“The glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, a large number of them may disappear by 2035 because of climate change.” Such was the lede of one of countless articles about how 1.3 billion Asians were in imminent danger of first flooding and then drought. And that’s not to mention the certain extinction of the abominable snowman.
You didn’t need a Cray computer to figure that this was nonsense, that temperatures would have to more or less instantly soar to incredible heights and stay there for this to happen. (As it turns out, 18 degrees Centigrade.) But people wrote it, read it, and believed it. You’d think a magazine with the name Technology Review would know better, yet its latest issue declares: “The Himalayan glaciers that feed rivers in India, China, and other Asian countries could be gone in 25 years.”
Why did they say it? In part, because it was convenient. And in part because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said it in its Fourth Assessment Report (2007). Now the IPCC is saying, “Whoopsie!”
In a statement released on Wednesday, the group admitted “poorly substantiated estimates.” More specifically, it appears to have been based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published in 1999. That story, in turn, was based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist in Delhi. And Hasnain has since admitted his assertion “speculation” unsupported by any formal research.
The IPCC says it will “probably” issue a formal correction. “Probably?”
But admit it guys, wasn’t it fun while it lasted?