Monday, January 25, 2010

IPCC author downplays climate report errors

Samuel Cardwell in the Sydney Morning Herald, via AAP: A key author of the IPCC report on climate change has played down the significance of errors found in the 2007 report, saying they do not undermine the case for global warming. The report erroneously claimed Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035 and exaggerated the link between climate change and extreme weather.

Professor Andy Pitman, co-director of the University of NSW climate change research centre and key author of the IPCC's 2001 and 2007 reports, says the discovery of the errors does not undermine the science. "As far as I understand it, there are two paragraphs that have been questioned in a 1600-page document," he told ABC radio. "We ought to be talking about the other 1599 pages that nobody has found any problems with."

The prediction that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035 has now been shown to be unfounded but Prof Pitman says while the date may be wrong the outcome will be the same. "It doesn't say that the Himalayan glaciers are not vulnerable to climate change or are not melting or are not melting at an accelerated rate. It is the date of 2035 that is in error," he said.

What is more worrying to Prof Pitman is the revelation that the chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, may have benefited from the errors by receiving funding for his research institute. "I have to admit that it looks extremely bad," he said. "But looking bad and actually undermining the broad conclusions that are in the IPCC report are two very different things."

…Prof Pitman believes concerted efforts by sceptics to attack and misinform the community are working, likening them to the efforts of tobacco lobbyists who deny the health effects of smoking. "My personal view is that climate scientists are losing the fight with the sceptics," he said. "They're [the sceptics] doing a damn good job. I think they're doing a superb job of misinforming and miscommunicating (to) the general public, the state and the federal governments."…

A smoke ring, formed with a smoke chamber at Bonn University, used here to refer to climate change denialists' campaign against the IPCC (just so the literal-minded don't get confused). Image shot by Traitor, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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