The news that Himalayan glaciers are not melting at all, let alone being set to disappear by 2035 has been exercising all and sundry today. Tom Chivers at the Telegraph has a somewhat snide piece setting out the facts.
Well, some of the facts.
The particular aspect that I want to look at is that ideaa that the glaciers will have disappeared by 2035. The story has been set out in great detail by EU Referendum. We know
- that glaciologist Syed Hasnain had, since 1999, repeatedly claimed a date of 2035 for Himalayan glaciers to disappear
- that Fred Pearce confirmed the 2035 figure with Hasnain and then incorporated it in a New Scientist article the same year
- that this was then picked up and reported by the Evening Standard
- that Pearce repeated the 2035 figure in the Independent in 2000
- that Hasnain repeated the 2035 figure in an interview with an Indian paper in 2001
- that Hasnain disseminated the 2035 figure widely in 2004
- that Hasnain continued to repeat the 2035 figure widely in 2006 and 2007 and 2008
The 2035 date appears to have been added to the Second ORder Draft of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. The only document cited in the section on Himalayan glaciers was Hasnain 2002.
The IPCC's expert reviewers raised the issue of the 2035 claim:
- one reviewer pointed out that the report was simultaneously claiming disappearance and shrinkage by 2035
- the government of Japan asked what the level of confidence was in the 2035 figure and pointed out that it was uncited
- a UK reviewer pointed out that some Himalayan glaciers are growing
[Update:after the review, but before publication, another scientist wrote advising of errors in the report, including the 2035 one. Other parts of the letter were acted on, but not the claim about the Himalayan glaciers.]
Despite this, no changes were made to the text. In fact, when V.K Raina challenged the 2035 date in his report on Himalayan glaciers for the Indian government, the IPCC accused him of mischief and defended 2035 as a good estimate of when the glaciers would be gone.
Now let's look at how Tom Chivers reports the strange case of the 2035 date.
When the IPCC stupidly included a prediction that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear entirely by 2035 – apparently because some idiot had misread "2350" in a non-peer-reviewed hydrology article – the error was not picked up by any of the army of internet sceptics, but by a glaciologist at Ontario's Trent University called Prof J Graham Cogley.
"Misread"? Oh dear.
Rather than everyone simply piling on, I shall ask Tom if he cares to comment.
Tom Chivers tweets that he is going to add a caveat to his article. He says the 2035 figure was "conceivably misrepresented". I think that's probably fair.