Human Events Blog

Greenland Unfrozen By Ideology

The Times of London bills its Comprehensive Atlas of the World as “the world’s most prestigious and authoritative atlas,” a “benchmark of cartographic excellence” whose new 13th edition “reveals today’s world in all its glory and at its most fragile.”

But they got Greenland wrong.  It turns out to be a lot less fragile than the most excellent cartographers of the Times had been led to believe.  As the New York Times reports:

“Fiasco” was the word chosen by one scientist in an e-mail to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., alerting his colleagues to erroneous claims made by the publishers of the atlas (whose name derives from The Times of London) about the speed at which Greenland’s glaciers are melting.

He also feared that a map in the atlas, along with news accounts repeating an error in the news release, could pull climate scientists into another vortex of damaging controversy.

The news release, echoed by the news media, claimed that Greenland had lost 15 percent of its permanent ice cover from 1999 to 2011. That translates to 125,000 cubic miles, according to a rough calculation by Etienne Berthier, a glaciologist with the University of Toulouse, enough melted ice to raise sea levels three to five feet.

The corresponding map in the atlas itself indicated that significant portions of Greenland’s coastline had become ice-free.

Glaciologist Poul Christoffersen summed up the error by saying “they’ve basically erased hundreds and hundreds of glaciers around Greenland.”  Another glaciologist charitably suggested that the Comprehensive Atlas crew might have mistaken a map of ice thickness for one showing its extent.  His theory was briskly rejected by a managing editor for the publisher.

A pack of panicky climate scientists took to the airwaves and Internet tubes to “state emphatically that Greenland has not lost 15 percent of its ice cover in recent years.”  The real figure is more like 0.1%. 

The HarperCollins subsidiary which publishes the Comprehensive Atlas Of the World was very proud of the cutting-edge ecological sensitivity it displayed by drawing Greenland incorrectly.  Still listed on their web page is a Twitter message announcing: “World atlas re-worked as climate change alters the face of the planet.”  They spent the past week expressing unshakeable confidence in their cartography (“We are the best there is!”) before grudgingly allowing that perhaps the map could stand a wee bit of “reconfiguring.”

The reason climate scientists are freaking out is their memory of the great Himalayan glacier hoax, which the New York Times very delicately refers to as “an exaggerated claim” that “became fodder for global warming skeptics.”  That makes it sound like a little nothingburger incident that only a bunch of teabagging anti-science types obsess about.

In fact, this was a massive hoax pushed by the entire global-warming apparatus with furious intensity.  An MSNBC story from November 2008 declared that “glaciers high in the Himalayas are dwindling faster than anyone thought, putting nearly a billion people living in South Asia in peril of losing their water supply.”  CNN shrieked that the Himalayan glaciers “could disappear altogether by 2035, according to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.”

The truth, reported by none other than the Times of London in January 2010:

A warning that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world’s glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC’s 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was “speculation” and was not supported by any formal research.

In other words, one guy did some completely unsupported spitballing about melting Himalayan glaciers… and the global-warming fear machine turned it into a planetary panic that lasted nearly a decade, before anyone in the “science is settled” crowd got around to asking where that IPCC report came from.

It’s refreshing to see climate scientists grow sufficiently worried about their remaining credibility to show “outrage” at the band of over-zealous true believers who drew Greenland wrong in the Comprehensive Atlas of the World.  There was a time, not long ago, when their “outrage” was reserved entirely for apostates.


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