Post Carbon

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adapted from The Post's climate blog.

Sierra Club names its new leader

The Sierra Club will have a new leader, its board of directors announced last week: Michael Brune, who has spent the last seven years as the Rainforest Action Network's executive director.

The move signals the end of Carl Pope's 18-year reign as head of the large and influential grass-roots environmental group.

Brune, a 38-year-old native of Chadwick Beach, N.J., started as an organizer for Greenpeace and has spent years working on issues including illegal logging and global warming. He took part in last year's demonstration to shut down the Capitol Power Plant, and has pressured companies including Home Depot and Kinko's to change their business practices.

A glacier-melt mistake

A flawed projection in a 2007 report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the rate of Himalayan glacier melt has sparked a new debate.

A portion of that report suggests that the likelihood that Himalayan glaciers will disappear "by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high." There is not any underlying documentation for this assertion beyond a news story that appeared in the New Scientist several years before the IPCC report came out.

The IPCC apologized last week for publishing that projection, saying the panel's officials "regret the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance."

The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a "factcheck" saying the mistake was not key to the IPCC's overall conclusions.

"What should not get lost in this manufactured controversy is the fact that glaciers around the world are melting more rapidly than the IPCC projected," the scientists' group said. "A 2005 global survey of 442 glaciers from the World Glacier Monitoring Service found that only 26 were advancing, 18 were stationary, and 398 were retreating. In other words, 90 percent of the world's glaciers are shrinking as the planet warms."

Skeptics have pointed to the error as reason to question the link between climate change and glacier melt.

Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, said this error raises larger questions. "This is not an isolated incident," said Ebell, whose group receives funding from energy companies. "This is a pattern of hyping the evidence to advance the alarmist agenda."

Benjamin D. Santer, a research scientist in the Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, defended the idea that global warming is causing glaciers to melt worldwide. "Scientists are human, mistakes occur," Santer told reporters. "But science is capable of identifying and correcting these mistakes and moving on."

-- Juliet Eilperin

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