Deny This: Contested Himalayan Glaciers Really Are Melting, and Doing So at a Rapid Pace-Kind of Like Climate Change
Remember when climate change contrarians professed outrage over a few errors in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s last report? One of their favorite such mistakes involved an overestimation of the pace at which glaciers would melt at the “Third Pole,” where the Indian subcontinent crashes into Asia. Some contrarians back in 2010 proceeded to deny that the glaciers of the Himalayas and associated mountain ranges were melting at all. But now, using satellites and on-the-ground surveys, scientists note that 82 glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau are retreating, 15 glaciers have dwindled in mass, and 7,090 glaciers have shrunk in size.
Why? The culprits include rising average temperatures characteristic of ongoing global warming and changes in precipitation, another sign of climate change, according to Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University and his colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The study appeared online in the journal Nature Climate Change on July 15—and is bad news for the hundreds of millions of people who rely on such glaciers to feed water into major rivers such as the Ganges, Mekong or Yangtze.
But climate contrarians have moved on, of course. This June, atmospheric scientist Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the only remaining climate contrarians actually trained in climate science, dismissed the documented 0.8 degree Celsius rise in average temperatures in the past 150 years or so as a small change during a talk at Sandia National Laboratory. Yet, that small change has resulted in events like chunks of ice double the size of Manhattan breaking free of the ancient Greenland ice sheet last week. Just a few years ago, an even bigger ice-massif crashed into the sea. Events that once happened every few decades in Greenland now happen every year or so.