Findings in Australia-NZ chapter well backed up

A Herald review of the Australia and New Zealand chapter of the IPCC's working group two report found that statements about changing climate and ice loss in New Zealand were backed up by published papers and government reports, including a 30-year scientific project to take aerial photos of glaciers.

The review was sparked by criticisms that other chapters of the report contained references based on reports by lobby groups and anecdotal evidence.

Where anecdotal evidence was used in the chapter - for example, a paper based on a series of workshops with farmers - it was used as evidence for steps taken by and for people rather than evidence of changing climate.

The only reference to a WWF report was in relation to the value Australians invested in property.

While the bulk of reports referred to were from academic journals, a conclusion that snow lines were likely to rise was based on an essay by one of the co-ordinating lead authors, Blair Fitzharris, on changes in seasonal snow in a book published by the University of Otago social sciences department.

The working group two report comprised 20 chapters summing up climate change "impacts, adaptation and vulnerability".

The criticisms:

1. Himalayan Glaciers

Claim in chapter 10 (Asia) that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035 retracted by the IPCC after it was traced to an incorrect statement from a glaciologist in New Scientist magazine, which later appeared in a report by the WWF environmental group.

2. Extreme weather

UK newspaper the Times claims chapter 1 (observed changes) used a non-peer-reviewed study which wrongly linked the rising cost of extreme weather damage to climate change. The IPCC said the report was the only one to look at the issue globally and the report made clear other studies disagreed.

3. Mountain ice

Another line in chapter 1 based reports of shrinking mountain ice on interviews with mountaineers from an article in a climbing magazine and a student dissertation.

4. Amazon rainforest

Statement in chapter 13 (Latin America) that shrinking rainfall from global warming might wipe out 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest was allegedly based on a mis-reading of a report written by green campaigners for the WWF. Experts say the 40 per cent claim is correct and backed by several peer-reviewed papers but question why these were not listed as sources.

- NZ Herald

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