Melting glaciers and little straw men
by Kevin Grandia
Over the last few months we have seen the continued attack on the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by the right-wing media and the free-market think tanks. At issue this time is a single paragraph among thousands that predicts the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers by the year 2035.
Turns out the Himalayan glaciers will probably take a lot longer than that and the IPCC issued a correction saying as much [pdf].
In the normal world, mistakes happen and life goes on, especially when it comes to such a relatively minor flaw in what is considered by many to be one of the most robust reviews of any field of science ever undertaken.
Even one of the most outspoken critics of the mistaken Himalayan glacier finding, Georg Kaser of the Geography Institute at Austria’s University of Innsbruck, pointed out in an interview with the French Press Agency, that the core evidence of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report remains incontrovertible. “I am careful in saying this [pointing out the flawed paragraph], because immediately people will again engage in IPCC bashing, which would be wrong,” he said.
But in the politically charged world of climate change policy there is little that can be labeled as normal and the IPCC bashing has begun. The incorrect single paragraph is being propped up as a straw-man to be knocked down in an attempt to somehow prove that climate change is not happening and/or it is not a threat.
The strawman is a classic public relations technique: find a single flaw and then use it to destroy or discredit the entire story. Think "death panels" in the attack on health care reform.
Regardless of what some may want us to think, glaciers around the world are still melting, some quicker than others, but in the end, if we continue to burn coal and oil at the rate we are and pump endless amounts of greenhouse gas into our atmosphere all the glaciers will be gone someday. The latest figures out of the World Glacier Monitoring Service find that, "glaciers across the globe are continuing to melt so fast that many will disappear by the middle of this century."
Ironically, one of the first major glacial fields to go might be in Montana's Glacier National Park. And no end of little straw men are going to stop it.
Kevin Grandia is an expert on astroturfing groups that distort the debate on climate change. He runs the website DeSmogBlog to track their activities.