Glacier melt controversy continues
By Juliet Eilperin
A couple of updates on the Himalayan glacier controversy: The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has apologized for the mistake, and a prominent glacier expert said glaciers there are retreating, but not faster than elsewhere in the world.
In a formal statement on the matter Wednesday, the IPCC said its panel's officials "regret the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance."
And in a telephone press conference Wednesday afternoon, Lonnie G. Thompson -- a research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University -- said there is not evidence that Himalayan glaciers are retreating faster than in other areas of the world.
"In the big picture, I would say that's probably not correct," he said.
But Thompson and another high-profile climate scientist, Benjamin D. Santer, research scientist in program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, defended the idea that global warming is causing glaciers to melt worldwide.
But the two researchers did acknowledge the 2007 IPCC report's projection of total glacier melt in the Himalayas by 2035 was a mistake, and said other errors may have crept into the landmark scientific assessment.
"Scientists are human, mistakes occur," Santer told reporters. "But science is capable of identifying and correcting these mistakes and moving on."
Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the fact that this error made it into the IPCC report, raises larger questions about the current state of climate science. "The lesson to take away from this is this is not an isolated incident," said Ebell, whose group receives funding from energy companies. "This is a pattern of hyping the evidence to advance the alarmist agenda."
For another climate skeptic's take on the subject, click here.
Still, Thompson said that are gaps in scientists' understanding of glacier melt on the southern slopes of the Himalayas because there are 15,000 glaciers there and they haven't been comprehensively measured. "One of the big problems is the lack of observations in that part of the world."
He added that when it comes to surveys of glaciers on the northern slopes, 95 percent of those surveyed are retreating, which is comparable to other regions of the world.
Juliet Eilperin| January 20, 2010; 3:24 PM ET Save & Share:
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