photo: futureatlas.com via flickr.
The IPCC has issued a statement regarding the inclusion of a non-peer reviewed speculative statement about the rate of Himalayan glacier melting, and the assertion that some could be entirely gone by 2035, in the latest assessment report from 2007. It's a short statement, so here it is in its entirety, followed by another as to why this inaccuracy of this one particular statement doesn't change the underlying situation much at all:IPCC Statement on the melting of Himalayan glaciers
The Synthesis Report, the concluding document of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (page 49) stated: "Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century, reducing water availability, hydropower potential, and changing seasonality of flows in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain ranges (e.g. Hindu-Kush, Himalaya, Andes), where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives."
This conclusion is robust, appropriate, and entirely consistent with the underlying science and the broader IPCC assessment.
It has, however, recently come to our attention that a paragraph in the 938-page Working Group II contribution to the underlying assessment refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.
The Chair, Vice-Chairs, and Co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance. This episode demonstrates that the quality of the assessment depends on absolute adherence to the IPCC standards, including thorough review of "the quality and validity of each source before incorporating results from the source into an IPCC Report". We reaffirm our strong commitment to ensuring this level of performance.
Natural Causes Simply Can't Explain These Changes
Just in case you needed yet another reassertion of the fact that Himalayan glaciers are indeed receding, as are others around the world, and why this is cause for concern, here's some reaction to the IPCC reassessment from Dr. Ben Santer from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: "The climate system is telling us a consistent story of human influence. We can read that story in many different aspects of climate change--in records of temperature, rainfall, ice, snow, sea level, and even in the behavior of extreme events. The message in this story is that natural causes alone simply cannot explain these changes."
Glaciers Have No Political Agenda
Saying that "Glaciers have no political agenda," glaciologist Dr Lonnie Thompson of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State went further: "Over the last 30 years I've watched many glaciers shrink in South America," Dr. Thompson said. "But it's not isolated to that continent; it's happening globally in Europe, North America, China, and the Himalayas. More than 90% of the world's glaciers are receding."
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