Tim Lambert points us to this excellent analysis by John Nielsen-Gammon and the Glaciergate story is perhaps even worse than we first thought. This is not just a simple error or transcription problem.
the available evidence indicates that the IPCC authors of this section relied upon a secondhand, unreferreed source which turned out to be unreliable, and failed to identify this source.
Nielsen-Gammon also finds a remarkable consistency between the IPCC statement (on the left in the panel below) and a statement at the India Environment Portal (on the right in the panel below).
The inartfulness of the transfer of verbiage from the IEP to the IPCC explains the first word (“Its”) of the second IPCC sentence: there’s no single noun to which “Its” can refer in the IPCC quote, but in the IEP quote, “Its” refers to “The glacier” (poor English, but singular) in the previous sentence. To me, this is like a fingerprint: I am convinced that the IPCC author paraphrased the IEP article and leaving off or altering the references.
It just doesn’t look good at all.
He is also able to track down a potential origin of the 2035 date (emphasis added).
According to Kotlyakov, the loss of 80% of the extrapolar glaciation on the Earth’s surface will be by 2350, not 2035. And even after 2350 there will still be some glaciers surviving in the Karakoram, the Himalayas, and in parts of Tibet.
There are other errors too.
Recall that the IPCC quote referred to a table. The table lists the retreat of 8 Himalayan glaciers. Only one such retreat is as stated in the WWF report. Another retreat, recorded as 2840 m from 1845-1966, is listed as a rate of 134 m/yr, but the actual rate is 23 m/yr. Whoever did the calculation for the IPCC divided by 21 years instead of 121 years! The rest of the values are from other, unnamed sources.
Lambert’s own analysis is also quite interesting. He looks at the reviewing process itself.
There was no cite at all for the claim and more than one reviewer noted that a citation was needed. If the chapter authors had followed this comment, all would have been well:
I am not sure that this is true for the very large Karakoram glaciers in the western Himalaya. Hewitt (2005) suggests from measurements that these are expanding – and this would certainly be explained by climatic change in precipitation and temperature trends seen in the Karakoram region (Fowler and Archer, J Climate in press; Archer and Fowler, 2004) You need to quote Barnett et al.’s 2005 Nature paper here – this seems very similar to what they said. (Hayley Fowler, Newcastle University)
But the response was this:
Was unable to get hold of the suggested references will consider in the final version
Instead the authors added to a cite to this WWF report, which says
“In 1999, a report by the Working Group on Himalayan Glaciology (WGHG) of the International Commission for Snow and Ice (ICSI) stated: “glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the livelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 is very high”.
And here we see the perils of lazy citing. The IPCC report should have cited the WGHG/ICSI report, but the authors weren’t able to get hold of it. If they had, they would have found that it doesn’t say anything about the glaciers disappearing by 2035. The WWF report authors hadn’t seen the WGHG report either, but relied on this New Scientist story, by a reporter that hadn’t seen the report either, but had talked to the author of the WGHG report.
So Lambert concludes its all about lazy citation. But that isn’t what he has found. The IPCC state that they are unable “to get hold of the suggested references” but that isn’t the WGHG/ICSI report they can’t get hold of. The reviewer is suggesting they get hold of a paper in Nature. Furthermore the reviewer is saying that the peer-reviewed literature is suggesting that glaciers are expanding not melting away. The IPCC ignore that, claim they can’t find a reference in Nature, and then publish the false information anyway.