walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Published on: January 24, 2010
Glaciers Grow, Credibility Shrinks

The credibility of the IPCC, the reputation and the job security of its chairman, the consensus among key (and rather skeptical) countries that global warming is man made and needs to be fixed:  it’s all melting away, to judge from the latest news from New Delhi.  The only thing that isn’t melting is the Himalayan icepack, parts of which, a British scientist points out, may actually be growing.

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri is gamely defending his job in the midst of a growing global press firestorm, arguing that the late, reluctant of admission by the IPCC that its Nobel prize-winning report on climate change contained significant errors has somehow increased the panel’s credibility.  But while Parchauri fights his critics, movement toward a global agreement to stop climate change is collapsing.  According to The Financial Times, a senior Chinese official has said that China wants to keep an open mind about the causes of global warming.  The FT reports that following a meeting with representatives of the other ‘BASIC’ countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) to follow up on the international climate conference in Copenhagen, China’s Xie Zhenhua told a press conference in New Delhi that “There is a view that climate change is caused by cyclical trends in nature itself…  We have to keep an open attitude.”

Xie went on to say that while the “mainstream view” was that climate change was caused by “the unconstrained emissions of developed countries during the industrialization process,” this was not necessarily so, as “there are some uncertainties.”

That doesn’t sound like a government getting ready sell painful policy changes to a skeptical public back home.  What seems more likely is that the meltdown of the credibility of both the IPCC and its chairman in the wake of ‘climategate’ and ‘glaciergate‘ is giving countries like India and China the political freedom to back away from the policy changes that climate campaigners want to see.

Meanwhile, it turns out that something isn‘t melting: the glaciers.  As Ben Cubby reports in The Age, the British climate researcher Dr. Hayley Fowler has pointed out that the Himalayan glaciers are actually holding up better than most others around the world.  “While winters in the western Himalayas were warmer, summers had been cooler in recent years, meaning that some glaciers in the west have been growing, not receding like others around the world.”

Dr. Fowler is a mainstream climate scientist who accepts the case for global warming and the need for policy changes to fight it, and her reports on the glaciers aren’t intended to undermine the science of climate change.  But it seems clear that the current leadership of the IPCC and some other climate institutes lack the stature and credibility to lead.  The only question is how long it will take the mainstream environmental community to realize this and start the necessary housecleaning.  It’s looking more and more that without some big changes in personnel and policies at the IPCC and a systematic review of the findings thus far, the world’s governments will never agree to make the policy changes that environmentalists believe we need.

Over to you, Mr. Gore.

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