Lomborg-errors: "Cool it!"

Glaciers
 
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GENERAL REMARKS

Glaciers worldwide have been receding at an accelerating pace during recent decades, concomitant with the general rise in air temperatures worldwide. Lomborg manages to shift focus completely away from this fact, by various distracting excursions. First, he writes about glacier movements several thousand years ago, which is not very relevant to the issue of modern global warming. Second, he omits mentioning of the recent acceleration. Third, he points to changes in precipitation rather than changes in temperature in those cases where it fits his agenda, and only those. Fourth, he mentions only one tropical glacier where recession is due to reduced snowfall, and omits mentioning of all other tropical glaciers, where changes in temperature play a (small or large) role.

ANALYSIS OF FOOTNOTES
Footnotes 328 to 358 on pp. 70 to 73 have been carefully analysed by Chris Goodall, se here.



RECEDING GLACIERS

Comments to pages 71 - 74 in Cool it.

(COMMENT)
Page 71: "Al Gore fills 18 pages of his book with before-and-after pictures of glaciers.
Comment:
The correct figure is 12 pages, or 16 pages if you include pictures of Kilimanjaro.

(COMMENT)
Page 71 and note 336: "Bjørnbreen . . . has been reborn six times."
Comment:
It is not mentioned here that these variations are ascribed more to variations in winter precipitation than to variations in temperature. "Reborn" is too strong a word, as is also acknowledged in note 336.

REMARK
Page 71: ". . most glaciers were small or absent from 9,000 to 6,000 years ago"
Remark:
The source indicates that the glaciers were short, or in places even absent. This is not surprising, as it is wellknown that in large parts of the Northern Hemisphere temperatures were higher than now during the period 9,000 to 6,000 years ago.

FLAW
Page 71 bottom: "When Bjørnbreen peaked around 1800, it was actually twice as large . . "
Flaw:
It was only 20-30 % larger, as estimated by combining Figures 10 and 11 in the paper by Matthews et al. The text on page 80 in that paper is that the two first advances of the glacier were "almost as large" as the advance during the little ice age.

FLAW OF OMISSION
Page 71: Modern recession of glaciers is presented mainly as a consequence of emergence from the little ice age; Lomborg does mention that manmade warming contributes to glacier recession, but the recent acceleration in glacier melt is left unmentioned.
Flaw:
Changes in the pace of recession of glaciers worldwide since the mid 19th century are well correlated with known changes in temperature. Recession has been fastest in those periods where temperatures were highest, that is in the 1930s - 40s and after 1980. Around 1970, at the end of a relatively cool period, the recession generally slowed, and some glaciers even advanced. After that, recession has again accelerated. Therefore, what we have been seeing after 1970 can no longer just be understood as the after-effect of having left the little ice age, but rather as a direct effect of rising temperatures. If we were seeing just the after-effects of a change to milder climate that occurred at about 1850, then the recession would be gradually slower as the time lapsed since this past climate change increases. Instead, we are seeing accelerating recession worldwide, which points to a direct relationship to recent temperature changes. During the years 1961-1990, melt water from glaciers and ice caps around the world, excluding Greenland and Antarctica, contributed a total of 0.33 mm per year to global sea level rise. For the years 2001-2004, the contribution was 0.77 mm per year, that is, more than twice (reference: this link).

(COMMENT)
Page 71 bottom and note 341: "The best-documented overview of glaciers shows that . . "
Comment:
The reference in note 341 (Oerlemans 2005) is not the most comprehensive overview over glaciers. It is heavily biased towards northern hemisphere glaciers, and includes very few glaciers in the tropics and on the southern hemisphere; see the criticism in this link.

FLAW OF OMISSION
Page 72: The only tropical glacier mentioned by Lomborg is that on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Flaw:
In the tropical zone, there are glaciers in many localitions in South America, three locations in eastern Africa, and one in Irian Jaya (New Guinea). The vast majority of these glaciers are receding, and in nearly all cases rising temperatures play a role in this (link). But Lomborg mentions only that single place where glacier recession may probably not be due to rising temperatures (whereas Al Gore mentions also South American glaciers). This is a strongly biased and therefore misleading presentation.

FLAW
Page 72 top: "This is more than it has lost in the 70 years since"
Flaw:
The text is misleading. Counting from 1880, the loss up to 1936 was 55 %, i. e. more than half. Of course the loss after that could impossibly be more than that, because in that case more than two halves would have been lost, i.e. more than 100 %. After a period with high snowfall just before 1880, the glacier declined much up to 1912. But since 1912 the loss of area per year has been nearly constant, and the percentage loss per time unit of time has been ever increasing.


(COMMENT)
Page 72 top: "Kilimanjaro has not lost its ice to increasing temperatures . . "
Comment:
This may or may not be correct. See more about this on Lomborg-errors´ page on Kilimanjaro.

Notice that when a glacier retreats (Kilimanjaro), Lomborg stresses the importance of precipitation rather than temperatures, whereas when a glacier expands (Bjørnbreen), he does not mention precipitation.


(BIASED DEROGATION)
Page 72: "This is the price we pay if climate change is allowed to go unchecked."
Flaw:
The statement from the Greenpeace press release is here placed in a changed context so that it looks as if "this is the price" refers only to the disappearing snow on Kilimanjaro. But in the press release, the "price" includes crippling drought and water supplies at an extremely low level in the Atlas mountains, and in Africa in general more extreme droughts and floods, widespread agriculture loses, and increased infectious diseases. In the lower part of page 72 Lomborg tries to give the impression that Western opinion makers are only concerned about the Kilimanjaro ice cap. He knows  from the press release that Greenpeace expresses concern  for the welfare of the African people, but he manages to give the impression to the reader that the Greenpeace opinion makers care only for the ice cap, not for the real needs of the people.

ERROR
Page 73 and note 356: " . . providing more water to many of the poorest people . . "
Error:
The facts presented in the footnote are not directly wrong, but they are utilised to reach a false conclusion. The reference (Singh et al. 2006) deals with the Dokriani glacier which covers 7 km² out of a total glacier area of c. 38.000 km² in the Indus-Ganga-Brahmaputra basins. This glacier has lost about 20 % of its volume from 1962 to 1995, and the loss has accelerated since then. It is no wonder that with rising temperatures, the run-off from this single glacier during summer is projected to increase by 28 %, simply because the glacier is melting away and will probably have disappeared in less than 100 years. This story, however, deals with only a minute fraction of the catchment area. Much more important is the information in Singh & Bengtsson (2005), likewise cited in note 356, that the summer run-off will decrease from catchments that are covered by snow during only parts of the year. Now, such catchments make out about 30-40 % of the total mountainous area of the Himalaya, whereas glaciers make out only c. 17 %. Thus, overall, the increased melting of glaciers will be more or less counteracted by decreased run-off from snow-covered areas. The overall balance is projected to be as follows: In the upper Indus, there will be initial increases of water flow ranging from +14 to +90 % over the first few decades, followed by decreases of -30 to -90 % after 100 years. For the upper part of the Ganga, the change will be +20 to +33 % during the first two decades, and after that a decrease by -50 %. For the lower Ganga, there will be little change. For the Brahmaputra, there will be a drecrease of water flow throughout. All this may be read in a report on glacier retreat in Nepal, India and China, published by the WWF. The projected changes are potentially quite serious, because about 500 mio. people are dependent on the waterflow in these rivers, not only for households and agriculture, but also for hydroelectric power. In addition, accelerated glacier melting will cause more episodes of sudden floodings due to bursting glacier lakes.
    Lomborg´s text on this subject is so misleading that it is counted as an error.
    Comment: In January 2010, the media have written much about a statement in the WWF report referred to above that the glaciers may be completely gone by 2035. However, this is not what that report says. It cites another report from 1999 which makes this statement. The original data presented in the WWF report say otherwise.

ERROR
Page 73 and note 357: " . . increasing water availability throughout the last centuries, possibly contributing to higher agricultural productivity. "
Error:
The source Lehmkuhl & Owen does not mention agricultural productivity. Instead it says on the retreat of Tibetan glaciers: "Such conditions clearly pose a serious threat to the water resources and environment throughout Central Asia"; and on Himalyan glaciers: "Presently retreating glaciers pose serious threats to water resources on the Indian subcontinent as well as hazards such as those from glacial lake outburst floods that are common as glaciers retreat."

ERROR
Page 73 bottom and note 358: " . . but rather a 60% reduction. Thus, essentially global warming of glaciers means that a large part of the world can use more water for more than 50 years . . "
Error:
The source (IPCC) says: "Schneeberger et al. (2003) simulated reductions in the mass of a sample of northern hemisphere glaciers of up to 60 % by 2050. As these glaciers retreat due to global warming, river flows are increased in the short tem, but the contribution of glacier melt will gradually decrease over the next few decades." Thus, the run-off from glaciers will decrease in a few decades from now. The people on the northern hemisphere (especially in Asia) cannot use more water for a period of 50 years from now.

ERROR
Page 74 and note 361: " . . the summer runoff in the rivers Hunza and Shyok has decreased about 20 %."
Error:
Lomborg has misunderstood the text in his source. The figure of 20 % is the decline in waterflow that was predicted on the basis of temperature changes. The actual waterflow was reduced by more than 20 % in one of the rivers, but fairly constant in the other river.

ERROR
Page 74 bottom : " . . prepare for when the rivers revert to "normal" water flow but with more in the winter, less in the summer" Error:
The annual river flow is not projected to revert to "normal", but rather to be permanently decreased (WWF report referred to here in relation to note 356). By the way, what is important is the water flow in the summer season. Lomborg does not explain how it should be possible that water flowing in the rivers during winter should be stored and kept until summer.