Michael Mann, Syed I Hasnain, and Dr R K Pachauri are being savagely attacked by the anti-climate change political activists and groups from across the globe over the Climategate controversy. Read any of the conservative publications, online papers, or blogs about these men, and the vicious treatment that these scholars receive will sicken you. In defense of the abovementioned gentlemen, here is a history of the ongoing debate on Mannâ€™s â€˜Hockey Stickâ€™ and the IPCCâ€™s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changeâ€™s) AR4 (Fourth Assessment Report). The IPCCâ€™s fourth â€˜Summary for Policymakersâ€™ laid out a global warming model in a horizontally-oriented graph timeline, which showed a dramatic uptick of warming since the beginning of the 20th century. Thus was born Michael Mannâ€™s â€˜Hockey Stick.â€™ The authors of the original study for the IPCC report, Michael Mann and Philip D Jones of the University of East Angliaâ€™s CRU (Climate Research Unit), then became the targets of many in the conservative media â€“ some in the scientifi c community â€“ that was sceptical of the manmade global warming. Critics argued that they could not reproduce his fi nding, that the data was insuffi cient to paint a clear picture, and that the data presented was questionable. To refute some parts of the IPCC report, and Mannâ€™s work in particular, publications began to appear. Unstoppable Global Warming, a paper delivered by M I Bhat from the University of Kashmir, Srinagar, to the Indian Geological Surveyâ€™s annual Congress entitled â€˜Bushy-Blairy on Climate Change,â€™ as well as other media hounds and sceptical scientists, began to question Mannâ€™s fi ndings. In a response to his early critics with Scientifi c American, before the release of the IPCCâ€™s 2007 report, Mann said, â€˜there is no scientifi c validity to their arguments whatsoever...they are very skilled at deducing what sort of disingenuous arguments and untruths are likely to be believable to the public that does not know better.â€™ In a 2004 edition of Nature, Mann further explained his data, and showed the fl aws in the fi ndings of his scientifi c critics. Late last year, hackers stole e-mails from the CRU showing some of the researchersâ€™ open (yet private) disdain of the scientists who are critical of their work. One e-mail reportedly said, â€˜I want to beat the crap out of him.â€™ This is normal in modern academe. The media circus that was generated by these e-mails once again questioned Mannâ€™s warming predictions and methodologies. However, Bryan Walshâ€™s Time article in December 2009 settled much of the â€˜Hockey Stickâ€™ controversy. Walshâ€™s graph of the CRUâ€™s average temperature increases since 1880 (the â€˜Hockey Stickâ€™) was overlaid with almost identical NASA (National Aeronautical and Space Agency) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) graphs of temperature increases since 1880. If Mann and others involved in the research were infl ating data, how does the replication of the fi ndings by NASA and NOAA clear Mann of fraudulent research? The next salvo from the anti-climate change gunners was levelled at the IPCCâ€™s claim, â€˜Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident fromâ€¦widespread melting snow and ice.â€™ The Working Group II of the IPCC specifi cally stated, â€˜Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the worldâ€¦(and) the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner, is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate.â€™ In addition, Group II claimed in the AR4 that the glaciers would shrink 80% by 2035. The glacial recession information used for the IPCCâ€™s report was taken by a WWF (World Wildlife Fund) reporter from a report in a 1999 New Scientist article written by Fred Pearce. In that article, Professor Syed I Hasnain was only quoted as saying, â€˜All the glaciers in the middle Himalayas are retreatingâ€™. However, Hasnain additionally told Pearce, â€˜all the glaciers in the eastern and central Himalayas will lose mass and shrink in the next 40â€“50 years at the present rate of recession.â€™ Pearce, not Hasnian, wrote, â€˜all the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could disappear by 2035 at their present rate of decline.â€™ This journalistic substitution with a specifi c year cannot be found in the ICSIâ€™s (International Commission on Snow and Iceâ€™s) 1999 report, headed by Hasnain. Nowhere in his seminal works does Hasnain make the 2035 claim. One of the four authors of the AR4 section of the IPCC report, Murari Lal, whose responsibility was to vet the data given by the WWF, admitted that his team tried â€˜to lay out possible scenarios for the futureâ€™, but that their use of unpublished (mainly newspapers and magazines) papers (of the WWF) â€˜could have contributed to the mistakes that were made.â€™ Another team member, Christopher Field, only said that the glaciers â€˜could decay at very rapid rates.â€™ Georg Kaser, a leader of the Science of Climate Change team, reported to The Economist in 2010 that he had alerted the authors about the mistake before the publication of the report. The IPCC has since agreed that the paragraph in Chapter 10 of AR4 was â€˜poorly substantiated.â€™ Hasnain was right in speculating that many of the glaciers could lose mass and shrink in the eastern and central Himalayas during the next 40â€“50 years without assigning any date for their demise. They might not all be gone by 2035, but the lower-elevation glaciers that are disappearing in South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa could portend an ominous future globally.
Predicting the future
It is diffi cult to demonstrate and make absolute predictions about the future of the Himalayan glaciers. However, the Himalayas have atmospheric and environmental problems, which lend to the idea of a strong glacial retreat in the near future. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) called the IPCCâ€™s AR4 the â€˜grey areaâ€™ and The New York Times said, â€˜hard scientifi c evidence to supportâ€™ the IPCCâ€™s claim â€˜is lacking.â€™ But, the almost 10 000 Himalayan glaciers are, in fact, remote and hard to access, not robustly or longitudinally studied by the Government of India, and impacted by the local environmental conditions. A thorough study of the Chinese Himalayas was published in the 2006 Annals of Glaciology entitled â€˜Glacier Variations and Climate Change in the Central Himalaya over the Past Few Decades.â€™ The authorâ€™s conclusions were that the northern face of the Chinese Himalayan glaciers, the coldest and slowerto- melt, were receding on an average of 5â€“10 m a year. In 2009, Yao Tandong, a glaciologist based in Tibet, said that based on his studies, the glaciers would reduce 30% by 2030. However, Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Environment and Forests, India, called the IPCC report â€˜alarmist.â€™ Also, the standard fi gure by D P Dhobal of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, which was used by the Government of India to monitor the Himalayan glaciers only for a span of 10 years, shows about 15â€“20 m of ablation each year. While Ramesh claimed that some glaciers are increasing, Dhobal said that many of them were only retreating at a rate of 5â€“7 m a year. Another critic, Vijay Raina, a glaciologist working with the Indian government, said, â€˜there is no sign of abnormal retreat in the Himalayan glaciers.â€™ This is â€˜Brahminspeakâ€™ by the notoriously well-insulated government bureaucrats to keep the masses content that Mother Ganga will not stop. However, even though most of Rainaâ€™s work was based on pre-1990 fi eld data, some of which was contradictory, all the glaciers in his study showed retreat! What they fail to include in the data matrices is the factor of the ABC (Asian Brown Cloud). The ABC, a 2/3-km-thick cloud of black carbon soot and other particulate matter, which hovers below 20 000 feet, sparing the highest Himalayan glaciers of more signifi cant ablation. However, the lower-altitude glaciers and those facing the south are at the greatest risk of disappearing by the mid-century. Reports about lower-altitude glaciers and snow-capped peaks shrinking â€“ and in some cases altogether disappearing â€“ in South America, Europe, and Africa give worldwide credibility to this lower-altitude phenomenon in the Himalayas. The culprit in South Asia is the black carbon of the ABC on the Himalayan glaciers. Hasnain has talked about this problem; Jessica Wallack and Veerabhadran Ramanathan wrote about it in a 2009 Foreign Affairs article titled â€˜The Other Climate Changersâ€™; and William Lau of NASA pointed it out in December 2009. The latter has the best longitudinal satellite imagery to make the assessment. The convergence of EHP (Elevated Heat Pump) from the soot of ABC, northward shifting monsoons and westerlies because of climate change, and increased evaporation from global warming may cause the Himalayan glaciers to retreat faster at lower elevation and thicken at higher altitude. There may be almost 10 000 glaciers in the Himalayas now, but in the future, the number will be more as the bigger ones break up. Because so few Indian glaciers have been indexed and studied and because they are, in general, retreating, one should go to the fi eld and talk with the elderly locals who are familiar with the unstudied and understudied glaciers. This is what I did with Kolahoi Glacier (2008) and Thajwas Glacier (2009) in Jammu and Kashmir. When a 55-year-old veteran Kashmiri guide of the JIM (Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering) from village Aru was asked how far was the glacier from the Kolahoi Glacierâ€™s snout 25 years ago, he said that about a kilometre. Rocks had collected on a bend of the glacial river in the Liddar Valley, forming the early stages of a now-collapsed infant glacial melt lake. In late summer, one can best see the black carbon and pollution collected on the glacier. It is the Sunâ€™s magnifying effect on Kolahoiâ€™s dark and sooted surface, which keeps it from being indexed properly. It is wasting rapidly, and even the JIM guides are scared of going onto the glacial fi eld because it is so hollow now. Recent estimates show deglaciation of 1.75 sq km since 1965. It was the same situation in the Thajiwas Glacier in Sonamarg, Srinagar.
Need for more data and studies
As Hasnain and others have noted, there is simply not enough data and longitudinal studies of the Indian Himalayas. I have ventured to throw my lot in with the majority of the scientifi c community worldwide, which believes that the Earth is heating up, that the Himalayan glaciers are retreating faster (according to Tandong and Hasnain), and that this will pose an environmental and security problem for 2â€“3 billion people and for the region for some time to come. With Bangladesh wanting to renegotiate water rights of the Teesta and Ranjeet Rivers; with Pakistan concerned about the water from Indiaâ€™s construction of new hydroelectric projects along the Sind and other Indus tributaries; and with the Chinese politically claiming and militarily probing Aranchal Pradesh and past Aksai Chin, it is time to index more glaciers at different altitudes and to work regionally to build sustainable water supply infrastructure. Only to record what India currently has in her potential energy and water resources, the government should signifi cantly increase funding for research on glaciers, those at different altitudes and those that are quite remote. I would request all the sceptics of glacial recession to visit the remote Himalayas during late July to do the diffi cult glacial research necessary for South Asiaâ€™s posterity. With Indiaâ€™s current dismal public health policies, its growing energy and water deficits, and its unwillingness to confront environmental problems, I do not feel that the government cares.
Note: The author would like to acknowledge that he is not a political or green activist, and that he knows Michael Mann and Syed I Hasnain.
Prof. Lawrence G Gundersen is the Professor of History and Political Science, Jackson State C College, Jackson, Tennessee, USA.