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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Climategate report may have been false; global warming isn’t

Last week, global warming naysayers found a gust of wind in their sails of dissent. As reported by a New York Times article, “”Climate Science Panel Apologizes for Himalayan Error,”” published Jan. 21, a very specific yet egregious error surfaced in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 assessment report.

The Himalayan glaciers — among the largest in the world — were projected to disappear by the year 2350. The year was incorrectly reported as 2035, an error which apparently occurred as the information moved from source to source. The report with the glaring mistake, which some are claiming was included nefariously, also earned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. 

All climate scientists would agree with Dr. Jeffrey Kargel, senior associate research scientist at the UA Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, that the mistake was “”embarrassing and damaging.”” As international coordinator for Global Land Ice Measurements from Space, Dr. Kargel explains that obtaining these measurements is no simple matter.

Dr. Kargel asserts that before information gets into an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, it “”undergoes four levels of rigorous review with intermediate drafts and reviewer comments.”” The last thing a working scientist wants is to see the credibility of their life’s work jeopardized by an irresponsible oversight.

Dissenting journalists and “”denialist”” bloggers were quick to pounce. One of the more civilized responses in the U.S. News and World Report stated that the “”supposedly authoritative report”” might have had its credibility “”undermined — perhaps disastrously.””

Indeed, the mistake was outrageous. But many experts think the mistake deserved a roll of the eyes rather than the uproar it received. Now, unfortunately, the mistake has become ammunition for a false case questioning the validity of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s findings.

Dr. Kargel assures that the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change is “”very thorough, data-rich, insight-rich and very well-reviewed and substantiated through references and data.”” Most “”evidence”” and arguments against climate change are shaky, at best, and easily debunked — but not before they are disseminated among the public.

Victims of disingenuous reporting, now doubtful of the earth’s warming trend every time there’s a cold snap, need only to refer to the International Arctic Research Center for an explanation of atmospheric circulation. Sure enough, while the winter of 2009 was particularly cold in some parts of the world, overall, the year “”tied as the second warmest year in the 130 years of global instrument temperature records,”” according to Dr. James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

According to a NASA “”Black Carbon and Aerosols”” press conference, Himalayan glaciers are already out of equilibrium with the existing climate. Fossil carbon emissions are out of control and not slowing down, and, while about half of the emitted carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceans or plants, many scientists believe that warmer oceans are absorbing less, and that plants of stressed ecosystems are becoming less effective at countering the elevated carbon monoxide levels.

The 2035 figure was a ridiculous error, but it was neither dangerous nor indicative of climate research in general. Thousands of experts investigate almost every aspect of the physical world, and half of their job is to scrutinize each other. Almost nothing slips through the cracks of this immense system of checks and balances, and, while it is unfortunate that the erroneous figure made it as far as it did, there is a reason it didn’t make it into the history books.

Non-scientists need to remove themselves from a conversation in which they do not belong and begin thinking about what matters: how to restructure the world’s economy so as to use resources more responsibly and contribute as little as possible to this impending crisis.

— Andrew Kenyon Busch is a first year Ph.D. student in Physiological Sciences. He likes summer, but would really rather we didn’t have it all the time. He can be reached at letters@wildc.arizona.edu.

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