The UNIPCC mislead the world.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 included a warning that global warming could melt the Himalayan glaciers by 2035. This was then picked up upon as one of the most striking and alarming pieces of evidence of global warming and a problem which would cause an immense amount of suffering. The Himalayan glaciers are the source for many of Asia’s biggest rivers that have huge populations reliant upon them. The Yellow and Yangtze rives in China, The Red, Mekong and Irrawaddy in South East Asia and Brahmaputra, Ganges and Indus in the Indian subcontinent. However these claims have now been exposed to have been based upon a news story in the New Scientist that was published eight years before the IPCC report. This itself was based upon a telephone interview with an Indian scientist Syed Hasnain who has admitted it was speculation rather than based on research.
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If one thing is wrong there may be other mistakes.
Making one statement that is proven to be wrong and based upon speculation brings the whole report into disrepute. How can anyone trust the report not to have simply been pulling information from all sorts of news articles without checking whether those news articles we based in fact? It is much worse than if this claim had come from a scientific paper that is later proved to be wrong but what they have written in the report is little more than second hand hearsay. It should be barely worth putting in a scientific newspaper – presumably as a quote rather than a statement of fact – let alone a report upon which policy is supposed to be based.
One blunder does not mean that the whole report is based upon such flimsy research.
Did not scientifically check the facts.
The IPCC should have rigorously checked their assertions. This at the very least should mean using peer reviewed papers as their evidence, this means that it has been checked by other academics in the field so that its claims are not fantasy. However in this case not only did the IPCC not check the claims themselves before including them in the report but they did not attribute the claims so others would have more difficulty checking as well. The IPCC itself got the claim about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers from a World Wildlife Fund report ‘An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China.’ A campaign report not a academic paper so itself was not checked. This in turn had come from the New Scientist news article. Even the initiator of the claims Syed Hasnain has said that he never meant for his 2035 date to cover the whole of the Himalayas but simply some areas.
It is unfortunate that the IPCC is more of political body than a scientific one. Because this is the case there are incentives to overstate things, as politically they want to make the case for agreements to cut GHG emissions and there is not always the necessary scientific rigour with the work. This is worrying because even if everything in the report turns out to be true it is likely that there have been other assertions that have not been based on peer review. So long as the report is not entirely based upon peer review it cannot be trusted and thus the political aim is undermined.
This is likely to have been caused by the IPCC not having an expert on glaciers in the Himalayas so they would have no one who would pick up on the date and think it was suspicious. In a large document there would not have been time to go through exhaustive checks on everything written to check that it had been peer reviewed. Professor Murari Lal, who oversaw the chapter on glaciers in the IPCC report argued “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.”
Hyped up the claims.
Not only were the claims not checked but they were actually increased. "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate." This claim of the likelihood being ‘very high’ means in the IPCC’s terms that there is a 90% chance that it will happen. It is especially worrying that the panel would increase a claim if they knew that the initial claim was not verified, and even more surprising that they would do so if they did not know where the initial claim came from or without any further research to back the increase in the claim.
By overstating the danger sitatuation, IPCC can pretend to make a so powerful call. It's a fact, that humans don't pay attention with yellow or green claims.
And example of that is the use of CFC, only when the harm to the ozone layer became so obvius, the indutry started to stop using CFC. And it's not done yet.
So, hype can be useful. If there is any.
IPCC needs to provide scientific evidence
We can not to driven by hear saying only. IPCC is a scientific body and they should not take something out that has no prove knowing that everyone is waiting to hear from them. It can be true and it might be expected but exaggeration isn't the right thing.
IPCC needs to privide scientific evidence
We can not to driven by hear saying only. IPCC is a scientific body and they should not take something out that has no prove knowing that everyone is waiting to hear from them. It can be true and it might be expected but exaggeration isn't the right thing
The timing may be out, but the glaciers are still likely to disappear.
Ultimately while the speed and how dramatic the melting will be the result is the same, the glaciers are melting. Hasnain, the initial cause of the controversy, has argued "It is a fact that global warming is happening. If the Arctic Sea ice is melting, how can the Himalayan glaciers not be melting?" The scientists who are questioning the 2035 date do accept that the glaciers are melting and retreating. According to Professor Julian Dowdeswell at Cambridge University "Even a small glacier such as the Dokriani glacier is up to 120 metres [394ft] thick. A big one would be several hundred metres thick and tens of kilometres long. The average is 300 metres thick so to melt one even at 5 metres a year would take 60 years. That is a lot faster than anything we are seeing now so the idea of losing it all by 2035 is unrealistically high." At the moment we are seeing melting at a rate of approximately 2-3 feet a year at the most, so this would mean that glaciers would not be disappearing until at least 2100. The result is exactly the same, rivers that billions depend on have reduced flow and will not be able to provide for the crops that sustain such large populations. This in turn leads to a shortage of food and near starvation among some of the poorest in the world (though things may have changed by 2100), this would have immense knock on effects on development, fighting disease etc.
There is however a big difference between arguing that the glaciers will melt by 2035 and arguing that they will melt by 2065 at the earliest. The longer the time frame the more chance there is to come up with measures to reduce the impact of the change and the more chance there is that humanity might have managed to halt the warming of the planet. This in turn means that it is more likely that we may be able to prevent the glaciers disappearing entirely.
One small claim in a large report.
Although it has potentially large implications the claim was one claim in a very large report. It was not played up within the report and was only in one small paragraph so it can hardly be said to be at the core of the IPCC’s work.
Reducing glaciers will still have immense impact.
The melting glaciers in the Himalayas when it does happen will have one of the biggest impacts of any changes caused by climate change. This is simply because fresh water is vital for humans to survive and the areas that depend upon water from the rivers that flow out of the Himalayas include some of the world’s most densely populated, and poorest areas. These rivers support almost half of the world’s population as most of the population of India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma are within the river systems that are fed by Himalayan glaciers. Already in the valley of the Yellow river in Northern China and Indus in Pakistan there are shortages of water, if the rivers flow reduces due to the reduction or disappearance of glaciers then this would put these areas at greater risk of drought. Of course with less water there is potential for wide scale food shortages, especially if the monsoons become more unreliable at the same time, as water is essential for agriculture, many of these area’s produce rice, that has very high yields for the amount of land used (needed if there is a high population density) but also requires large amounts of water.
One area where the impact does partially depend upon the length of time of melting of the glaciers is the potential for floods while there is melting. If the glaciers are melting rapidly then in the short term much more water than usual would be getting into the river systems, however if the melting is slow this is going to be proportionally less. If there is less then flooding will be much less of a problem.
Okay, sure, there was an issue in the date of release, but the fact of the matter is that mistakes can be made. Science is a continuously evolving subject. But regardless of that, the glaciers are still melting!
I know that such a mistake could lead to big time controversy, but the reality is that the glaciers are melting and more focus should be placed on that and finding a solution, rather than arguing about who is right and who is wrong. I think that saying that the UNIPCC is just something that is deviating from the real crisis. People need to move on from that and see the bigger picture.
What do you think?