Remember those ‘melting Himalayan glaciers’? Well…

Now this is embarrassing: Two years ago, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report claiming — among other things — that the glaciers of the Himalayas would melt by 2035.

Unfortunately, it appears that the researchers didn’t do a lot of actual, you know, research.

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.

This has been a tough few months for climate warriors.

*          *          *

Former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford is quickly becoming the comic relief for the 2010 election cycle. I told you about his winning New York Times interview last week, so full of comedy goodness. And now there’s this… not quite as funny, but no more helpful to his hapless run for the U. S. Senate. During an appearance on MSNBC following the weekend’s joint presidential news conference on Haiti, Ford remarked that “It was good to hear President Bush’s voice. We haven’t heard that in a while.”

That comment — while harmless in most places — will not go over well in New York’s hyper liberal Democratic primary. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Ford is actually trying to lose the race. I don’t recall him being this incompetent in Tennessee.

 

Brian Saint-Paul

By

Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

  • DC

    Right on about Ford. It is hard to imagine a lamer launch to a Senate run (though Coakley in Mass comes to mind).

    On the much more important matter of climate change, given some of your recent posts I feel the need to ask, first, do you believe that the earth is warming due to human energy and agriculture practices; second, if so you believe that this could have devastating impacts, particularly on the world’s poor; and, third, what do you make of Pope BXVI’s recent peace day message in light of these questions? I see lots of pot shots against the global warming crowd on this site, but not much in the way of actually taking a position on what our Pope calls a fundamental moral issue.

  • Erin Garlock

    For me, the jury is still out on the scientific analysis of global warming/climate change as it pertains to the real effects caused by human action. I do believe that we are called to be good stewards of the this big rock. If all the climate change doom & gloom turns out to be bunk and just hype but it gets people to be better stewards, then it’s a win in my book.

  • Aaron

    The problem is that these global warming lies aren’t being used to encourage good stewardship necessarily, but to push global governance and socialism. In every agreement they push forward, the USA takes it in the shorts, even though we’ve already put scrubbers on our smokestacks and such. So their recommendations boil down to: grow government, especially global government, and transfer large amounts of money from the first world (mostly the USA) to the third world, while burning a lot of it to keep all those new bureaucracies fed. That won’t do the slightest thing to save the earth (assuming it needs saving) or the people on it.

    When I blogged about this latest story, I thought the best part was when the IPCC’s guy in charge of the glacier report said that he’d recommend removing that part IF the guy in India took back his speculation or said he was misquoted. So, it’s fine by the IPCC if major reports that are used to scare people into enacting hugely expensive policies are based solely on the third-hand guesswork of one guy—as long as his guesswork was passed along accurately. Noted.

  • DC

    Aaron,
    Are you for real? Some grand conspiracy, including the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, for global totalitarian socialism? Overwhelming evidence all faked? And the US, with 5% of the world

  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    Even more delicious than the absurd way in which the “melting Himalayas” idea went from bull-session speculation to scientific “fact” is the IPPC’s arrogant dismissal of past criticism of the idea. This is the standard play of AGW acolytes — special pleading based on their presumed expertise and the rest of the world’s presumed ignorance. This time they got caught.

  • Aaron

    Did I say anything about a conspiracy? This is all right out in the open; no conspiracy necessary. Yes, many people in charge, including many in the Magisterium it seems, are proponents of globalism and socialism. Surely that’s not arguable. (And if you want something that’s condemned in no uncertain terms in papal documents, look no further, but please don’t restrict yourself to the last half-century.) It’s been clear, and is becoming clearer, that these people will use anything, even misquoted third-hand speculation from a phone interview between a popular magazine and some researcher who didn’t actually do the research. Climate change, whether true or false, is just the latest useful issue. In the past it’s been starvation in Ethiopia, pollution in the oceans, and a whole host of other issues, some true and some false; but the goal they’re always used to advance is the same.

    I also didn’t say all the evidence was false, but the lies are starting to pile up, and it’s the big lies that make their way into major newspapers and schoolbooks. This thing on glaciers was a lie: one man’s speculation being misquoted and reported as 90% certain. The Mann hockey stick chart was a lie. The recent email scandal proved that many of these researchers–whose livelihoods depend on keeping up the worry, after all–are willing to lie and cover up data that contradicts the dogma. Call that a conspiracy theory if you like, if that helps you to treat it as a joke; I just call it human nature.

    Look, I’m certainly no fan of the USA consumer culture or big business. I don’t have a credit card, I don’t shop at Walmart, I walk to the grocery store and anywhere else within reason, we have chickens in our tiny backyard, and I’d like to vote for Joel Salatin for president. I think it’s idiotic that we burn fossil fuel to ship food and basic goods like clothing across oceans when we could grow and create it in our own backyards. I think it’s idiotic that people live in cities so large that they have to drive an hour or two to get to work. I’d like to see us reduce our “footprint” in a lot of ways, for moral reasons of simplicity and subsidiarity. But that’s not what the policy recommendations that arise from climate change would do. So in the same sense that I think there are many ways we could improve health care but I’m against Obamacare, I’m a proponent of conservation but not the kind that’s being pushed.

  • August Driscoll

    Aaron,
    Are you for real? Some grand conspiracy, including the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, for global totalitarian socialism? Overwhelming evidence all faked? And the US, with 5% of the world

  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    I think it’s idiotic that we burn fossil fuel to ship food and basic goods like clothing across oceans when we could grow and create it in our own backyards.

    Actually, it’s quite efficient to source goods and food globally. (If it weren’t, businesses wouldn’t do it that way — this is the beauty of the market’s way of doing things versus the government’s). It’s often even more environmentally friendly, as economies of scale apply to energy consumption and pollution too.

    That’s not to criticize efforts at self-sufficiency, of course, which are noble.

  • Brian Saint-Paul

    On the much more important matter of climate change, given some of your recent posts I feel the need to ask, first, do you believe that the earth is warming due to human energy and agriculture practices; second, if so you believe that this could have devastating impacts, particularly on the world’s poor; and, third, what do you make of Pope BXVI’s recent peace day message in light of these questions? I see lots of pot shots against the global warming crowd on this site, but not much in the way of actually taking a position on what our Pope calls a fundamental moral issue.

    Hi DC,

    Thanks for the question.

    There are some matters of science on which I feel comfortable taking a position — certain medical and health questions, for example (I was the associate director of a health research institute prior to Crisis, so I have some familiarity with the material). However, I have no background in climatology, nor any related field, so I defer to mainstream scientific consensus on the causes of global climate change.

    While that’s still true, the scandals at East Anglia and now the IPCC have raised a few flags in my mind. Obviously, those incidents alone don’t refute the idea of man-made climate change, but they do reveal researchers’ willingness to distort data to make their case. That’s a plain violation of the scientific method, and it should be exposed wherever it occurs, even if human activity is indeed the principle cause of global climate change. Junk science should be indentified and reported, even if the position it serves is true.

    So if global climate change is indeed caused by human activity, what do we do about it? Again, I’m out of my depths here, but I side with Bjorn Lomborg on possible solutions. He acknowledges both the fact and the dangers of climate change, but disagrees sharply with the most popular prescriptions (which he argues will do very little, and at great expense). His book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming contains a range of effective and practical actions we can take to help stem climate change (see here, for example: http://bit.ly/6wG0R6).

  • Aaron

    Actually, it’s quite efficient to source goods and food globally. (If it weren’t, businesses wouldn’t do it that way — this is the beauty of the market’s way of doing things versus the government’s).

    That’s true, but part of the lower cost of moving things in certain directions comes from the difference in currency values, which are manipulated by government and quasi-government banking systems and thus not part of the free market. There’s also the fact that many goods are produced more cheaply overseas because the workers there don’t have same rights and protections that we maintain are the bare minimum for workers (even illegals) within our borders, which has never seemed very Christian to me. Throw in subsidies, in which every nation engages, and there’s a lot going on in global trade that has nothing to do with market economy.

    Good point about the arrogant dismissal by AGW defenders of any criticism, by the way. It seems like ad hominem is their first line of defense. In fact, DC’s reply earlier reminds me of the way the IPCC chairman accused the first critics of this report of using “voodoo science.”

  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    and there’s a lot going on in global trade that has nothing to do with market economy.

    You’re right of course to decry manipulations and injustices in the market. As with anything else we’re dealing with the consequence of the Fall. Still, not every foreign factory is a sweatshop, and not every profitable trade arrangement is the result the of market’s deck being stacked somehow. I know it’s somewhat fashionable to point out that the “free market” isn’t “free” in the strict sense, and I get it.

    My point was that business tends to do what is most efficient in the present circumstance. We buy food and goods that were made thousands of miles away because it is often cheapest to do so, even if that sounds counterintuitive (because we account too greatly for the cost of transport). There is the added benefit to the manufacturing nations, given reasonable — and preferably voluntary — wage and working standards. Maybe they don’t have unions, but at least they can earn money making stuff; will Burma buy the Nike shirts they’re sewing in Thailand? And perhaps even a benefit to the environment.

    Here’s an interesting article on the environmental impact of large-scale farming versus local growing of produce: http://tinyurl.com/pu982a

  • Zoe Romanowsky

    It’s important to expose data distortions and junk science. Unfortunately, it gives people the excuse to lump all climate change and environmental concerns in that category. (I suppose most people look to justify positions they already espouse.)

    The Himalayas may not be melting at the rate these guys claimed, but the polar caps are melting, no one disputes that. And there are many man-made environmental problems even outside of the carbon footprint arguments: Deforestation, pollution of waterways, over-fishing, destruction of watersheds, etc, etc. Many serious problems that are going to seriously affect survival if not taken seriously. And climate change is happening, no matter what percentage of it is man-made, so we still need to deal with it and anticipate what it may mean.

  • DC

    Condemning the environmental movement because it

  • Aaron

    Climate change is always happening, certainly. Ice ages happened. But if human activity isn’t causing this warm spell, as it didn’t cause the warm spell around 1500 or the “little ice age” a century later, then human activity probably can’t stop it, either, at least not with known technology.

    Since there’s no proactive technological solution to even consider, the only “solution” is to reduce human activity. With billions of people in places like India and China who are just getting started on the road to industrialization, making everyone in the USA drive an economy car and use an electric lawn mower will be a drop in the bucket compared to the increased energy those folks will use, and they’re no more picky about the environmental effects than your average 1800s US industrialist was. That’s why there’s so much overlap because the eco-radical crowd and the abortion and sterilization crowd: the only serious way to reduce human activity is to reduce the number of humans.

    If we could drop the temperature the few degrees that we’ve supposedly raised it, it’s still questionable whether it would be wise to do so. Warmer temperatures mean more food (and forests) can be grown and more people can be fed. In most parts of the world, we’re actually lucky to be living during a warm cycle.

  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    Two good points you’ve made there, Aaron.

    -Climate change protocols are too often code for curbing Western economic growth. This appeals both to the non-Western world (particularly emerging competitors like China and India) and to self-loathing Westerners wracked by Rich White Guilt.

    -I too don’t get why the majority of our efforts aren’t being directed at coping with, perhaps even capitalizing on, global warming (that is, if the earth isn’t cooling now instead) rather than futilely trying to stop it. There’s a peculiar reactionary tendency to the AGW crowd — why can’t we embrace the change? It would certainly be cheaper.

  • DC
  • August Driscoll

    Condemning the environmental movement because it

MENU