Glaciergate meltdown October 30, 2010Posted by honestclimate in Discussions.
Tags: climate change, global warming
by John McLean
Quadrant Online, October 27, 2010
Flaws in the IPCC report writing process
The IPCC’s assessment reports are widely regarded as the ultimate references on climate matters. Behind this esteem is a belief that teams of scientists impartially evaluated a vast pool of information and together drafted and refined an impeccable document for each report. The gulf between this belief and reality is in fact huge.
The problems were highlighted by “Glaciergate”, the IPCC’s flawed comments about the Himalayan glaciers.
This section of the IPCC report opened with comments about the area of Himalayan glaciers covering 3 million hectares, which is 30,000 sq. km., and said shortly afterwards that the likelihood of them disappearing by 2035 is very high. In the next paragraph the report says that the glaciers are predicted to shrink from 500,000 sq. km. to 100,000 sq. km. by year 2035, which contradicts the earlier statements both in extent and state of retreat.
It appears that most of the IPCC’s text was a verbatim copy of passages from an article in the Indian magazine Down to Earth, not the source given in the IPCC report, with quotes in that article becoming factual statements in the IPCC report. The retreat by the year 2035 was mentioned in the article but trace the source of that information we find it was an incorrect transcription of year 2350 and the shrinkage to 100,000 sq. km. was a comment about the total of all glaciers outside the polar regions.
How could these errors and inconsistencies appear in the IPCC report, supposedly the authority on climate matters?
The answer lies in the IPCC’s procedures and in the tasks assigned to authors, reviewers and review editors of the reports.
No-one is assigned the work of policing IPCC procedures and the only people to check authors’ work are the expert reviewers, whose role is to “comment on the accuracy and completeness of the … content and … balance of the drafts … according to their own knowledge and experience.” IPCC procedures fail to mention what happens if no experts are available in a particular subject area, so presumably any review is ad hoc and by people less than expert in the subject.
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