February 5, 2010
Credibility is what’s really melting
by Mark Steyn
Take the disappearing Himalayan glaciers.Turns out that ‘research’ was idle speculation.
Whenever I write about “climate change,” a week or two later there’s a flurry of letters whose general line is: la-la-la can’t hear you. Dan Gajewski of Ottawa provided a typical example in our Dec. 28 issue. I’d written about the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit’s efforts to “hide the decline,” and mentioned that Phil Jones, their head honcho, had now conceded what I’d been saying for years—that there has been no “global warming” since 1997. Tim Flannery, Australia’s numero uno warm-monger, subsequently confirmed this on Oz TV, although he never had before.
In response, Mr. Gajewski wrote to our Letters page: “Steyn’s column on climate change was one-sided, juvenile and inarticulate.”
Yes, yes, but what Steyn column isn’t? That’s just business as usual. A more pertinent question is: was any of it, you know, wrong?
Well, our reader didn’t want to get hung on footling details: “The disproportionate evidence supports the anthropogenic cause of global warming,” he concluded.
Yes, but how did the “evidence” get to be quite so “disproportionate”?
Take the Himalayan glaciers. They’re supposed to be entirely melted by 2035. The evidence is totally disproportionate, man. No wonder professor Orville Schell of Berkeley is so upset about it: “Lately, I’ve been studying the climate-change-induced melting of glaciers in the Greater Himalaya,” he wrote. “Understanding the cascading effects of the slow-motion downsizing of one of the planet’s most magnificent landforms has, to put it politely, left me dispirited.” I’ll say. Professor Schell continued: “If you focus on those Himalayan highlands, a deep sense of loss creeps over you—the kind that comes from contemplating the possible end of something once imagined as immovable, immutable, eternal . . .”
Poor chap. Still, you can’t blame him for being in the slough of despond. That magnificent landform is melting before his eyes like the illustration of the dripping ice cream cone that accompanied his eulogy for the fast vanishing glaciers. Everyone knows they’re gonna be gone in a generation. “The glaciers on the Himalayas are retreating,” said Lord Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank and author of the single most influential document on global warming. “We’re facing the risk of extreme runoff, with water running straight into the Bay of Bengal and taking a lot of topsoil with it. A few hundred square miles of the Himalayas are the source for all the major rivers of Asia—the Ganges, the Yellow River, the Yangtze—where three billion people live. That’s almost half the world’s population.” And NASA agrees, and so does the UN Environment Programme, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the World Wildlife Fund, and the respected magazine the New Scientist. The evidence is, like, way disproportionate.
But where did all these experts get the data from? Well, NASA’s assertion that Himalayan glaciers “may disappear altogether” by 2030 rests on one footnote, citing the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report from 2007.
In fact, the Fourth Assessment Report suggests 2035 as the likely arrival of Armageddon, but what’s half a decade between scaremongers? They rate the likelihood of the glaciers disappearing as “very high”—i.e., more than 90 per cent. And the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for that report, so it must be kosher, right? Well, yes, its Himalayan claims rest on a 2005 World Wildlife Fund report called “An Overview of Glaciers.”
WWF? Aren’t they something to do with pandas and the Duke of Edinburgh? True. But they wouldn’t be saying this stuff if they hadn’t got the science nailed down, would they? The WWF report relies on an article published in the New Scientist in 1999 by Fred Pearce.
That’s it? One article from 12 years ago in a pop-science mag? Oh, but don’t worry, back in 1999 Fred did a quickie telephone interview with a chap called Syed Hasnain of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. And this Syed Hasnain cove presumably knows a thing or two about glaciers.
Well, yes. But he now says he was just idly “speculating”; he didn’t do any research or anything like that.
But so what? His musings were wafted upwards through the New Scientist to the World Wildlife Fund to the IPCC to a global fait accompli: the glaciers are disappearing. Everyone knows that. You’re not a denier, are you? India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, says there was not “an iota of scientiﬁc evidence” to support the 2035 claim. Yet that proved no obstacle to its progress through the alarmist establishment. Dr. Murari Lal, the “scientist” who included the 2035 glacier apocalypse in the IPCC report, told Britain’s Mail on Sunday that he knew it wasn’t based on “peer-reviewed science” but “we thought we should put it in”—for political reasons.
I wonder what else is in that Nobel Peace Prize-winning report for no other reason than “we thought we should put it in.” Don’t forget, the IPCC’s sole source was the cuddly panda crowd over at the World Wildlife Fund. Donna Laframboise, a colleague of mine from the glory days at the National Post, did a simple search of the online version of the IPCC report and discovered dozens of citations of the WWF. It’s the sole source cited for doomsday predictions of glacier melt not only in the Himalayas but also the Andes and the Alps, as well as for a multitude of other topics, from coral reefs to avalanches. This would appear to be in breach of the IPCC’s own guidelines. The WWF is a pressure group. They’re not scientists. They’re not even numerate: one of their more startling glacier-melt claims derives entirely from an arithmetical miscalculation arising from a typing error.
Go back to that Berkeley professor mooning over the loss of that “magnificent landform” he once thought “immutable, eternal.” From his prose style, one might easily assume Orville Schell was a professor of creative writing or some such. In fact, he’s the former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism. Yet, for all the limpid fragrance of his poignant obsequies, professor Schell would seem to lack the one indispensable quality of a journalist: basic curiosity—the same curiosity that led Miss Laframboise to see just how much of the “science” in the IPCC report rested on the assertions of the panda-cuddlers. So instead, professor Schell bid a teary farewell to his beloved landform, even though the glaciers of the western Himalayas are, in fact, increasing.
Likewise, in the years since Syed Hasnain “speculated” about glacial melt, the BBC, the CBC, CNN and thousands of newspapers around the world have hired specialist Environmental Correspondents on lavish salaries. Yet not one of them gave any serious examination to the claims of the IPCC report, or the “science” on which they rested. And, now that the IPCC and WWF have conceded their error, the eco-correspondents are allowing NATO and other dupes to vacuum their records without having to explain why they fell for the scam.
V. K. Raina, of the Geological Survey of India, produced a special report demonstrating that the run-for-your-life-the-glaciers-are-melting IPCC scenario was utterly false. For his pains, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the self-aggrandizing old bruiser and former railroad engineer who serves as head honcho of the IPCC jet set, dismissed Mr. Raina’s research as “voodoo science.” He’s now been obliged to admit the voodoo was all on his side. But don’t worry. By 2008, Syed Hasnain’s decade-old casual chit-chat over the phone to a London journalist had become “settled science,” so Dr. Pachauri’s company TERI (The Energy & Resources Institute) approached the Carnegie Corporation for a grant to research “challenges to South Asia posed by melting Himalayan glaciers,” and was rewarded with half a million bucks. Which they promptly used to hire Syed Hasnain. In other words, professor Hasnain has landed a cushy gig researching solutions to an entirely non-existent global crisis he accidentally invented over a 15-minute phone call 10 years earlier. As they say in the glacier business, ice work if you can get it.
“Climate change” is not a story of climate change, which has been a fact of life throughout our planet’s history. It is a far more contemporary story about the corruption of science and “peer review” by hucksters, opportunists and global-government control-freaks. I can see what’s in it for Dr. Pachauri and professor Hasnain, and even for the lowly Environmental Correspondent enjoying a cozy sinecure at a time of newspaper cutbacks in everything from foreign bureaus to arts coverage.
But it’s hard to see what’s in it for Dan Gajewski of Ottawa and the millions of kindred spirits who’ve signed on to this racket and are determined to stick with it. Don’t be the last off a collapsing bandwagon. The scientific “consensus” is melting way faster than the glaciers.