All too often, people mistake other people’s confidence in a particular proposition as sufficient evidence for they themselves to believe the proposition. No where is this more evident than in global warming. But the recent IPCC flipflop on Himalayan Glaciers provides an excellent example of just how flimsy the basis can be for other people’s public confidence.
A leading climate scientist [IPCC Chariman Rajendra Pachauri] today accused the Indian environment ministry of “arrogance” after the release of a government report claiming that there is no evidence climate change has caused “abnormal” shrinking of Himalayan glaciers….
Today Ramesh denied any such risk existed: “There is no conclusive scientific evidence to link global warming with what is happening in the Himalayan glaciers.” The minister added although some glaciers are receding they were doing so at a rate that was not “historically alarming”.
However, Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, told the Guardian: “We have a very clear idea of what is happening. I don’t know why the minister is supporting this unsubstantiated research. It is an extremely arrogant statement.”…
Pachauri dismissed the report saying it was not “peer reviewed” and had few “scientific citations”.
“With the greatest of respect this guy retired years ago and I find it totally baffling that he comes out and throws out everything that has been established years ago.”…
In response Pachauri said that such statements were reminiscent of “climate change deniers and school boy science”.
So Pachauri is coming out firing. His science is well-established, theirs is “school boy” and not “peer reviewed.” Pachauri not only says this guy is wrong, but he that he is a bad guy for even bringing it up. You see him actively questioning his motives, as if this is somehow a scheme and Pachauri just hasn’t figured it out yet.
But now, two months later, we know exactly the quality of science that Pachauri was defending:
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.
In effect, Pachauri was defending a proposition based on, effectively, a cocktail-party quality speculation reported in a telephone interview in a throwaway, non-peer-reviewed article in a popular magazine.