There’s a piece in The Economist this week on the mistakes about glaciers in one part of one volume of the fourth assessment report of the IPCC. An extract, with source links:
The [IPCC] WG-II case study cites a report by the WWF [pdf][see note below], an environmental group, as the source of the date 2035. The WWF in turn cites a study presented in 1999 to the International Commission on Snow and Ice (ICSI) [pdf] by Syed Hasnain, chair of ICSI’s working group on Himalayan glaciers.
But the passage about 2035 that the WWF report quotes comes not from that ICSI report (which was unpublished) but from an article that appeared around the same time in Down to Earth, an Indian magazine. This article was based in part on an interview with Dr Hasnain, who was also quoted by New Scientist as saying it was possible the glaciers would be gone in 40 years. The article in Down to Earth claims that the area covered by glaciers would drop from 500,000km2 to 100,000km2 by 2035, a claim found in the IPCC report but not in the WWF report. This suggests the Down to Earth article was itself a source for the IPCC, though Murari Lal, a retired Indian academic, now a consultant, who was one of the four co-ordinating lead authors of the chapter, says this was not the case.
There are two further problems with the area figure. One is that the research in question [“Variations of snow and ice in the past and present on a global and regional scale” UNESCO, ed V M Kotlyakov, 1996 pdf] was looking at all the world’s glaciers, not just the Himalaya’s. The other is that the research was looking at the prospects for 2350, not 2035.
Since that piece was written, it has been pointed out to me that the error in the WWF report was apparently corrected by the WWF in 2005.
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