Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Glacier melting

In The Skeptical Environmentalist, author Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the claims made by environmentalists turn out to be based on faulty data when subject to further investigation. One example from the book involves soil erosion, and claims that vast swathes of topsoil are being lost each year. Lomborg says that when he investigated such claims that most of them were based on one publication which was in turned based on one study which examined erosion of one acre of land in Belgium. (I may be wrong on the country and size of the acreage -- it's been a while since I read the book -- but it was a small plot of land). That study, in turn, was extrapolated all out of proportion to estimate topsoil erosion on a global basis.

I thought about that when I read this article from today's New York Times:
A much-publicized estimate from a United Nations panel about the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers from climate change is coming under fire as a gross exaggeration.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2007 — the same year it shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore — that it was “very likely” that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 if current warming trends continued.

That date has been much quoted and a cause for enormous consternation, since hundreds of millions of people in Asia rely on ice and snow melt from these glaciers for their water supply.

The panel, the United Nations’ scientific advisory body on climate change, ranks its conclusions using a probability scale in which “very likely” means there is greater than 90 percent chance that an event will occur.

But it now appears that the estimate about Himalayan glacial melt was based on a decade-old interview of one climate scientist in a science magazine, The New Scientist, and that hard scientific evidence to support that figure is lacking. The scientist, Dr. Syed Hasnain, a glacier specialist with the government of the Indian state of Sikkim and currently a fellow at the TERI research institute in Delhi, said in an e-mail message that he was “misquoted” about the 2035 estimate in The New Scientist article. He has more recently said that his research suggests that only small glaciers could disappear entirely.
It's stuff like this which makes me take a rather jaundiced view of global warming alarmism.

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