ClimateGate: GlacierGate – IPCC Retracts Report On Glaciers – Data Fudged Again

FROM TIMES ONLINE

World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown

A WARNING that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

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 The report had not been peer reviewed or formally published in a scientific journal and it had no formal status so I reported his work on that basis.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.”

The New Scientist report was apparently forgotten until 2005 when WWF cited it in a report called An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China. The report credited Hasnain’s 1999 interview with the New Scientist. But it was a campaigning report rather than an academic paper so it was not subjected to any formal scientific review. Despite this it rapidly became a key source for the IPCC when Lal and his colleagues came to write the section on the Himalayas.

When finally published, the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study but went further, suggesting the likelihood of the glaciers melting was “very high”. The IPCC defines this as having a probability of greater than 90%.

The report read: “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.”

However, glaciologists find such figures inherently ludicrous, pointing out that most Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of feet thick and could not melt fast enough to vanish by 2035 unless there was a huge global temperature rise. The maximum rate of decline in thickness seen in glaciers at the moment is 2-3 feet a year and most are far lower.

Professor Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, said: “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.”

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”.

Last week the IPCC refused to comment so it has yet to explain how someone who admits to little expertise on glaciers was overseeing such a report. Perhaps its one consolation is that the blunder was spotted by climate scientists who quickly made it public.

The lead role in that process was played by Graham Cogley, a geographer from Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who had long been unhappy with the IPCC’s finding.

He traced the IPCC claim back to the New Scientist and then contacted Pearce. Pearce then re-interviewed Hasnain, who confirmed that his 1999 comments had been “speculative”, and published the update in the New Scientist. 

Cogley said: “The reality, that the glaciers are wasting away, is bad enough. But they are not wasting away at the rate suggested by this speculative remark and the IPCC report. The problem is that nobody who studied this material bothered chasing the trail back to the original point when the claim first arose. It is ultimately a trail that leads back to a magazine article and that is not the sort of thing you want to end up in an IPCC report.”

Pearce said the IPCC’s reliance on the WWF was “immensely lazy” and the organization need to explain itself or back up its prediction with another scientific source. Hasnain could not be reached for comment.

The revelation is the latest crack to appear in the scientific concensus over climate change. It follows the so-called climate-gate scandal, where British scientists apparently tried to prevent other researchers from accessing key date. Last week another row broke out when the Met Office criticised suggestions that sea levels were likely to rise 1.9m by 2100, suggesting much lower increases were likely.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6991177.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1

ClimateGate – FOIA Law Broken Rules British Commissioner – Global Warming Data Questioned

FROM TIMES ON LINE

January 28, 2010

Scientists in stolen e-mail scandal hid climate data

The university at the centre of the climate change row over stolen e-mails broke the law by refusing to hand over its raw data for public scrutiny.

The University of East Anglia breached the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to comply with requests for data concerning claims by its scientists that man-made emissions were causing global warming.

The Information Commissioner’s Office decided that UEA failed in its duties under the Act but said that it could not prosecute those involved because the complaint was made too late, The Times has learnt. The ICO is now seeking to change the law to allow prosecutions if a complaint is made more than six months after a breach.

The stolen e-mails , revealed on the eve of the Copenhagen summit, showed how the university’s Climatic Research Unit attempted to thwart requests for scientific data and other information, and suggest that senior figures at the university were involved in decisions to refuse the requests. It is not known who stole the e-mails.

Professor Phil Jones, the unit’s director, stood down while an inquiry took place. The ICO’s decision could make it difficult for him to resume his post.

Details of the breach emerged the day after John Beddington, the Chief Scientific Adviser, warned that there was an urgent need for more honesty about the uncertainty of some predictions. His intervention followed admissions from scientists that the rate of glacial melt in the Himalayas had been grossly exaggerated.

In one e-mail, Professor Jones asked a colleague to delete e-mails relating to the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He also told a colleague that he had persuaded the university authorities to ignore information requests under the act from people linked to a website run by climate sceptics.

A spokesman for the ICO said: “The legislation prevents us from taking any action but from looking at the emails it’s clear to us a breach has occurred.” Breaches of the act are punishable by an unlimited fine.

The complaint to the ICO was made by David Holland, a retired engineer from Northampton. He had been seeking information to support his theory that the unit broke the IPCC’s rules to discredit sceptic scientists.

In a statement, Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner at the ICO, said: “The e-mails which are now public reveal that Mr Holland’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Act makes it an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent intentionally the disclosure of requested information.”

He added: “The ICO is gathering evidence from this and other time-barred cases to support the case for a change in the law. We will be advising the university about the importance of effective records management and their legal obligations in respect of future requests for information.”

Mr Holland said: “There is an apparent Catch-22 here. The prosecution has to be initiated within six months but you have to exhaust the university’s complaints procedure before the commission will look at your complaint. That process can take longer than six months.”

The university said: “The way freedom of information requests have been handled is one of the main areas being explored by Sir Muir Russell’s independent review. The findings will be made public and we will act as appropriate on its recommendations.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7004936.ece

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ClimateGate Continues: AfricaGate – IPCC’s Claims Of Reduced Crop Yields Falsified

From: Times of London

Africagate: Top British scientist says UN panel is losing credibility

A LEADING British government scientist has warned the United Nations’ climate panel to tackle its blunders or lose all credibility.

Robert Watson, chief scientist at Defra, the environment ministry, who chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1997 to 2002, was speaking after more potential inaccuracies emerged in the IPCC’s 2007 benchmark report on global warming.

The most important is a claim that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. The claim has been quoted in speeches by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, and by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

This weekend Professor Chris Field, the new lead author of the IPCC’s climate impacts team, told The Sunday Times that he could find nothing in the report to support the claim. The revelation follows the IPCC’s retraction of a claim that the Himalayan glaciers might all melt by 2035, dubbed ‘Glaciergate’ by commentators.

The African claims could be even more embarrassing for the IPCC because they appear not only in its report on climate change impacts but, unlike the glaciers claim, are also repeated in its Synthesis Report.

This report is the IPCC’s most politically sensitive publication, distilling its most important science into a form accessible to politicians and policy makers. Its lead authors include Pachauri himself.

In it he wrote: “By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%. Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised.” The same claims have since been cited in speeches to world leaders by Pachauri and Ban.

Speaking at the 2008 global climate talks in Poznan, Poland, Pachauri said: “In some countries of Africa, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by 50% by 2020.” In a speech last July, Ban said: “Yields from rain-fed agriculture could fall by half in some African countries over the next 10 years.”

Speaking this weekend, Field said: “I was not an author on the Synthesis Report but on reading it I cannot find support for the statement about African crop yield declines.”

Watson said such claims should be based on hard evidence. “Any such projection should be based on peer-reviewed literature from computer modelling of how agricultural yields would respond to climate change. I can see no such data supporting the IPCC report,” he said.

The claims in the Synthesis Report go back to the IPCC’s report on the global impacts of climate change. It warns that all Africa faces a long-term threat from farmland turning to desert and then says of north Africa, “additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-20 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003)”.

“Agoumi” refers to a 2003 policy paper written for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian think tank. The paper was not peer-reviewed.

Its author was Professor Ali Agoumi, a Moroccan climate expert who looked at the potential impacts of climate change on Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. His report refers to the risk of “deficient yields from rain-based agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000–20 period”.

These claims refer to other reports prepared by civil servants in each of the three countries as submissions to the UN. These do not appear to have been peer-reviewed either.

The IPCC is also facing criticism over its reports on how sea level rise might affect Holland. Dutch ministers have demanded that it correct a claim that more than half of the Netherlands lies below sea level when, in reality, it is about a quarter.

The errors seem likely to bring about change at the IPCC. Field said: “The IPCC needs to investigate a more sophisticated approach for dealing with emerging errors.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7017907.ece

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