Posted by: Rosebud | January 21, 2010

Now the Left Brain is Laughing

Now the Left Brain is Laughing at the IPCC

Environmentalism wasn’t supposed to be the focus of this blog, but current events have provided plenty of fodder for Right/Left Brain commentary, including this week’s revelation.  The UN IPCC has announced that a “factual projection” included in a recent peer-reviewed scientific paper is actually a journalist’s inaccurate interpretation of a scientist’s remarks.  The synopsis of events is not only a keystone cops comedy of errors, but also a revealing look at what is passing for left-brain scientific analysis.  First a recap of the Keystone Scientists at work:

It emerged last week that the prediction was based not on a consensus among climate change experts but on a media interview with a single Indian glaciologist in 1999. That scientist, Syed Hasnain, has now told The Times that he never made such a specific forecast in his interview with the New Scientist magazine.

“I have not made any prediction on date as I am not an astrologer but I did say they were shrinking fast,” he said. “I have never written 2035 in any of my research papers or reports.” Professor Hasnain works for The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi, which is headed by Rajendra Pachauri, head of the climate change panel.

Dr Pachauri has defended the panel’s work, while trying to distance himself from Professor Hasnain by saying that the latter was not working at the institute in 1999: “We slipped up on one number, I don’t think it takes anything away from the overwhelming scientific evidence of what’s happening with the climate of this Earth.”

Professor Hasnain confirmed that he had given an interview to Fred Pearce, of New Scientist, when he was still working for Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1999. “I said that small glaciers in the eastern and central Himalaya are declining at an alarming rate and in the next 40-50 years they may lose substantial mass,” he said. “That means they will shrink in area and mass. To which the journalist has assigned a date and reported it in his own way.”

Okay, so here are the facts laid out chronologically backward:

1. An important “projection” or “finding” of a Nobel-Prize-winning report (granted the panel won the prize for authoring the report and the report didn’t appear in Norway to receive the award) was actually a New Scientist’s magazine reporter’s projection.

2. The reporter developed this mathematical model while interviewing a scientist that wasn’t working for an organization headed by a scientist that also headed the Nobel-Prize-winning panel.

3. The top guy admits: “We slipped up on one number.” Meaning we took a number out of a magazine calculated by a reporter rather than using one of our own scientists to calculate it or even check it.

Now, I’m not going to explore the science of the debate, there are some great web sites out there like the ones below.

Instead I want to focus on the left-brain/right-brain implications here.  Here’s a situation where a scientific report includes a calculation that is very, very serious: the Himalayan glaciers will be completely melted by 2035.  Granted, the calculation/projection is buried deep within the report.  If the left brain is busy during the peer review process, it will fact check the data point with rigor.  Even a lazy left brain that is merely engaged in thumbnail calculations to check numbers will pick up on what an extreme projection this is.  It’s no secret how big the Himalaya’s are, and getting all that water out of there in 30 years or so is a major undertaking.  So what other explanation is there? Are the scientists letting their right-brain concerns/fears sabotage good left-brain scientific methodology? This sounds like a cult, people letting their right brain feelings have left-brain responsibilities. There just aren’t that many other explanations, are the “shrinking glacier” advocates a calculus of ineptitude or a secular religious cult?

In closing, the plan to collect better data on the over 15000 Himalayan glaciers:

Last year, however, TERI launched a project to install high-tech sensors on three glaciers which it will use as benchmarks to assess the situation across the Himalayas.

And the left-brain says………

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