In 1999, a report by the Working Group on Himalayan Glaciology (WGHG) of the International Commission for Snow and Ice (ICSI) stated: “glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the livelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 is very high”. Direct observation of a select few snout positions out of the thousands of Himalayan glaciers indicate that they have been in a general state of decline over, at least, the past 150 years.
    “The prediction that “glaciers in the region will vanish within 40 years as a result of global warming” and that the flow of Himalayan rivers will “eventually diminish, resulting in widespread water shortages” (New Scientist 1999; 1999, 2003) is equally disturbing.”

    186 references are cited. It looks like a rather thorough paper to me. Perhaps not up to the usual IPCC standards, but research in the area is scarce.

    Here’s the 1999 New Scientist article:

    “Flooded Out”
    05 June 1999 by Fred Pearce
    “All the glaciers in the middle Himalayas are retreating,” says Syed Hasnain of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the chief author of the ICSI report.
    A typical example is the Gangorti glacier at the head of the River Ganges, which is retreating at a rate of 30 metres per year. Hasnain’s four-year study indicates that all the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could disappear by 2035 at their present rate of decline.”

  7. 57
    Winny says:

    caerbannog (#48) asks me; “Have you demanded that skeptics who published erroneous information acknowledge their mistakes?”

    to which my answer is no.

    caerbannog then asks;

    “If not, will you acknowledge that you have been acting like a hypocrite here?”

    to which my answer is also no.

    I’m not sure of why you think these questions are relevant. My point is merely that the NASA website published an incorrect statement. That incorrect statement has been removed without any comment. I think it would have been at least worthwhile for there to be a footnote acknowledging that an earlier error had been corrected.

    If you and I go and select some incorrect statement from WUWT and agree that it should be changed, how will that affect NASA’s treatment of their error? What possible relevance could it have?

  8. 58
    Didactylos says:

    Jim Roland criticised the biofuel comments in the AR4 WG3 report.

    But Jim, why are you complaining? All of the statements are true, as a little research will tell you. Brazilian sugarcane ethanol has been wildly successful. New research into cellulosic ethanol production looks promising, but it is far too early for the IPCC to be making quantitative statements about how effective it is.

    I read the AR4 section on biofuels. There were far too many references cited to check them all just for a blog answer. Maybe you should go to the trouble of reading them, Jim? I suspect you will find answers to all your criticisms. And, given that your criticism is that there are no references – obviously you are just wrong. You need to look in the WG3 report, not the SPM if you want to source every claim. Isn’t that obvious? Isn’t the word “Summary” a clue?

    Jim, I see that your “source” is in fact…. you. Well done. You have achieved ouroboros.

  9. 59
    mondo says:

    “It’s just a flesh wound!”

  10. 60
    Hank Roberts says:

    Remember, New Scientist is not a science journal. It’s an entertainment magazine. They told me that years ago — pre-WWW, in fact — after I nitpicked at them for several years about errors in articles.

    The WWF generally does a good conservative job of reporting science news.

  11. 61
    calyptorhynchus says:

    #55 “Rosie, while I sympathise with your motives, you seem to have missed an incredibly important point: population isn’t the key factor in increasing consumerism and high energy use. Ironically, it is quality of life that matters most.

    History tells us that as quality of life increases, population will eventually stabilise.”

    The problem is it will almost certainly stabilise too late.

  12. 62
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jim Roland, look up the deforestation folks who were at Copenhagen; the acronym is REDD. Here’s one mention:
    You’re entirely correct and you’re raising a big, huge, gaping, awful problem with the international negotiations. Right now (as of the last time I heard someone speak about this) — as of the last meetings at Copenhagen — a natural forest is considered equal to a palm plantation — the definition is something really absurd like continuous plant canopy at least six feet off the ground, as of the last Copenhagen round.

    This is incredible stupidity, omits any consideration of biodiversity and lets countries log off their forests, replace them with palm oil plantations, and show this as a zero net loss for carbon reduction deals.

    I could get real upset about this, except other people are doing a far better job of it. Keep raising the issue.

    The rich/North countries want to claim they can “buy offsets” from the poor/South countries instead of actually reducing fossil fuel use. And both groups want to equate things like palm plantations and natural forests — so the rich can pay the poor to log the forests; the poor get to sell the lumber, plant palm plantations, collect carbon capture money for those, sell the palm oil to the rich, and give the rich “carbon credits” for doing it.

    Outcome — nobody does f-ing anything to reduce carbon use.
    That’s the current plan. People won’t stand still for it, but as usual, people are going to have to lead their governments to be smarter.

    We may be discovering why the universe is silent but for this one planet.

    Or we may be unique in the universe and not screw up and go silent.

    Time will tell.

  13. 63
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Winny says: 20 January 2010 at 12:09 AM

    Would you mind telling me just what significance this single line holds for you? How many people do you think would read a correction?

    For that matter, how did it come to your attention? You just happened to read it?

    Look, the “gotcha” game is not science. Finding little teeny-tiny errors, a single accidental citation from hundreds, these things are not what’s called “making a case”. They actually are informative of just how bankrupt doubters are when it comes to powerful ideas or concepts. You give yourself away by using such trashy technique.

    Your NASA edit is hollow, vacuous. It’s just PR. Is that -all- you’ve got? Spin? Because guess what, mainstream science has the power of truth behind it; truth is mathematical, eventually folks trying to solve an equation will find out if they have sufficient variables. Shabby PR and spin has no possibility of surviving extended scrutiny. Sure, you can mess with people’s heads for a while, deceive them, misdirect them, but eventually your cause is going to run out of steam because it has no fuel.

    Find another button to push, the one you’re slapping now is disconnected.

  14. 64
    Josh Cryer says:

    Irony, I blog about the similarity between NASA conspiracy theorists and people who don’t believe in global warming, and someone comments in a RealClimate article making conspiracy-sounding allegations about NASA. Fun times. Good on NASA for swiftly correcting their article.

    When I heard about the 2035 date a few weeks back I didn’t touch it because I couldn’t find one peer reviewed source for it. It was unfortunate that some people did defend it, but I can admit that I have defended positions from ignorance in the past, before. This should send out a signal to those of us who believe AGW is real and who believe it may be a significant threat to our civilization that we should be more diligent with the data and with what we say.

  15. 65
    Antony says:


    From page 42 of University of Arizona’s “Background support presentation for NASA “Black Carbon and Aerosols” press conference” Dec. 14, 2009 :

    “9. As we have calculated,melting glaciers(specifically, negative mass balance components of the melt) contribute an estimated 1.2% (perhaps factor of 2 uncertain) of total runoff of three of the most important drainages, the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra combined. The seasonal flow regulation influences and the negative mass balance is more important in local drainages close to the glacier sources, where glaciers can dominate the hydrology in arid regions, but on the scale of the subcontinent, glaciers are secondary players in looming hydrologic problems, which stem more from population growth and inefficiency of water resource distribution and application.”
    For glacial melting in the Eastern Himalaya’s they suspect black soot (from lorries, factories and fires) as an important cause.

  16. 66
    Jaime Frontero says:


    Nice post, Mr. Bostrom.

    True – through and through.

    And yet… Brown won Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts. Which is not exactly expected to help the cause.

    We’re missing something…

  17. 67
    Jimbo says:

    Comment by caerbannog


    Have you demanded that skeptics who published erroneous information acknowledge their mistakes? If not, will you acknowledge that you have been acting like a hypocrite here?

    Sceptics on the web are not generally publicly funded. Sceptics don’t have to prove a thing regarding AGW, it’s down to those who make claims and theories to prove and defend their case. Is this not so Gavin?

  18. 68
    Winny says:

    Doug Bostrom (#63) 20 January 2010 at 1:09 AM says:

    “Would you mind telling me just what significance this single line holds for you?”
    I guess it doesn’t hold any special significance beyond the fact that it was wrong.

    “How many people do you think would read a correction?”
    I don’t know. Does that make it unnecessary?

    “For that matter, how did it come to your attention?”
    I read about it here. I read Realclimate from time to time. I was especially pleased to read this post because it shows that the folks at RC are quick to fess up when they spot an error. It demonstrates that it’s science, not politics. It demonstrates that personality and ego are not a factor. The only thing that’s important is to get the science right.

    “You just happened to read it?”
    See previous answer.

    I’m not sure what inspired the ad-hominem. I don’t think this is a “Teeny-tiny” error. I think, as Gavin appears to, that this is a “more substantive” error. Not in the sense that it overturns all that’s gone before or anything like that, just that it’s a reasonably substantial blunder.

    “The measure of an organisation is not determined by the mere existence of errors, but in how it deals with them when they crop up.”

    The sensible thing to do, is to correct the error, explain that it was wrong, it’s now right and get on with the next thing. Gavin suggest a “corrigendum to the WG2 report perhaps” in the case of the IPCC reports. In the case of the NASA website, it’s hardly necessary to issue a major report, a simple footnote would be ample.

  19. 69
    Bulldust says:

    Doug Bostrom @ 63:

    So your argument applies equally to the Monbiot attack on Plimer Re. Heaven and Earth? Basically he attacked the manuscript on the basis of a couple of incorrect reference interpretations (out of 2,300 references).

    Now I am certainly not arguing that Plimer got all the rest right, I am just saying there is no difference in that critique and the current Himalayian glacier = IPCC wrong line of argument.

    You can’t have it both ways. What you need is a civil and scientific debate without the censorship and arrogance that is all too often prevalent.

  20. 70
    Pete says:

    Exactly how does one peer review a phone call?

  21. 71
    Jimbo says:

    The New Scientist seems non to pleased about the IPCC error.

    13 January 2010
    “When New Scientist heard this comment from a leading Indian glaciologist, we reported it. That was in 1999. The claim later appeared in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report – and it turns out that our article is the primary published source.

    The glaciologist has never submitted what he says was a speculative comment for peer review – and most of his peers strongly dispute it. So how could such speculation have become an IPCC “finding” which has, moreover, recently been defended by the panel’s chairman? We are entitled to an explanation, before rumour and doubt compound the damage to the image of climate science already inflicted by the leaked “climategate” emails.”"

  22. 72
    klee12 says:

    I tried to look up the referenence given in the posting

    and found it on page 493, not 436.

    Just in case you might want to make a correction


    [Response: Indeed. Thanks. -gavin]

  23. 73
    Jimbo says:

    “10 CFU re #8 Should I have put a sarcasm smiley face on my post CFU? Or were you agreeing with my criticism of Jimbo’s nonsense about “local effects”?”

    Comment by David Horton
    I never said any such “nonsense” about “local effects”?, It was NASA who talked about “local effects” and I quoted them with a reference link. If you have a problem with this then I suggest you take it up with NASA and not me. Read before you reply, thanks and have a nice day.

    [edit - no need to repeat information already posted]

  24. 74
    Hank Roberts says:

    He there looks at the drafts of the section that had the mistake, and the comments on the drafts — several people had pointed out the need for a citation and contrary information that should have been taken into account — and wasn’t.

    This is why, when someone posts what they believe to be a fact, they should give their source, say why they relied on it, and provide a proper citation so others can look it up and check it.

    I look forward to far more citations being provided by people coming in to post what they believe.

  25. 75
    TheGoodLocust says:

    That 1921 picture sure has a lot of clouds – like it was taken during winter or after a snowstorm.

    It seems disingenuous to compare it to 2008 without saying what season they were taken in.

    Anyway, there are many reasons for the Himalayan glaciers to be disappearing – “global warming” is the least likely and least provable reason.

    [Response: Thanks for the chuckle. The 'least likely'? Think about it for a while. - gavin]

  26. 76
    Johnno says:

    On fossil fuel peaking upthread I was referring to primary CO2 from deliberate burning of fossil fuels, not captive methane release or reduced CO2 absorption by forests and oceans. As to coal replacing oil in transport via synthetic liquids or electricity that will take many years and massive investment with uncertainties over carbon taxes and public acceptance. Natural gas can of course be used in either transport or stationary heat and generation. IPCC should therefore pick a credible worst case scenario for human caused CO2 that takes fossil fuel depletion into account. Bottom line if critics are right – before deductions there could be 80% less human caused primary CO2 by 2050 with or without deliberate mitigation.

  27. 77
    outeast says:

    The claim about Himalayan glaciers disappearing by 2035 looks to me like a really silly cockup – like claims made about the loss of all Antarctic ice by the end of the century, doesn’t it fail even the most cursory of logic checks? In fact, it would seem to me that Himalayan glacial disappearance by 2035 would be a major problem for climate science to explain: wouldn’t so sudden a loss of high-altitude ice which is at least tens of metres thick be pretty much implausible under even the most pessimistic of current projections?

    It is unsurprising that some errors crept into the IPCC report given its size, scope, and the sheer number of people involved (though it is surprising that so obviously nonsensical a claim as the 2035 date escaped scrutiny till after publication). the fact that so few errors are found despite the intense scrutiny to which the report is subjected should bolster confidence in it, really, but unfortunately every goof that does get caught does a disproportionate amount of reputational damage. This is even the case when the goof (as here) is a silly error that is on the face of it incompatible with the overall IPCC findings rather than being something critical to AGW evidence.

    It may be worth noting that Pachauri’s ill-judged ‘voodoo science’ remark was not aimed at the specific claim that the glaciers will not disappear by 2035 but at the whole of the Raina report, likely based only on Raina’s conclusion that Himalayan glaciers have not been affected by global warming. Anyone interested in actually reading the Raina report can find it online, by the way… and having read it myself I can’t help feeling that Pachauri’s comments were rather over the top (could personal politics have been coming into play?). It doesn’t look like ‘voodoo science’ to me, although it doersn’t look quite like a ‘state of the art review’ either.
    There are controversial claims, but nothing in the paper either denies or claims to refute global warming itself. Raina’s claim actual more narrow – that Himalayan glaciers specifically are unusually slow to respond to climate changes and so should not yet be expected to show major changes which are directly attributable to current warming. This is at odds with the conclusions of some other studies such as Bajracharya et al 2007 (oddly omitted from this ’state of the art review’), but on the face of it is not utterly implausible (given the huge variance in retreat and advance rates described by Raina, and the complex interplay of factors which affect these changes). Perhaps someone with real glacier knowledge could comment on the report for readers here?

    Incidentally, this is not the first time anyone has highlighted the 2035 mistake. A guest poster on Pielke Sr’s blog wrote about it last year (here) but attributed the goof to a migrating zero – a cited paper apparently projected the loss of Himalayan glaciers by 2350, not 2035. This sounds more plausible than the latest explanation (though not really any less embarassing). I wonder which explanation was correct?

  28. 78
    A. Paul says:

    Everbody knows that glaciers are retreating since the beginning of the 20th century or even longer. Almost nobody knows or spreads it in public, that due to the Little Ice Age, the glaciers have been very large anyway, and with the general warming trend following this LIA, melting can be seen as a natural process without involvement of human activity. It might be an (unfortunate) coincidence, that industrialization and the introduction of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere began right after the end of the LIA.

  29. 79

    Great headline and interesting points raised by article and contributions.
    What doesn’t help is sloppy use of graphics. Pictures obviously aim to give impression that glacier is much smaller than before. But what time of year was each picture taken? What date span are we looking at? What is the photographic pattern over 50 years? Is the current picture a particularly hot year? Was the previous picture a particularly cold year / late spring? We don’t know, and aren’t told. The picture is a cheap editorial device which serves only to undermine the seriousness of the article.

    [Response: Their are photos like these from all around the world. Look up the source for this one for more context - but this is not a 'cheap device', it is actually what is going on. - gavin]

  30. 80

    Cute, Rosie, but straw-man.

  31. 81
    Tim Jones says:


    Thanks Hank.

    As Gavin posted the link, the article:
    “IPCC slips on the ice with statement about Himalayan glaciers”

    Is much more comprehensive sleuthing than my stab at it. Though Syed Iqbal Hasnain wrote the ICSI Report on Himalayan Glaciology, the date does not appear there, The date 2035 came from “Glaciers Beating Retreat, in “an online publication called Down to Earth published on 30 April 1999″ also written by Hasnain, Chairman, ICSI working group on Himalayan Glaciology

    As Gavin first mentioned, it looks like the date was pulled out of the air… but by the author of a credible report.

    I think he was guessing, couldn’t put it in the report, but could publish it elsewhere. So what is the date of the disappearance
    of the major water providing glaciers?

  32. 82
    Christian Dudley says:

    almost all glaciers in the alps and himalaya are melting since 1850, the end of the LIA.
    if you want to show (AGW) you should compare pictures between 1950 and 2010.
    look at the alps (europa), there were 80% of the glaciers growing between 1960 and 1980. since that, they were melting again.
    and, it is better for us, that they are melting, not growing like in the LIA.

  33. 83
    Jesús says:

    “the physical science community should be encouraged to be more active in the other groups”

    That sounds ideal, but a bit burdensome for the WG1. I think that it’s a responsibility of people in the WG2 to check that their statements related to the physical science are (1) backed by WG1 and/or (2) backed by peer reviewed literature.

  34. 84
    Ray Ladbury says:

    We’ve warmed about a degree C from pre-industrial temperatures, and CO2 has risen by ~38%. For a 3 degree sensitivity, that’s about 1.4 degrees. The thing is we are not yet at equilibrium, so I don’t see a problem.

  35. 85
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Roland,
    Been to Brazil? I have, and it is a wonderful example of how to get biofuels right. The US, with its corn-based program is a wonderful example of how to get it wrong.

    Cellulosic alcohol, if it can be accomplished is another example of a good strategy.

    Just because one can execute a good strategy poorly does not invalidate the strategy. Such all-or-nothing thinking is simply wrongheaded.

  36. 86
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “rosie hughes says:
    the truth is what we define it to ”

    Nope. the Truth is what exists even when we have our eyes closed.

  37. 87
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Winny says:
    19 January 2010 at 10:00 PM

    Caerbannog (#43) This is a bit of a non sequitur. Why should it make any difference whether or not some other set of literature is riddled with errors or free of errors?”

    Because it shows your reporting bias, whinny.

    It shows you’re not free from blinding bias.

    It shows that, if you’re going to lambast the entire AGW science for one error out of a thousand pages, the errors that make four or five per page (Ian Plimer’s apologetic book, for example) means that the denialist side is so far from rational and accurate that they can, should and MUST be summarily dismissed.

    If your assertions against this error are not proposed to be a source for silencing the side you don’t like, that is…

  38. 88
    David Harrington says:

    Yet a couple of minor erros in Plimer’s book on Climate Change are found an this is sufficient to debunk his entire argument? Fair’s fair guys let’s at l;east pretend to play by the same rules.

    This will probably be moderated out by the “thought police” but I thought I would try anyway.

    [Response: A couple of minor errors? Oh yes. And a complete inability to admit even to the most egregious. Please be serious. - gavin]

  39. 89
    Sou says:

    @Jim Torsen post 15, thank you for the links to the presentation on the Himalayan glaciers. I believe I’ve learnt a lot tonight, which will help me in efforts to counteract so many foolish claims from so many uninformed (and so many ignorant) people.

    (Not all ignorant people are unintelligent, but there seem to be too many less intelligent people who are ignorant but don’t know it.)

  40. 90
    Tony Noerpel says:

    Jumbo et al

    The lowest estimate for remaining recoverable fossil fuels, I believe, is Dave Rutledge’s. That would be 560 GtC. Divide by 2.1 to convert to ppmV we get 267 ppmV. Divide by 2 to account for what the oceans and forests take back up and we get 133 ppmV. We are at 390 ppmV now and with other man-made gases get to a CO2 equivalent of about 440 ppmV. So even Dave’s estimate puts us at 573 ppmV equivalent. We have 288 GtC in all of our forests. If the most pessimistic of the peak oil community are correct, then I submit that in a world which already contains 7 billion humans, every single tree will be cut down for cooking and heating within a few decades of some catastrophic end to oil production. Add another 72 GtC. Now we are at 645 ppmv and we still have not accounted for any carbon cycle feedbacks like melting permafrost, soils or methane hydrates.

    So even the most conservative peak oil predictions put us in a world of hurt climate wise and there is no way that the IPCC could embrace the outlier opinions of a few while ignoring the projections for fossil fuels from the USGS, EIA, IEA and oil companies. The IPCC could not simply tell the most authoritative sources to kiss off because they were going to believe a handfull of professors instead. Even over at the oil drum, the consensus view is probably closer to 1200 GtC rather than Rutledge’s 560. That puts us at 790, still without the carbon cycle feedbacks.

    best regards


  41. 91

    The fact that the IPCC is not infallible is hardly a surprise. But an organization that argues for measures that may cost trillions of dollars should have a very high standard indeed of quality assurance.

    [Response: The IPCC does not argue for measures. The reports are policy neutral. - gavin]

    A true researcher could not in any reasonable way confuse an article in a WWF report (itself being very much an actor in the game) with a true peer reviewed research article. Hence I would say that it is very unlikely that this could have been an accident. Instead, I believe that it is due the probably commonplace mixup of science and political ideas and ambitions within the IPCC. This matter should thus NOT be taken lightly as suggested in your article and whether or not the glaciers are in fact retreating can not in any way be used as excuse for glossing over this [edit]

  42. 92
    Spencer says:

    Unless I’m mistaken, there is ANOTHER SIMILAR ERROR in the WG2 report, in chapter 3. In section 3.4.3 we read that “the entire Hindu Kush-Himalaya ice mass has decreased in the last two decades.”

    The citation is to Barnett et al. (2005), a Nature paper that does indeed say the Himalaya-Hindu Kush area was losing ice. So far so good. But the refereeing there failed, for Barnett et al. cite only two sources for their confident statement: a Chinese paper that, judging from the title (I haven’t tried to find the whole text), actually studied only one ice mass… and figures in the IPCC 2001 report, which turn out to show only temperature rise over the Himalayas, not actual glacier retreat. In short, the scientific communities involved had really poor quality-control in this case.

    Let’s recall that a hundred peer-reviewed papers will contain, oh, maybe a hundred errors. Most of these are insignificant. Many of the greatest scientific papers, for example Niels Bohr’s paper on the quantized atom or Roger Revelle’s on ocean uptake of CO2, are an almost incomprehensible mess from which something new and true can be laboriously extracted. The landmark paper discussed in the
    recent post on Plass is a fine example.

  43. 93
    Matthew L. says:

    # 49 – MapleLeaf

    This paper acknowledges that the global temperature has not risen as much as expected relative to pre-industrial times if long lived greenhouse gases have the effect predicted in the IPCC cited models (0.8k actual vs 2.1k predicted).

    It then goes on to state that the following possible causes cannot account for all of the apparent discrepancy:
    1. Natural variation
    2. Thermal disequilibrium / lag in the action of GHG

    It concludes that a large part of the discrepency is probably due to either or both of the following:
    1. Atmospheric aerosols
    2. Incorrect calculation of the climate’s sensitivity

    It further states that there is too much uncertainty surrounding either of these factors to know how much of the discrepancy can be attributed to either. One point they make that will probably be disupted by some here is that paleoclimate research is unable to produce sufficiently accurate and uncertain numbers for climate sensitivity.

    The conclusion of the paper is as follows:
    The current best estimate and uncertainty range of Earth’s climate sensitivity suggest an equilibrium increase in Earth’s global mean surface temperature for forcing by anthropogenic long-lived greenhouse gases of 2.1 K (range 1.5 to 3.2 K, roughly 1 s. d.), well in excess of the observed increase relative to preindustrial times, about 0.8 K. The discrepancy is attributed mainly to uncertainty in climate sensitivity and/or cooling forcing by anthropogenic aerosols, also highly uncertain; countervailing natural cooling and thermal lag in climate response seem to be relatively small. Because of the great difference in atmospheric residence times of greenhouse gases and aerosols, the effect of the greenhouse gases will dominate long-term forcing and climate response. Even if Earth’s climate sensitivity is at the low end of the IPCC (2007)
    estimated “likely” range, continued emission of CO2 at the present rate would exhaust in just a few decades the shared global resource of the incremental amount of CO2 that can be added to the atmosphere without exceeding proposed maximum increases in GMST. If the sensitivity is greater, the allowable incremental emission decreases sharply, essentially to zero at the present best estimate of climate sensitivity, and is actually negative for greater values of this sensitivity.”

    The conclusion then goes on to emphasise how important it is that these two factors are better quantified in order to remove the uncertainty and better inform policy makers, and to avoid spending huge amounts in GHG mitigation measures that may not be necessary.

    A big “here here!” to that.

    The sort of thing they are worried about is illustrated by an interesting article in the Economist, a journal generally sympathetic to the IPCC agenda, that concerns the huge costs associated with wind power.
    …a story that concludes

    “You can add to the awe-inspiring engineering achievements of the offshore wind industry an unparalleled ability to make nuclear power look cheap.”

  44. 94
    Spencer says:

    Also worth noting: WGI did have something to say about ice mass, but it was a more general statement about the global decline of ice mass. Glaciers in the Himalaya are only a tiny part of what’s going on, the ice caps (including Tibet etc.) involve a lot more mass and thus heat disposed of. The geophysicists, unlike the impact folks, do have a sound basis for their statement.

    The crucial data for the Panel I report are to be found at
    with a broader overview at (I guess published too late to be included in the IPCC reference list, but they do show the figures.)

  45. 95
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “The conclusion of the paper is as follows:
    The current best estimate and uncertainty range of Earth’s climate sensitivity suggest an equilibrium increase in Earth’s global mean surface temperature for forcing by anthropogenic long-lived greenhouse gases of 2.1 K (range 1.5 to 3.2 K, roughly 1 s. d.), well in excess of the observed increase relative to preindustrial times, about 0.8 K.”

    And how does that sensitivity fit in with paleoclimate data?

    Will it give us a big enough amplification to get us out of an ice age, for example?

    Remember, physics doesn’t change just because we’re 2001AD. Whatever the comic books say.

  46. 96
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “You can add to the awe-inspiring engineering achievements of the offshore wind industry an unparalleled ability to make nuclear power look cheap.”

    Funny how it’s so much cheaper for Australia and California to make wind power than this piece seems to suggest.

    Maybe they have different wind?

  47. 97
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “82 Christian Dudley says:
    20 January 2010 at 5:46 AM

    and, it is better for us, that they are melting, not growing like in the LIA.”

    Which “us”? The ones relying on summer snowmelt to allow them to survive?

  48. 98
    Completely Fed Up says:

    A Paul: “Almost nobody knows or spreads it in public, that due to the Little Ice Age, the glaciers have been very large anyway”

    And do those who *say* they know this say *how* they know this?

    Do they say *how much* is melting? After all, after a LIA, we have the BIA coming up. So where would the ice be if global warming was not happening?

    If it is melting quicker, then this is not proof that the melting is due to coming out of a LIA.

    If, indeed, you can prove that these glaciers are bigger because of it and the LIA ended in the Himalayas around 1850.

  49. 99
    Forlornehope says:

    David Miller @44, if you switched to electric heating your optimum solution is to use a heat pump, not resistive heating. The very best air sourced pumps will give you around 4:1 performance. Unless you live in a region where you have prolonged periods with very low winter temperatures, they are almost as good as ground source machines. Either will give you effective heating that is no worse than burning fossil fuels in your boiler. Of course if your electricity supply is made up of nuclear and renewables it will be much better. It’s also worth noting that by getting the very best possible insulation, you can almost entirely eliminate the need for a heating system. You can even fit heat exchangers to minimise the heat loss through ventilation.

  50. 100
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Jimbo grunts another one out: “If you have a problem with this then I suggest you take it up with NASA and not me.”

    Nope, if you want me to get on to NASA’s case, then you should have kept quiet.

    If you don’t know what NASA means with the figures that you picked out, you can very easily lie about them (as you have done) and dodge it by saying “they aren’t my figures”.

    YOU came up with it, YOU explain it.

    How can a local effect be a proxy for global effect?

    How can a season be a proxy for climate?

    How can you parrot information that you have no clue about and have to try to hide behind anothers skirts?

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