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EPAs Finding Rests Predominantly on the Conclusions of the UNs IPCC
January 26, 2010

Posted by: David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov

EPW POLICY BEAT: ENDANGERMENT 101, PART 3

In the last in our series on EPA's endangerment finding, we take a closer look at the basis on which the finding was made.  EPA's finding rests predominantly on the conclusions of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  As the apotheosis of green aspirations, the IPCC is, as one top Administration official described it, the "gold standard" of climate change research.  The "scientific consensus" on climate change and its causes is, as historian Naomi Oreskes stated, "clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change." 

There is no daylight between the views of Oreskes and EPA.  In the "Technical Support Document" explaining the scientific basis of the endangerment finding, EPA stated that "the conclusions here and the information throughout this document are primarily drawn from the assessment reports of the IPCC," among other sources. 

One could readily take comfort in EPA's relying on the "gold standard" to make such a momentous finding.  Yet, what happens to endangerment when the "gold standard" loses its sheen?  We refer to the recent unpleasantness emanating from the IPCC itself.  As it turns out, the IPCC's startling assertion that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035-asserted in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report in 2007-was predicated on...not much at all. 

Under the headline "World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown," the UK's Sunday Times reported that the Himalayan bit was based on a 1999 story in a news magazine, which in turn was "based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi."  In 2005, the activist group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) cited the story in one of its climate change reports.  Yet, despite the fact that the WWF report was not peer-reviewed, it was referenced by the IPCC.  "When finally published," the Sunday Times wrote, "the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study but went further, suggesting the likelihood of the glaciers melting was ‘very high'."  The IPCC defines this as having a probability of greater than 90%.

Even more galling, in an interview with the UK's Sunday Mail, Murari Lal, author of the IPCC report's chapter on Asia, said he knew there were no solid data to support the Himalayan glacier claim: "We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action." In other words, the Sunday Mail wrote, Lal "admitted [the glacier alarmism] was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders."

One wonders about the fiery moral indignation that would rightly ensue had a drug company executive admitted to falsifying drug research to enrich himself and the company's shareholders.  Yet we already see the hand-waving: this is one mere error amidst a sea of facts and rigorous analysis.  And as for that Climategate thing: just a few pesky emails from a few boorish paleo-climatologists.  Yet as it turns out, the Climategate scientists were central to the formation of the IPCC's reports-email after email contains names of individuals who served as IPCC authors and editors. 

We close by pointing to page 162 of EPA's endangerment finding, under the heading of ‘Examples of Key Regional Impacts as Identified by the IPCC (2007b): "Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding and rock avalanches from destabilized slopes and to affect water resources within the next two to three decades. This will be followed by decreased river flows as the glaciers recede."

Related:

Glacier scientist: I knew data hadn't been verified

EPW POLICY BEAT: ENDANGERMENT 101

EPW POLICY BEAT: ENDANGERMENT 101, PART 2

EPW POLICY BEAT: ‘THE GOLD STANDARD'

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