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Is Tom Chivers serious?

The news that Himalayan glaciers are not melting at all, let alone being set to disappear by 2035 has been exercising all and sundry today. Tom Chivers at the Telegraph has a somewhat snide piece setting out the facts.

Well, some of the facts.

The particular aspect that I want to look at is that ideaa that the glaciers will have disappeared by 2035. The story has been set out in great detail by EU Referendum. We know

  • that glaciologist Syed Hasnain had, since 1999, repeatedly claimed a date of 2035 for Himalayan glaciers to disappear
  • that Fred Pearce confirmed the 2035 figure with Hasnain and then incorporated it in a New Scientist article the same year
  • that this was then picked up and reported by the Evening Standard
  • that Pearce repeated the 2035 figure in the Independent in 2000
  • that Hasnain repeated the 2035 figure in an interview with an Indian paper in 2001
  • that Hasnain disseminated the 2035 figure widely in 2004
  • that Hasnain continued to repeat the 2035 figure widely in 2006 and 2007 and 2008

The 2035 date appears to have been added to the Second ORder Draft of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. The only document cited in the section on Himalayan glaciers was Hasnain 2002.

The IPCC's expert reviewers raised the issue of the 2035 claim:

  • one reviewer pointed out that the report was simultaneously claiming disappearance and shrinkage by 2035
  • the government of Japan asked what the level of confidence was in the 2035 figure and pointed out that it was uncited
  • a UK reviewer pointed out that some Himalayan glaciers are growing

[Update:after the review, but before publication, another scientist wrote advising of errors in the report, including the 2035 one. Other parts of the letter were acted on, but not the claim about the Himalayan glaciers.]

Despite this, no changes were made to the text. In fact, when V.K Raina challenged the 2035 date in his report on Himalayan glaciers for the Indian government, the IPCC accused him of mischief and defended 2035 as a good estimate of when the glaciers would be gone.

Now let's look at how Tom Chivers reports the strange case of the 2035 date.

When the IPCC stupidly included a prediction that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear entirely by 2035 – apparently because some idiot had misread "2350" in a non-peer-reviewed hydrology article – the error was not picked up by any of the army of internet sceptics, but by a glaciologist at Ontario's Trent University called Prof J Graham Cogley.

"Misread"? Oh dear.

Rather than everyone simply piling on, I shall ask Tom if he cares to comment.

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Reader Comments (97)

Anyone here remember the series 'Dallas' in the 70's?

There was an entire season that followed the one where Bobby Ewing had been killed......then he magically appeared in the shower (found there by the delightful Victoria) one morning....

You see, she had only dreamed that he died and we all watched an entire season that didn't happen...

Just a dream see...

Now forget it happened...

Feb 10, 2012 at 7:49 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

Was Raina the first outside the IPCC to show that the figure was wrong? Just wondering how the story finally broke.

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

"Now let's look at how "Tom Chivers" reports the strange case of the 2035 date."

Bish, the "Tom Chivers" link is to LuLu?

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

Eh Bish, that link points to a report is by Louise Gray.

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

What is often overlooked in all this is that one of the places where the erroneous 2035 figure was repeated was on a grant application to the Carnegie Corporation, under the name of the Global Center. This organisation was awarded a grant of half a million dollars on the basis of this alarming claim, in order to assess the effects upon the people who depend on Himalayan glaciers for their water supply.

As they say, follow the money.

Fortunately, the grant was suspended before any cash was handed over, at the request of the president of Iceland - supposedly because of the economic situation in Iceland at the time.

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterTurning Tide

Okay, I think this is the report by Tom Chivers you meant:

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus
Feb 10, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Perhaps you are trying to link to Tom Chivers's blog

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Thanks. Links fixed now.

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:30 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Hi guys. I'm flattered.

Is that the only concern you have with the piece? Because if so, I have to say I'm pretty pleased. As you rightly point out, the IPCC's idiotic error/evil manipulation (delete according to prejudice) was spotted - as I originally said - by experts in the field. That's why, despite the existence of a lunatic antiscientific greenish fringe who have latched on to the climate-science consensus, we can be confident in the fundamental findings of the tens of thousands of atmospheric physicists, glaciologists, oceanographers etc working in the broadly defined "climate" field, because you just can't organise a decent conspiracy in an open scientific forum.

By the way, you've linked to the news story in that piece - those of you desperately searching for my blog post can find it here if my HTML skills are up to scratch.

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom Chivers

Tom Chivers has been skating on thin ice for some time now........:o)

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:36 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Not heard of the guy but looking at that piece he is cast from the same boring template as all the other lazy activist enviro journos - straw men aplenty and doing his bit for the cause by fluttering his eyes half closed and only seeing climate errors uncovered by climate scientists and claiming that sceptics have nothing to offer and are nothing more than moon-landing hoax nuts. For the ignore bin from now on,

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

No problem Bish, I am sure you have had a very busy week. If only the IPCC could correct errors so quickly. ;)

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Tom Chivers' blog is usually quite interesting to read... Rather than coming from the "same boring template as all the other lazy activist enviro journos" that The Leopard mentions, he writes about things like the use and abuse of statistics - he is perhaps something like the Telegraph's Ben Goldacre. A 'sceptic' with no scepticism about climate.

Has anyone noticed how much fun is poked at climate (or more precisely, renewable energy) matters in the latest Private Eye? Seems to be much more than there ever was.

Feb 10, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Harvey

The first to spot it, and indeed before the IPCC report had been published was Georg Kaser a glaciologist who wrote to the lead author, I may have this wrong, whose name was Lal. Lal claimss never to have received any notification.

[Snip - manners]

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Jeremy Harvey

"Tom Chivers' blog is usually quite interesting to read"

Well I can understand how reading Goldacre even on a bad day knocking "numpties" along with Singh could still leave me an inkling he had more to him than being an activist. But Chivers? Mmm if you say so, I have only first impressions to go on. I'll check him out again to just to contrast on another subject, but my Murray Gell-Mann alarm bells will always be ringing. For instance Goldacre does epidemiology really well but can Chivers? This quote doesn't make me hope too much:

There are tens of thousands of scientists working in climate-related fields worldwide, publishing thousands of papers each year. The vast majority of those papers add weight to the hypothesis that the world is warming and we are causing it.

Seems like Chiver's measure evidence more by its weight in kilo's of paper ;)

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

The date of 2035 was CALCULATED, at least according to the science advisor of Angela Merkel, Schellnhuber. You do not need to understand a lot of german to appreciate the pompous nonsense this person is producing here on german TV:

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexej Buergin

Jeremy Harvey

"Tom Chivers' blog is usually quite interesting to read"

Well I can understand how reading Goldacre even on a bad day knocking "numpties" along with Singh could still leave me an inkling he had more to him than being an activist. BUt Chivers, mmmm if you say so, I have only first impressions to go on. I'll check him out again to just to contrast on another subject, but my Murray Gell-Mann amnesia effect* alarm bells will always be ringing. For instance Goldacre does epidemiology really well but can Chivers? This quote doesn't make me hope too much:

There are tens of thousands of scientists working in climate-related fields worldwide, publishing thousands of papers each year. The vast majority of those papers add weight to the hypothesis that the world is warming and we are causing it.

Seems like Chiver's measure evidence more by its weight in kilo's of paper ;)

*see Michael Crichton’s 2002 “Why Speculate?” Link didn't work

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

248 comments at the article at the moment. Definitely some "piling on" going on.

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A


I don't think many readers here would dispute that scientists are capable of finding errors in each other's work. You haven't addressed the point of my post though - namely that the 2035 claim was not due to a misreading.

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Snide indeed. Tom does not like bloggers much does he. But the you can see why, bloggers have stolen much of the 'professional' journalists raison d'etre in being better and faster sources of news and opinion. In the climate blogosphere they also check facts, discuss and write papers, and all for free. How dare they?

Must be tough making a living as a journalist these days.

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

.......apparently because some idiot had misread "2350" in a non-peer-reviewed hydrology article.......

It was not until I took an interest in "global warming" that I began to understand how myths began. This particular one has been used a myriad of times in the comments section of the Guardian. Fascinating, if ultimately rather depressing.

Did you know that it was Bob Holness from "Blockbusters" who played the saxophone solo on Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street"? No, really. I Googled it and it must be true!

.......I shall ask Tom if he cares to comment........

My bet is that he will have loftily and majestically sailed on......

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Looks like my fingers were crossed for nothing (see @omnologos on Twitter). This Tom character knows nothing at all about what is discussed at BH and in many other places, and still plays with the "conspiracy" silliness.

we can be confident in the fundamental findings of the tens of thousands

It's nose-counting then! Thousands of homeopaths can't be all wrong!

ps so what FUNDAMENTAL FINDINGS can we be CONFIDENT about, in short?? I really like the Bish's summary of the problem: the question is not whether temperatures have risen or whether mankind has affected the climate. Temperatures have always risen and fallen and mankind has always affected the climate. The question is whether we have a problem on our hands. The poor performance of the climate models suggests that the problem is much less than we have been led to believe

I have a strong belief ;-) that Tom C has nothing sensible to reply about that.

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

And talking about misreads...perhaps they just meant 23500AD?

Feb 10, 2012 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

[snip - manners]

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

To be fair to Tom Chivers, he has only quoted and sourced an existing article on the 2035/2350 discussion - As it is sourced it is then the readers option to review the source and determine if they want to go with it or not: I just think its a little crass to the original blog post to try and say he made a mistake or was attempting to deliberately mislead.

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Adair

Rob - please stop digging for Chivers. If his source was really a BBC page from December 2009, well, then his blog post is worse than we thought!

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Hello everyone,

I don't know any of the details of the '2035' claim, and so don't want to get drawn into the details of that (obviously quite serious) error.

I am, however, interested that Andrew's focus has been on that, rather than the positive news here. Scientific results that call into question previously assumed climate knowledge, are published in a high profile journal, and openly discussed by climate scientists.

Andrew, does this go some way to alleviating your concerns about the 'corruption of science'?



Feb 10, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug McNeall

@ geronimo Feb 10, 2012 at 9:12 AM

It's not that clear what Kaser did or said he did:

Dr. Kaser, who has been a report author and has also studied the retreating snows around Mount Kilimanjaro, said Monday in a telephone interview that he had sent the information to a “technical support unit” at the climate change panel rather to the lead authors directly. Dr. Kaser said he chose not to go “straightforward, to the lead authors” because “it is always a delicate matter” when criticizing other colleagues’ findings.

at dot earth

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

That is the problem with numbers, there are an infinite number of them in a finite universe.

That is when you realise there is physics, meta-physics and climate science (think of a number - any number).

The green lobby have backed the wrong horse with CAGW - you get the feeling that their rising ire is now being directed at climate scientists.

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Perhaps though, one of the main points missed by Tom et al is that this error should NEVER have been made in the first place. The fact it's taken nearly a decade to get the original error even acknowledged should be sounding alarms in every journalists offices. If they have made such a basic mistake here and then years to accept, what else have they got wrong ABD have continued to keep quiet about?



Feb 10, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

I have for some time had the view that the Telegraph is deliberately provocative in (at least) the realm of climate change coverage.

My hypothesis is that their hit count goes through the roof when they put an inaccurate article up. They don't care about the readers any more: the readers aren't paying. All they care about is page views, and controversy drives that.

If we really want to address this problem, we need to follow the money. We should start complaining to the advertisers on provocatively controversial pages. In this case, Mercedes have a banner ad on the page. A few complaints to Mercedes about being associated with scientific fraud would probably go a long way.

Rather than giving the Telegraph the benefit of a click-through, the banner links to

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

The truth will out!

It has been painfully obvious to me for quite some time that the warmists hate and mistrust sceptics so much that they will never be able to hear anything we say - and, as a corollary, they will only accept the truth once those within their camp discover the truth themselves, when it has become so glaringly obvious that those with integrity can no longer deny it. Hence the Himalayan story and the recent dramatic volte face by the prominent German warmist! Of course, the warmists will seek to save face en route - indeed it will probably not be long before they start claiming that THEY are the true sceptics and have been right all along (though I wait with baited breath to see how they will justify the massive and wasteful expenditure on windmills etc when it becomes clear even to the warmists that the money has indeed been totally wasted and the exercise has merely made the rich richer and the poor poorer!)

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

Chivers? A sneering individual with a marked superiority complex.

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

Doug if you Know nothing about it, then you will fail to see why people distrust the IPCC.

Pachauri's response was to dismiss those that questioned it as Voodoo science, publically, these wee Indian scientist. He was defending and calling people names, literally eauating them with anti-science..

That is the background..
Yes it is good news, but there never was any bad news... It was known to be wrong!!
To quite one scientist, someelse will find the link (smartphone) that it was known to be wrong. But the claim remained to influence policymakers.

If you cannot see that the IPCC and this politcisation is a huge problem for science, I cannot really think of much else to say..

Ps. What is your thoughts in the 'Hide the Decline' issue.. again not science but losing data to influence policymakers. Science US fanned by its silence,(bar J Curry, P Denniss, R Muller, &J Jones)

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

dammed phone!!!

Science is dammed by its silence, equating, etc

I am getting tired of the Dancing around issues, and sensibilities.
Glaciers was always wring, known to be wrong, yet politician speak about anti-science Deniers and scare people that a billion people friend in glacier water, which is also complete exageration and alarmism..

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.

Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.

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.

‘It had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in.’


the fact that the man behind the 2035 claim was also actually employed by a Pachauri organisation, which had recieved funding onb the back of cliams that serious issues with glaciers is another oissue aswell..

But Doug no doubt feels all is well...

But as he doesn't know anthing about it, he see no problem?

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

you are muddling two different issues.
(a) The misreperesentation of the facts by journalists
(b) the misrepresentation of the facts by some climate scientists.
It's very important to distinguish between the two.
This post is clearly about (a). Andrew's book is about (b).

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

Barry - what hypotheses can we make about Tom Chivers' skills in using Google or any other search engine?

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Or Doug's...

Feb 10, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Doug, the issue is corruption at the IPCC and the AGW lobby.

The complaint is that the "Himalayan glaciers" claim was a deliberate distortion.

Likewise, it is a fact that the claim wasn't based on peer-reviewed science.

Thirdly, the IPCC (in the person of Pachauri) resorted to ad hominems when this was pointed out.

All of these are SYSTEM FAILURES at the IPCC. How does a paper proving the IPCC was wrong remove concern about corruption at the IPCC?

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce


I don't dispute that good, honest science continues outside the remit of the IPCC.

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:04 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

The most cursory google search will return for example this link from the Yale Climate Forum that is quite clear it wasn't just a "misread" problem. And much more.

Perhaps we've just discovered the millionth journalist who didn't let the truth ruin a good blog post. Yawn.

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Doug, for what it is worth, I don't see any particularly unusual 'corruption' going on by climate scientists just the same old fudging and bluster that has always been a part of every science - see this wonderful infographic called 'Bad Science' from Clinical Psychology(warning it is quite tall).

However the incredible, mystifying, idiotic, galling way that the IPCC has corrupted climate science is something bloggers have written about for many years.

If climate scientists, as Judith Curry and Peter Webster have already done, would come out and call it as it is then the whole science would be more believable.

Until then it just looks like you are 'hiding the decline'… in climate science.

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

@josh, yes who let the plebs in?

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Jiminy, yes, but see, the Bish beat me to it and with a mere 15 words. I should stick to the cartoons ;-)

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Maybe John Shivers is a more appropiate moniker

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered Commentermac

Tom Chivers has previous... spats with WWU and I understand he has worked at The Guardian? Seems he has the snidey gene.

After seeing some of his contributions to the Telegraph I'm not sure he's in the correct job - religious affairs seems to be a more suitable area for his talents.

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom O

Why bother with what an assistant comment editor gets to write in his grace and favour blog.

What next, the tea lady?

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

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