Don’t Mistake Other People’s Public Confidence for “Proof”

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.

Just 2 months ago, IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri was saying this:

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.

  • Ike

    Your final conclusion about Pachauri’s logical faults have not been peer-reviewed. Therefore, you are wrong. 😉

  • Simon le Rosbif

    “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.”

    …unless you include all religions. Oh, I’m sorry, you just have!

    Keep up the good work.

  • Greg

    Pachauri is simply defending his extensive investments and economic interests. Those interests do not include acknowledging anything that might reduce the warming alarmism.

  • hunter

    There is no reason to believe, now that we can see GISS, crugate and the IPCC, that critical reviews of all orgs supporting AGW alarmism will not show similar or worse.

  • hunter

    BTW, reading the conclusion of the report brings the reader to a misleading claim:
    That this latest failure is somehow more important than the crugate leaks and the systemic corruption they expose, or the falsification of the hockey stick, or the deliberately introduced heat bias into the record, etc. etc.
    This IPCC scam is just part of the pattern of false claims that AGW promoters make.

  • Spen

    Your quote –‘A leading climate scientist [IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri’

    He’s not a climate scientist. He was a railway engineer with Indian Railways.

  • hunter

    Spen,
    And he receives big money from big ooi, too!
    But he believes in AGW, so he is thereby completely qualified for AGW promotion.

  • NancyL

    Pielke Jr has a timeline which includes that the erroneous source for the number joined Pachauri’s TERI. You may now scream.

  • Jim Turner

    So the IPCC publish statements based on ‘Chinese whispers!’ It is an insight into the mentality within the IPCC that they publish a statement that is unsubstantiated and unresearched, just accepted because it supports their position. Clearly it never crossed their minds that someone else might do their job for them and check it out. What I can’t understand is now that all the wheels seem to have come off the AGW wagon, how does it still roll on?

  • Ike

    Jim, that’s easy.

    The AGW bandwagon never relied on wheels. It is propelled along using the same “frictionless inertia technology” as The Can.

    You know… “The Can” that George W. Bush “kicked down the road,” that somehow will never stop sliding forward.

  • Pete Ballard

    It’s like everyday is Christmas. I can’t wait to see what gets unwrapped tomorrow. Keep up the good work.

  • ADiff

    Methinks all the more reason to only vote for candidates who show a willingness to be skeptical enough to tell a silk purse from a sow’s ear……

    This story’s amazing enough without even considering we’re talking about such egregious ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ by the Chairman of the IPCC.

    If there were any remaining doubt the IPCC was a purely political body, without deserving even a shred of scientific credibility, this story removes it.

  • An Inquirer

    Perhaps related to the Public Confidence of Others, I think there is a remarkable story coming out of Australia. I believe no exaggeration to point out that CSIRO has been particularly alarmist among the AGW movement. Now, they have issued a statement that there was “no evidence linking climate change to drought in eastern Australia. . . At this stage, we’d prefer to say we’re talking about natural variability. The science is not sufficiently advanced to say it’s climate change, one way or the other. The jury is still out on that,” Dr Post said.

    I could go on to clarify many misconceptions about droughts in Australia, but suffice it to say that this statement from CSIRO is truly noteworthy. It would be remarkable progress if government agencies start being the source of reliable information in the area of climate issues.