NY Post distorts facts to claim climate change science is "unraveling"

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

A New York Post editorial baselessly asserted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) "bogus" statement about the date by which Himalayan glaciers will likely disappear was a "key finding" in order to claim that climate change science is "unraveling." In fact, scientists have noted that the IPCC report's claim should not be described as a central finding because it was not included in the IPCC's larger summaries; moreover, the editorial distorted several of climate scientist Phil Jones' statements on warming trends to suggest that they undermine the consensus that human activities are contributing to higher global temperatures.

Post claims IPCC glacier statement was "key finding"

From the February 22 New York Post editorial:

Looks like the great climate-change unraveling came none too soon.

Three states last week filed papers challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's scheme to use global-warming fears to seize sweeping power over much of the US economy.

Officials in Texas, Virginia and Alabama charge that recent revelations challenging the scientific "consensus" that humans are causing catastrophic warming also undermine the EPA's decision to regulate greenhouse gasses as a pollutant -- which would give it inordinate power over nearly every industry in the country.

But what about that warming? Certainly, it hasn't been a good few months for climate alarmists.

Among the recent revelations:

* Leaked e-mails in December showed that climate scientists at Britain's formerly prestigious Climate Research Unit conspired to hide inconvenient data while attempting to intimidate warming skeptics.

* A key finding of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 along with Al Gore -- was revealed last month to be utterly bogus.

The IPCC had claimed, with no evidence beyond a citation from a mass-market science magazine, that global warming would cause Himalayan glaciers to disappear by 2035.

* Then, this month, CRU director Phil Jones admitted that temperatures in the Middle Ages may have been even higher than they are today; for technical reasons, this was a huge blow to the alarmists' case. And Jones also confessed that there's been no statistically significant warming in the past 15 years.

In fact, scientists say glacier statement was not a central finding in the IPCC report

RealClimate: Himalayan glacier citation "cannot be described as a 'central claim' of the IPCC." Climate scientists wrote in a January 19 post at RealClimate.org that the erroneous statement on Himalayan glaciers "cannot be described as a 'central claim' of the IPCC" because it "did not make it into the summary for policy makers, nor the overall synthesis report." From the post:

The statement, in a chapter on climate impacts in Asia, was that the likelihood of the Himalayan glaciers "disappearing by the year 2035″ was "very high" if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate (WG 2, Ch. 10, p493), and was referenced to a World Wildlife Fund 2005 report. Examining the drafts and comments (available here), indicates that the statement was barely commented in the reviews, and that the WWF (2005) reference seems to have been a last minute addition (it does not appear in the First- or Second- Order Drafts). This claim did not make it into the summary for policy makers, nor the overall synthesis report, and so cannot be described as a 'central claim' of the IPCC. However, the statement has had some press attention since the report particularly in the Indian press, at least according to Google News, even though it was not familiar to us before last month.

It is therefore obvious that this error should be corrected (via some kind of corrigendum to the WG2 report perhaps), but it is important to realise that this doesn't mean that Himalayan glaciers are doing just fine. They aren't, and there may be serious consequences for water resources as the retreat continues. See also this review paper (Ren et al, 2006) on a subset of these glaciers.

Union of Concerned Scientists: Glacier claim "was not mentioned in its highly visible summaries for policymakers." The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) also noted that the data "was not mentioned in its highly visible summaries for policymakers" and stated that "[p]resumably the working group did not consider the 2035 Himalayan glaciers claim to be reliable enough for its policymaker summary." From UCS' statement on the allegations:

The claim was part of the full review of climate science and impacts provided in the dense, 3,000-page report, but was not mentioned in its highly visible summaries for policymakers. Presumably the working group did not consider the 2035 Himalayan glaciers claim to be reliable enough for its policymaker summary. The statement in the summary was much less specific. "If current warming rates are maintained," it stated, "Himalayan glaciers could decay at very rapid rates."

Given the sprawling nature of the IPCC, it is not surprising to find relatively minor errors. Such mistakes do not undermine the overall conclusions of the organization's reports, which are subject to an exhaustive review process.

Scientists' studies show glaciers throughout the world are melting rapidly

World Glacier Monitoring Service data show that glaciers are thinning. The World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) -- in coordination with the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) -- issued a report in March 2008 showing that, according to a UNEP press release, "Data from close to 30 reference glaciers in nine mountain ranges indicate that between the years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 the average rate of melting and thinning more than doubled." The study looked at 30 glaciers in the Alps, the Andes, the Cascade Mountains, Svalbard, Alaska, Scandinavia, Altai, Caucasus, and Tien Shan. WGMS later updated its data for 2007-2008 and asserted that the "new data continues the global trend in strong ice loss over the past few decades."

2009 study shows Swiss glaciers melted by 12 percent over the past decade. Scientists at the ETH Zurich university reportedly issued a study in 2009 showing that Swiss glaciers had retreated by 12 percent over the past decade. A Reuters article quoted Daniel Farinotti, research assistant at the ETH, as saying, "The trend is definitely that glaciers are melting faster now. Since the end of the 1980s, they have lost more and more mass more quickly." The article also noted that "Swiss glaciers have lost 9 cubic km of ice since 1999, the warmest period of the past 150 years, with the most dramatic decline coming in 2003 when they shrunk by 3.5 percent in 2003."

Ohio State glaciologist Lonnie Thompson says glaciers all over the world are melting. According to a January 20 Guardian article, "Lonnie Thompson, a glaciologist at Ohio State University, said there is strong evidence from a variety of sources of significant melting of glaciers -- from the area around Kilimanjaro in Africa to the Alps, the Andes, and the icefields of Antarctica because of a warming climate. Ice is also disappearing at a faster rate in recent decades, he said." From the article:

From the Alps to the Andes, the world's glaciers are retreating at an accelerated pace -- despite the recent controversy over claims by the United Nations' body of experts, leading climate scientists said today.

Lonnie Thompson, a glaciologist at Ohio State University, said there is strong evidence from a variety of sources of significant melting of glaciers - from the area around Kilimanjaro in Africa to the Alps, the Andes, and the icefields of Antarctica because of a warming climate. Ice is also disappearing at a faster rate in recent decades, he said.

"It is not any single glacier," he said. "It is very clear that these glaciers are behaving in a similar fashion."

[...]

But there was evidence gathered from a variety of sources that there has been significant melting of glaciers - from the area around Kilimanjaro in Africa to the Alps, the Andes and the icefields of Antarctica - and that the rate of ice loss was accelerating.

"Those changes -- the acceleration of the retreat of the glaciers and the fact that it is a global response -- is the concerning part of all this. It is not any single glacier," he said

Scientists now had evidence collected over a long period of that decline from samples of the ice core and even collections of plants from mountains that were left ice-free for the first time in more than 5,000 years, Thompson said.

The World Glacier Monitoring Service shows a similar picture. In a 2005 survey of 442 glaciers, 398 -- or 90% -- were retreating, 18 were stationary and 26 were advancing.

"Glacier expert" Michael Zemp: "Glaciers are the best proof that climate change is happening." According to a CNN.com article, glacier expert Michael Zemp said he "believes that the errors shouldn't shake people's belief in climate science." It quoted him as saying, "Glaciers are the best proof that climate change is happening. This is happening on a global scale. They can translate very small changes in the climate into a visible signal."

Post claimed Jones said Middle Ages "may have been" warmer than today and "confessed that there's been no statistically significant warming" in 15 years

From the February 22 New York Post editorial:

* Then, this month, CRU director Phil Jones admitted that temperatures in the Middle Ages may have been even higher than they are today; for technical reasons, this was a huge blow to the alarmists' case. And Jones also confessed that there's been no statistically significant warming in the past 15 years.

Jones said available data is insufficient to establish that Medieval Warm Period was "global in extent"

Jones: "Records from the tropical regions and the Southern Hemisphere" insufficient to support claim that Medieval Warm Period was global rather than regional. During a Q&A with BBC, Jones stated that "[t]here is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period [MWP] was global in extent or not," and, contrary to the Post's claim that Jones said "temperatures in the Middle Ages may have been even higher than they are today," Jones stated that "[f]or it to be global in extent the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern Hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions." Jones further said: "We know from the instrumental temperature record that the two hemispheres do not always follow one another. We cannot, therefore, make the assumption that temperatures in the global average will be similar to those in the northern hemisphere." From the Q&A:

[BBC:] G - There is a debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was global or not. If it were to be conclusively shown that it was a global phenomenon, would you accept that this would undermine the premise that mean surface atmospheric temperatures during the latter part of the 20th Century were unprecedented?

[JONES:] There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not. The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia. For it to be global in extent the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern Hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions.

Of course, if the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today (based on an equivalent coverage over the NH and SH) then obviously the late-20th century warmth would not be unprecedented. On the other hand, if the MWP was global, but was less warm that today, then current warmth would be unprecedented.

We know from the instrumental temperature record that the two hemispheres do not always follow one another. We cannot, therefore, make the assumption that temperatures in the global average will be similar to those in the northern hemisphere.

Lack of "statistically significant warming" in recent years doesn't undermine climate change science since longer-term data establishes warming trend

Jones: "Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms" is "less likely for shorter periods." When asked in the BBC interview, "Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming," Jones stated:

Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

RealClimate.org: "It is extremely difficult to establish a statistically significant trend over a timer interval as short as 15 years." In a February 15 post, RealClimate.org's staff, which is comprised of several working climate scientists, similarly stated that "it is extremely difficult to establish a statistically significant trend over a time interval as short as 15 years."

Met Office: Climate shows "continued variability, but an underlying trend of warming in the previously steady long-term averages." The Met Office states: "In 1998 the world experienced the warmest year since records began. In the decade since, however, this high point has not been surpassed. Some have seized on this as evidence that global warming has stopped, or even that we have entered a period of 'global cooling'. This is far from the truth and climate scientists have, in fact, recognised that a temporary slowdown in warming is possible even under increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions." [Met Office, accessed 9/22/09]

The Met Office further notes:

After three decades of warming caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions, why would there suddenly be a period of relative temperature stability -- despite more greenhouse gases being emitted than ever before? This is because of what is known as internal climate variability. In the same way that our weather can be warm and sunny one day, cool and wet the next, so our climate naturally varies from year to year, and decade to decade.

Before the twentieth century, when man-made greenhouse gas emissions really took off, there was an underlying stability to global climate. The temperature varied from year to year, or decade to decade, but stayed within a certain range and averaged out to an approximately steady level.

In the twentieth century we have had continued variability, but an underlying trend of warming in the previously steady long-term averages. This is what we observed in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Now we have seen a decade of little change in the average global temperature -- but that doesn't mean climate change has stopped, it's just another part of natural variability.

2000-2009 was warmest decade on record. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.K. Met Office, and the World Meteorological Organisation have all stated that 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record for the globe.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
New York Post
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