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Roundup 2/18: Setting the Record Straight Edition

18 February 2010 5:02 pm
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David Albright, the nuclear proliferation expert, wants to set the record straight on what his studies indicate about uranium enrichment in Iran. Yesterday's ScienceInsider suggested that unproductive centrifuges are a significant problem. But Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, D.C., wants to stress a contrary message he and colleague Jacqueline Shire deliver in an 11 February analysis. Despite inefficiencies, they write, "Starting with natural uranium, Iran could likely still produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in a year; it could do so considerably faster if it started with its stock of already produced low enriched uranium."

Nailing down an error in the IPCC 2007 report on climate change--the prediction that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035—continues to occupy the experts. Today Nick Sundt, communications director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), flags a statement in Monday's ScienceInsider which he says is "incorrect." Sundt also dissects the case in his own blog. He writes to ScienceInsider:

In your "Note about IPCC/Climategate Criticism Roundup," under "Glaciergate" you say that "the flimsy basis for the `very high' statement in the 2007 report is detailed here, in a letter to Science by a Canadian expert on glaciers."

Referring to the two key sentences at the core of the dispute, they say in their letter "the first WG‑II sentence above derives from a World Wildlife Fund report (3), which cites a news story (4) about an unpublished study (5) that neither compares Himalayan glaciers with other rates of recession nor estimates a date for disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. Himalayan rates of recession in the WG‑II report (1) are not exceptional (6). In the second WG‑II sentence, "its" cannot refer to Himalayan glaciers [area about 33,000 km2 (7)], and may refer to the world total area of glaciers and ice caps. A bibliographic search suggests that the second WG‑II sentence is copied inaccurately from (8), in which the predicted date for shrinkage of the world total from 500,000 to 100,000 km2 is 2350, not 2035."

In fact, that letter to Science is incorrect and I've told the authors that. The source for both of the IPCC sentences on Himalayan glaciers very clearly was a 1999 article in an online Indian publication called Down to Earth and that is WWF's position (see Statement from WWF Regarding the IPCC and the Strength of our Science. http://www.wwfblogs.org/climate/content/statement‑wwf‑ipcc‑feb201)

The origin of the IPCC text is thoroughly documented here:

* IPCC slips on the ice with statement about Himalayan glaciers. By Rick Piltz in Climate Science Watch, 19 January 2010

* Anatomy of IPCC's Mistake on Himalayan Glaciers and the year 2035. By Bidisha Banerjee and George Collins in Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, 4 February 2010.

Had the paragraph in question been properly referenced, with quotation marks used for text taken directly from Down to Earth, instead of saying this ....

"Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005)."

...

The IPCC would have said:

The International Commission for Snow and Ice said "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world [see Table 10.9] and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 is very high"(qtd. in Down to Earth, 1999). Syed Iqbal Hasnain of the School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University says "if the Earth keeps getting warmer at the current rate, it might happen much sooner" (qtd. in Down to Earth, 1999). "Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035" said V M Kotlyakov in Variations of Snow and Ice in the past and at present on a Global and Regional Scale (qtd. in Down to Earth, 1999)."

Similarly, Table 10.9 in the same chapter also should have listed Down to Earth, 1999, as the source. The table and text contained in Down to Earth contained factual errors that were reproduced in the IPCC report and not addressed.

Nick

Nick Sundt
Communications Director for Climate Change
World Wildlife Fund