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UN climate chief admits mistake on Himalayan glaciers warning

Jeremy Page, Times online
he UN’s top climate change body has issued an unprecedented apology over its flawed prediction that Himalayan glaciers were likely to disappear by 2035.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said yesterday that the prediction in its landmark 2007 report was “poorly substantiated” and resulted from a lapse in standards. “In drafting the paragraph in question the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly,” the panel said. “The chair, vice-chair and co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of IPCC procedures in this instance.”

The stunning admission is certain to embolden critics of the panel, already under fire over a separate scandal involving hacked e-mails last year.

The 2007 report, which won the panel the Nobel Peace Prize, said that the probability of Himalayan glaciers “disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high”. It caused shock in Asia, where about two billion people depend on meltwater from Himalayan glaciers for their fresh water supplies during the dry seasons.

It emerged last week that the prediction was based not on a consensus among climate change experts but on a media interview with a single Indian glaciologist in 1999. That scientist, Syed Hasnain, has now told The Times that he never made such a specific forecast in his interview with the New Scientist magazine…
(21 Jan 2010)
related: India turns up heat over ‘Glaciergate’ -KS

The New Storm Brewing On the Climate Front

Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones
The cap-and-trade bill may have stalled in Congress, but its opponents aren’t taking it easy. They’ve launched a new assault on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—hoping to neutralize the only legal weapon the Obama administration has to curb carbon emissions if the climate legislation fails.

Last month the EPA determined that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health, meaning that the agency is now required by the Clean Air Act to regulate such pollutants. And with no-one sure when the Senate will take up the cap-and-trade bill, EPA regulation has become a do-or-die issue for both camps in the climate fight. Advocates of climate action see it as the lone tool—albeit an imperfect one—that the Obama administration can use to implement significant emissions reductions in the absence of legislation. Foes, meanwhile, decry it as a back-door maneuver that must be stopped at all costs.

In Congress, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has emerged as the leading—and most canny—threat to the EPA. Unlike many of her GOP colleagues, Murkowski acknowledges that emissions from human activity are warming the planet and must be reduced. (That her state is warming faster than most provides a good reason for her to be concerned.) And she’s couching her attacks on the EPA in an argument that resonates with some Democrats and environmentalists: Legislation is a more effective way to address emissions, so the agency should back off to give Congress time to pass a law…
(15 Jan 2010)

U.N. Panel’s Glacier Warning Is Criticized as Exaggerated

Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times
A much-publicized estimate from a United Nations panel about the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers from climate change is coming under fire as a gross exaggeration.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2007 — the same year it shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore — that it was “very likely” that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 if current warming trends continued.

That date has been much quoted and a cause for enormous consternation, since hundreds of millions of people in Asia rely on ice and snow melt from these glaciers for their water supply.

The panel, the United Nations’ scientific advisory body on climate change, ranks its conclusions using a probability scale in which “very likely” means there is greater than 90 percent chance that an event will occur.

But it now appears that the estimate about Himalayan glacial melt was based on a decade-old interview of one climate scientist in a science magazine, The New Scientist, and that hard scientific evidence to support that figure is lacking. The scientist, Dr. Syed Hasnain, a glacier specialist with the government of the Indian state of Sikkim and currently a fellow at the TERI research institute in Delhi, said in an e-mail message that he was “misquoted” about the 2035 estimate in The New Scientist article. He has more recently said that his research suggests that only small glaciers could disappear entirely…
(18 Jan 2010)

“Glacier gate” – how the Murdoch press have got it wrong on the Himalayan big melt

climate action centre
Recently, the Murdoch press have continued their campaign of climate denial and delay by giving front-page prominence to a five-day-old story attacking the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predictions of glacial melt in the Himalayan-Tibetan ranges by 2035.

Drawing on a 13 January New Scientist story by Fred Pearce reporting on a debate amongst glaciologists about the IPCC’s claim, “The Times” (UK) and subsequently “The Australian” and other Murdoch papers have tried to shift from a debate about TIMING to a questioning of global warming.

Opposition leader Tony Abbot has now used the reporting to attack Labor’s climate policies and again questioned the need for climate action.

While there is unequivocal peer-reviewed science on global warming and its impact on the glacial melt in the Himalayan region, the IPCC left itself open to attack by basing its time frame for a major loss of the glacial ice sheets on a previous “New Scientist” reporting of “speculative” statements by an Indian scientist.

There is much to criticise in the IPCC’s 2007 report, in particular their low predictions of sea level rise this century for example, for the report is based on old science (pre-2005) and is too conservative in its predictions of the timing and extent of many climate impacts. Hence the need for updates such as the Copenhagen climate science congress in March 2009…
(20 Jan 2010)

Hanging EPA regulations around Democrats’ necks

David Roberts, Grist
It has been taken for granted on the left that if Congress doesn’t pass clean energy legislation, the EPA will step in to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The threat of that eventuality was supposed to bring intransigent industries and legislators to the table. Only it hasn’t really worked as intended— prospects for legislation are looking increasingly dim, particularly with Brown’s win last night in Massachusetts.

Does that mean EPA regulations are inevitable? Har har. Nothing in politics is inevitable. If legislation goes down in flames, expect a huge fight.

[Want to catch up on the why’s and wherefore’s of EPA regs? Read this post.]

Thus far the fight against EPA is being led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has emerged as a key figure in efforts to block or delay Democratic clean energy initiatives, despite her purported concern over climate change. (On the interwebs, they call such folks “concern trolls.”) Let’s take a look at a few of the weapons in Murkowski’s arsenal.

1. Appropriations rider…

2. Amendment…

3. The Congressional Review Act (CRA)…

…Can these efforts succeed?

Odds are that none of Murkowski’s efforts will become law, at least not under the current administration, for the simple reason that any one of them would have to be passed by the House as well, and signed by the president. Obama could veto, and however unpopular EPA regs may be, there’s no way opposition will muster a two-thirds vote to override a veto.

But Murkowski could make a great deal of mischief. No. 3 requires only a bare majority to pass the Senate. Similarly, only a bare majority is required to pass an appropriations bill with a rider. Even if blocked by the House or vetoed by the president, such a public, bipartisan slap at the administration would be highly embarrassing and demoralizing. It would mean at least ten conservative Democrats washing their hands of the administration’s initiative. (Virginia Sen. Jim Webb just came out against EPA regulations yesterday.) It would mean wavering members of Congress forced to take a public stand on a divisive issue…
(20 Jan 2010)

Murkowski to call on Congress to block federal greenhouse gas regulation

Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian
A Republican senator from Alaska is expected to call on Congress today to strip the Obama administration – and any future US government – of its powers to curb global warming pollution.

Lisa Murkowski, an emerging leader on energy in Republican ranks, told a press conference on Wednesday she was thinking of invoking an obscure, rarely used measure that allows Congress to roll back government regulations.

“At this point in time, my inclination is to proceed with the resolution of disapproval,” she said. “I think that is a more clear path forward.”

If it passes, the resolution, brought under the Congressional Review Act, could remove the Obama administration’s “plan B” for climate change – resorting to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to curb greenhouse gas emissions if Congress fails to act…
(21 Jan 2010)

Emissions targets set for delay

Roger Harrabin, BBCnews
The ongoing uncertainty is rooted in the EU’s offer to the Copenhagen climate summit of a 30% emissions cut.
But this was dependent on “comparable effort” from other big polluters.

Observers say there is a world of difference between the upper and lower targets – but Europe still hasn’t decided how high to aim.
The EU’s figure of 30% translates to 42% in the UK.

Along with other countries that signed the “Copenhagen Accord” it faces a deadline of 31 January to come up with final numbers and plans for reducing emissions.

Three factors are likely to be influencing the EU’s hesitant position:

Some European nations don’t want to expose their industries to higher energy prices if competitors are unaffected – Poland and Italy have been vocal on this

There’s an argument for the EU continuing to hold a bargaining chip until the US has passed its Climate Bill (if, indeed it manages to pass a bill).

The EU deliberately didn’t define what “comparable effort” by other big polluters might mean, in order to allow negotiating space… and in several ways the negotiations over Copenhagen have not properly finished…
(20 Jan 2010)

UN drops deadline for countries to state climate change targets

John Vidal, the Guardian
The UN has dropped the 31 January deadline by which time all countries were expected to officially state their emission reduction targets or list the actions they planned to take to counter climate change.

Yvo de Boer, UN climate change chief, today changed the original date set at last month’s fractious Copenhagen climate summit, saying that it was now a “soft” deadline, which countries could sign up to when they chose. “I do not expect everyone to meet the deadline. Countries are not being asked if they want to adhere… but to indicate if they want to be associated [with the Copenhagen accord].

“I see the accord as a living document that tracks actions that countries want to take,” he told journalists in Bonn.

“It’s a soft deadline. Countries are not being asked to sign the accord to take on legally binding targets, only to indicate their intention,” he said.

The deadline was intended to be the first test of the “Copenhagen accord”, the weak, three-page document that emerged at the end of the summit, and which fell far short of original expectations. It seeks to bind all countries to a goal of limiting warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial times and proposes that $100bn a year be provided for poor countries to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change after 2020…
(20 Jan 2010)