18 Jan 2010: The IPCC relies on the best available science, right? It appears increasingly as not. In late 2009, it was discovered that a graph used in its latest report (2007) had come from … Wikipedia!
We now have new revelations that the IPCC’s 2007 report used statements promoted via a 2005 report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an environmental advocacy group. The WWF statement was, in turn, based on a non-peer reviewed 1999 article in New Scientist. The WWF report also included a basic math error in which the total glacial loss value was divided by 21 years, instead of 121. The now admittedly speculative comment to a reporter from one scientist, Syed Hasnain, was the IPCC’s sole basis for its “very likely” conclusion that all the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could disappear by 2035. The IPCC term “very likely” means a likelihood of greater than 90 per cent. One article, not peer reviewed, admittedly “speculative” equates to 90% likelihood? Some odds.
The coordinating lead author, the scientist having oversight of this IPCC report section, is one Professor Murari Lal who has reportedly admitted a significant lack of knowledge about the IPCC report section: "I am not an expert on glaciers and I have not visited the [Himalayan] region so I have to rely on credible published research. The comments in the WWF report were made by a respected Indian scientist…” It's hard to think of one non-peer reviewed article by a Journalist as "credible published research," and Prof. Hasnain’s apparently agrees: "The magic number of 2035 has not [been] mentioned in any research papers written by me, as no peer-reviewed journal will accept speculative figures."
Professor Lal has now publicly admitted to the UK's Daily Mail that he knew the statements had not been verified, and that it had been included intentionally to ">In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.
Despite the IPPC's statement of principles that its reports should be neutral with respect to policy," it appears IPCC authors like solitary statements on impending doom, including those in the so-called “grey literature” as opposed to the real scientific reports from multiple independent researchers. It is also now much more clear that demonstrated knowledge in a particular field is not needed to oversee preparation of IPCC report chapters.
(Updated on 25 Jan 2010 re: UK Mail article)
The Times on-line
New Scientist (January 2009 article)
New Scientist (Original 1999 article)
Update: UK Mail reporting on IPCC author and IPCC Chairman admissions (24 Jan 2010)