The Perils of Groupthink, Cont’d

My USA Today column yesterday (USAY for short) was on groupthink and the CRU debacle. Well, here’s a good concrete example of what I was talking about. When an organization is plagued with groupthink, any convenient data or fact will be immediately believed without question. Contrary or inconvenient facts will be explained away.

Charlie Martin over at PJM highlights a perfect illustration of this tendency. Apparently the head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, recently blew a gasket over a study that was equivocal on whether or not the Himalayan glaciers were melting due to global warming. Pachauri said: Of course they’re melting! In fact, the 2007 IPCC report asserted that they are melting faster there than any place else. They’ll all be gone — gone I tell you! — by 2035 if not sooner. The panel reported that: “If the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate.”

Now, anyone who has seen a glacier up close who is not drunk on Kool Aid would have looked at a prediction that all of the roughly 10,000 Himalayan glaciers would be gone in less than 25 years with skepticism (particularly when many of them are, in fact, growing). It turns out that the 2035 prediction was a typo. The original paper on which the prediction was based had said the glaciers could be gone by 2350, but the IPCC guys read it as 2035 and Pachauri not only believed it, but when confronted with scientific evidence that even the 350 year prediction might be overblown, angrily defended the 25-year prediction as authoritative.

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