The Washington Post asks: “Recently, a U.N. scientific report was found to have included a false conclusion about the melting of Himalayan glaciers. That followed the release of stolen e-mails last year, which showed climate scientists commiserating over problems with their data. Is there a broader meaning in these two incidents, and should they cause the public to be more skeptical about the underlying science of climate change?”
You can’t call them isolated incidents now that they are coming in droves.
It is clear that global warming science has been hijacked by a subset of researchers who have crossed the line into advocacy and alarmism. The cache of climategate e-mails alone reveals a number of scandals – key researchers and institutions manipulating temperature data to gin up a bigger warming trend, refusing to allow independent researchers to see the raw data, and strategizing to keep skeptical views out of the scientific literature and official reports. Climategate is just beginning to unfold.
Now, the UN’s vaunted 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report turns out to contain a whopper. The report describes as “very high” the likelihood that continued global warming will cause the glaciers in Himalayan Mountains to disappear by 2035 if not sooner. Amazingly, it turns out that the source of this claim is an unsupported statement of one researcher that appeared in a magazine article. Worse yet, the IPCC report’s editors knew full well that the assertion was based on speculation rather than peer reviewed science, and in fact it was disputed by several scientists when it appeared in early drafts. Nonetheless, it was left in for political reasons.
Similar shenanigans appear to have gone on with the IPCC’s claim that damage from hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters has worsened because of global warming. Like the Himalayan glacier melt assertion, it was based on the claim of a single researcher who had not published it in the scientific literature, and who now disassociates himself from the way it was used in the IPCC report. Indeed, when he did publish the study, he concluded that there was “insufficient evidence” of a link between warming and natural disaster damage.
There is a clear pattern with these revelations. It’s the very scariest claims — rapidly melting Himalayan glaciers threatening a billion people with flooding and then with drought, an increase in Katrina-scale disasters, and others – that are the ones on the shakiest ground. Virtually everything the public has been told about global warming that sounds terrifying is not true, and what is true falls well short of being terrifying.
There is a reason why the gloom and doom, however dubious and unscientific, keeps getting advanced by those who support an expansive global warming agenda. Without such hype, the threat of global warming does not justify the multi-trillion dollar costs and multi-million job losses of attempts to deal with it.
There is another lesson from Glaciergate — it is high time to retire the distinction between the “skeptics” and the “consensus science.” All along, several so-called skeptics have complained about the Himalayan hyperbole. As is typical, they were denigrated as outliers or even kooks for doing so. As recently as a few weeks ago, Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, derided such critiques as “voodoo science,” until he reluctantly had to admit they were true.
By now, the skeptics have proven to be right about way too much, and the putative “consensus science” wrong about way too much, for the labels to make any sense. In fact, if there are additional revelations like Glaciergate (and it looks like claims of global warming devastating the Amazon rainforest may be next), it might make more sense for the labels to be reversed.