Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Denialist taxonomy

Continuing a discussion in the previous post's comments, I think it's helpful to come up with categories of denialists. The overall point is to use a word that's distinguishable from skeptic - a skeptic displays rational doubt, while a denialist displays irrational or insincere doubt ranging to certain disbelief.

(This is my simplified and somewhat different version of John Mashey's Reasons for Anti-Science, well worth reading.)
  • True Believer: sincerely believes each subsidiary argument that he (yes, he) uses. Computers climate models don't work, all the instrumental record compilations don't work, no proxy for paleotemperature works, satellite records are too short, who would trust weather balloon data, and physics is too tricky.
  • Kitchen Sinker: will asset subsidiary claims that the denialist doesn't necessarily believe, while believing the overall conclusion that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax. More ethical variants of Kitchen Sinkers will merely "note" arguments that support their side while not overtly stating their belief in those arguments.
  • Cure Evader: these ones think the cure is worse than the disease, but instead of making that argument they claim that there is no disease. They may or may not believe that the disease exists, but what really motivates them is their certainty that the cure is a mistake.
  • Gamer: they're not really concerned with the truth or falsity of the subsidiary argument or broader issue, or with the broader effect that their position has, but with fighting the game for themselves or possibly their side. I'm pretty sure this describes Steve Milloy of Junk Science, and maybe Marc Morano as well.
Overlays of contrarian personalities, Dunning-Kruger (overconfidence in self expertise, underconfidence in others), ideological disbelief in inconvenient facts, retired-professor-disease, and economic interests for a small percentage can all influence the above.

I'd also emphasize Locked-In-Syndrome, which may be my one semi-original contribution to this study. A new hypothesis appears with only a small amount of evidence, and some people for any of the above reasons come out against it. They've started the process of being Locked In, where it's easier for them to reject each new piece of evidence than it is to reject their belief structure. This might be why science sometime proceeds one funeral at a time.

And then, just to screw up everything I've said so far, is my tendency to label people as "true skeptics" and not denialists if they're willing to put their money where their mouths are and bet over climate change. The idea is the person has shown sincerity and depth of commitment to their position by putting skin in the game. But the true skeptic could be just as irrationally wrong as a True Believer, and a True Believer just as sincere as a true skeptic.

In conclusion, I am inconsistent and contradictory in terminology - but only somewhat so! Maybe the "true skeptic" label is just an indication of respect for betting opponents. Anyway, I'm open to alternative terminology that distinguishes false skepticism form the worthwhile version.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

American Civil War denialism

Along with all the other forms of denialism, here in the US we have a large fraction of political conservatives who deny that our Civil War was primarily or even partially about slavery in the South. You can see it in this Krugman post that pointed out the obvious, and some of the comments that still couldn't see the obvious. Here's one by Hal Horvath:

I think I’ll stick to the well-known scenario: Lincoln started the war for the public reason: to preserve the Union, and only changed the primary reason much later, in order to justify the bloodshed and uplift the nation.

Yes, Lincoln used sneaky Jedi mind tricks to start the war by making the Confederates attack Fort Sumter.

Contrary to Horvath, both pro- and anti-slavery forces in the US prior to the Civil War believed that slavery had to expand to new states in the West in order for it and the Southern Way of Life to survive. Lincoln and the Republicans opposed expansion, and that was enough for some Southern states to secede when Lincoln won the presidency. More at wiki for those who care.

Add another denialism to the list. It would be interesting to see how many denialist beliefs can be found in a single person.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Environmental Defense's take on Copenhagen

Environmental Defense has its Insider podcasts several times a year, a conference-call briefing of major donors on the climate issues that they later put online. They recently did one on Copenhagen. Some interesting points:

They think whatever monitoring protocol developed in future US climate legislation will become the international standard, apparently because the size of the market will be so large in the US that it will be easier for other nations to just match it.

They're pushing for immediate changes in the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism, and no longer support offsets under the current CDM for India and China. I've thought some anti-offset and anti-CDM criticisms were overblown, but I've also considered Environmental Defense a supporter of both. If they're backing off, that's meaningful (tho they didn't reject a new and improved offset system).

The whole REDD anti-deforestation thing made significant progress but still wasn't completely finished. I think this issue is a policy sweet spot - India and China don't want deforestation to emit CO2 that they'd rather be able to, the developed world also looks for ways to reduce emissions, and the countries with the forests should be happy to be bought off. For those who are anti-offsets however, please note that this is basically an offset.

Basic impression is of incremental progress, not collapse. Whether you see that as a failure depends on your expectation, I guess.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Right imitates left in a good way (if you're on the left)

One of the few things that conservatives did better than progressives in the US was to welcome converts. On the left, it seemed that anyone repudiating their past just got criticized for their past, while people on the right loved conversion stories.

But now, following Representative Parker Griffith's party switch from Democratic to Republican, the conservatives are trying to make life as difficult for him as possible. Yes, the switch is minor bad news for the Dems, although it's part of the long history of conservative Southern congressional seats switching to the Republican party. The consolation for the left is the hostile reaction Griffith is getting on the right, and what it says about the insularity of the conservative movement.

On a related note, climate denialists still seem to love a good conversion story, something like "I used to believe in global warming, but then I heard the excellent points raised by Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck and now know the truth." I translate that as really meaning "I used to pay no attention to global warming and was only vaguely aware of the issue. When I finally became more interested in my conservative political values, I started paying attention more, but only to factoids that reinforce my conservativism, and global warming doesn't fit what I would like to believe." Maybe they'll start hating the converts too as their circle shrinks.

Unrelated bonus blogging - recently watched two good movies, The Descent and Out of the Past. Descent was a good horror flick, with an all-female cast and some technically accurate rock-climbing (ignoring that the skill required is professional level, not something amateurs could do). Out of the Past was a great 1947 film noir with Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas at the beginning of their careers. Also watched Oldboy - I've gotten used to violence in films over the years, but that was just too harrowing for me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The China-Copenhagen Syndrome

The Guardian reports that China was responsible for making Copenhagen much less comprehensive than it could have been, while avoiding any public responsibility for it. This sounds plausible to me - they take global warming seriously there, with energy efficiency, carbon sequestration, renewable power, and nuclear power all getting significant investment, while at the same time pumping out as many coal plants as possible. Coal power plants are meant to run for 30 years or more. China wants to keep its options open.

Maybe this has something to do with the resistance to China's call for reparations - why write a climate-related check to a country that is screwing up attempts to address climate. I'm sympathetic to this resistance regarding China, whose per-capita emissions may be one third of the US but are still far too high. Other countries, however, have done far less to increase CO2 concentrations, and to tell them that we get the benefit of polluting while they have to hold back the same as we do isn't going to cut it.

Matt Yglesias misses the point by apparently believing climate debt presents a binary choice of blank checks for dictators, or doing nothing to rectify past emissions (his choice). I think we can be a little more subtle than that.

And while I'm being cranky, the New York Times misses the point on focusing on safety concerns for China's nuclear expansion by neglecting the alternative - even more coal plants. Coal pollution kills thousands each year here in the US - I can't imagine the numbers in China. A nuclear meltdown every couple decades would kill far fewer people. I'm not a huge fan of nukes due to costs, nuclear weapons proliferation, exposure to terrorism and (in the US) restriction on legal liability, but safety isn't an issue.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Admin note: comments are dead. Long live the comments!

The Haloscan-powered comments to this blog are trying to switch me to an "upgrade", and I think I'll switch to Blogger-powered ones instead. I think it will work better, with the downside that I think I'll lose all the old comments. I've got a file with all old comments that are a pain to access, but will keep them alive in some form on my computer. If you want any of your insightful comments saved for yourself, go to old posts and get them while you can - I won't be able to keep them online for more than a week or so.

I will copy a few of the longer comment threads and more recent comments into Blogger. There will be some experimenting in terms of spam prevention. Please bear with me, and leave comments here or send me an email if something's screwed up.

We'll see what happens....

Monday, December 21, 2009

I very much wish this wasn't my 1,000th post: Neil Kelly, age 55, RIP

I started this blog in April 2004, and now my 1,000th post is about the death of a friend last week, my climbing partner Neil Kelly, killed in a car accident on his way to work.

This blog isn't generally about personal events, but I just want to recognize Neil as a self-made man in a very different sense from what you usually hear in news reports about billionaires. Neil had a more tumultuous life as a younger man long before I knew him, but from that he constructed a stable and happy life for himself and everyone who was part of it - his wife Colleen, their kids, and of course all his many friends and colleagues. I think it's a far more unusual accomplishment than sacrificing everything for the sake of making a lot of money.

We have his black-and-white photograph of bristlecone pines from the White Mountains in our condo, and also here is the monstrous-sized treadmill that Neil, another friend and I scraped through the hall, up the stairs, and around various twists into the bedroom. And I shouldn't omit what a good climbing partner he was - very safe, and always encouraging.

He was part of our lives and will be missed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Joy Behar should debate Marc Morano

(I'm expanding this from a comment I left on a Chris Mooney thread on how to deal with Morano.)

A while back I had a random radio moment where I listened to someone I'd never heard before, Joy Behar, take apart the evil and smart creationist/denialist, Ann Coulter. Behar is one of a number of talking heads that CNN has - she's a liberal but seems primarily interested in pop culture and only secondarily in politics.

Unfortunately I can't find the clip online, but Behar did two things very effectively that were the exact opposite of what I would've done. First, she kept throwing a rapid-fire variety of attacks at Coulter, barely responding to Coulter's evasions before taking up a new attack . By contrast, I would've stuck to one narrow subject to try and prove beyond a doubt that I was right and that Coulter/Morano was wrong. Behar has instead found her own response to the Gish Gallop, (the "Behar Canter"?), simply by attacking repeatedly but truthfully, and beating the other side at their own game.

Second, Behar's attacks were all directed at Coulter's side and Coulter's political allies, but never at Coulter herself. This contrasts to my thinking that debating someone like a Lomborg or a Lott is a chance to focus like a laser on all his misrepresentations, and get him the reputation he deserves. Behar instead keeps audience's sympathy by avoiding a "mean" attack on Coulter herself. She might have also flummoxed Coulter a little more because Coulter wouldn't be as familiar with lies said by her allies as she would be with her own lies. (Update: maybe I should clarify that the exchange Behar had with Coulter wasn't about climate, but it was still relevant.)

Just an impression, anyway, but maybe worth copying. Behar couldn't do a long debate alone against Morano without knowing more about climate, but she could take him on her show for a five-minute segment. I'd like to see that, which is the only publicity I've ever wished for Morano. I might even email my suggestion to Behar.

Just to finish off, here's the alternate advice I suggested at Chris Mooney's for debating Morano: "the debate be solely about the following: 'Resolved, the items posted on a Climate Depot for the week of [pick one week randomly] were mostly accurate.' The only way to counter the Gish Gallop is to nail Morano down to a record. Even a week might have too many posts to conclusively prove him to be full of frass, so a shorter period might be needed."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Does Gore's speech mean I'm out $333??????

I've been taught by skeptics that the only thing that matters in the climate change debate is how it affects me. I've bet Joe Romm $333 that the Arctic will NOT be 90% ice-free before 2020, while Gore's saying new data shows it might happen in 2013. Do I need to start socking my pennies away?

It's worth noting that the actual prediction is for 80% loss (as stated at the link, Gore messed it up slightly), but if we do hit 80% by 2013, then 90% isn't that far away. Still, I think I'm on the winning side. Mark Serreze, who's been somewhat aggressive on predicting ice loss, is sticking with 2030. OTOH, Serreze isn't dismissive of the prediction, which is a little scary for my pocketbook, and a lot scarier by showing that 2013 is not crank-level over-alarmism. I'd guess the odds are in my favor still, but not as much as before.

On to climate news almost as important as my finances: Exxon for the first time is hedging against a climate-changed future, and doing it big time with the $41 billion purchase of XTO, a natural gas company. Other oil companies have taken similar actions with renewable power investments, while natural gas is an important bridging fuel over the next few decades.

Hopefully this means less resistance by Exxon to greenhouse gas regulation. Skeptics might say that the company will now game the rents in public legislation and has nothing to do with Exxon's evaluation of climate reaility. I think if they can afford $41 billion to adjust to legislation, they could've afforded $100 thousand or so to come up with an alternative climate model that realistically disputes warming, if one could've been constructed. My guess is they're adjusting to scientific reality, somewhat.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A WISE result could bring extrasolar exploration in this century

2010 looks to be a boring year in space, at least for space buffs like me who want eye candy.Cassini will continue to do its amazing thing, but that's been going on for a while. Same with theMars Rovers. We'll find out in a few weeks if Phoenix will have survived the Martian Arctic winter, which would be cool, but a stationary lander doesn't bring much in the way of new images.

Mars Science Laboratory was to be the big thing in 2010, but they blew the deadline along with the budget, and now it's delayed to 2012.

On the bright side, the Kepler space telescope should finally put out some results on its search for extrasolar planets. It's not eye candy, and it won't be until later that it finds how many Earth-sized planets are in Earth-sized orbits around stars, but next year we'll finally get some statistically-valid information on the percentage of stars with planets in short-period orbits.

And then there's WISE, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, a space telescope that launched yesterday. Other telescopes are more sensitive for detecting cold objects in space, but they can view only tiny parts of the sky, while WISE will survey the entire sky. That means it could find brown dwarfs (massive planets/failed stars) or stray gas giant planets that are closer to our solar system than the Centauri star system, the closest known stars that are four light years away.

If WISE finds a brown dwarf within .5 light years or less, I think it's conceivable that a robotic mission to explore it could be launched and arrive there in this century. If aerocapturetechnology gets sufficiently developed, it might even go into orbit instead of being a flyby.

Not exactly a mission to another star, but pretty close.

UPDATE: Cool Cassini pic of sunlight on a lake on Titan. No one has ever seen sunlight on a lake anyplace besides Earth, until this picture was taken. I guess we will have some eye candy in 2010.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

When contrarianism is and isn't good

Some examples:

A contrarian business venture: excellent! May a thousand business flowers bloom! If you think Stirling engines are the wave of the future, or horse buggies, or private space planes, and want to sink your money into it, well, you go, girl! (Or guy.) Of course, most new businesses fail, even the ones that aren't trying to break the mold, but the businesses that make it help move progress forward.

A contrarian business venture financed with my money: well, hold your horses, there. Now we're talking about something with a potential downside. I'd have to be incredibly convinced before I'd bet my money that the rest of the business world is wrong. And I'd still be likely making a mistake in investing.

A piece of contrarian scientific research: excellent! May a thousand scientific research avenues bloom! Why bother proving something that science has long suspected but not firmly proven, when you can overturn your entire field instead. Again, it could be a waste of your time and someone's research money to attempt to prove something that 90% or more of the world's experts think is wrong, but Galileos do come along every few centuries - maybe it's your turn!

(Hypothetically) doing my thesis to prove contrarian science: you can probably figure out where this is going.

I'm going to speed this up.

Contrarian investment firms and contrarian scientific careers: this is a way to spread your contrarian bets. You can be wrong lots of time and score big the few times you're right. Whether it's really the best long-term strategy is another question. I think it might work a little better for investment firms than for a single scientist, because the firms can make a lot more bets than a scientist can do research projects.

Betting your nation/planet on a single contrarian economic or scientific policy: shall we switch the country to the gold standard? I'm sure there are a handful of economist PhD.s out there who say this is a good idea and "the only way to avoid the imminent economic collapse". Same question of whether we ignore the vast majority of scientists on climate and follow the few, allegedly-brilliant iconoclasts who say differently. When there's no way to spread your bets, at least not at any one time,* betting the farm on the tiny minority position is about as smart as betting the farm usually is.


This was intended to be my last followup to the Superfreakonomics issue, and generally on why contrarian policy choices, done not as an experiment but as an all-out commitment, are incredibly risky. Also relevant to a wiki discussion on whether describing Richard Lindzen as a contrarian is somehow a huge slur against him, as opposed to simply describing his career strategy and possibly his temperament.

*There is the option of changing your policy choice at a later date. This is another reason for skeptics to lighten up - they seem to be convinced they're going to be proven right in less than a decade. Any economic damage they see after 2020 from reducing pollution won't happen - the policies will have changed, and we'll have plenty of money to build statues in their honor.

Friday, December 11, 2009

John Bolton leads us on the path to peace

Prophets are rarely recognized in their own country, but it's even more rare for a prophet to not recognize himself.

John Bolton criticized Obama's call for reducing international violence, saying
You know, homo sapiens are hard-wired for violent conflict, and we’re not going to eliminate violent conflict until homo sapiens ceases to exist as a separate species.
But Bolton did a great job himself of avoiding violent conflict as a young man. If everyone else followed the path of Bolton and Limbaugh, the world would truly be a peaceful pace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More snows of San Francisco Bay

We're going on five days now of snow in the high-elevation hills above San Francisco Bay. We've got the possibility of more snow on the way, so some of this snow could last for two weeks.

Thought I'd take advantage of this to recycle two posts: first, on how the Bay Area and anywhere else with intermittent snowfall will see some significant effects of climate change as we go from a few snowfalls per year to a few snowfalls per decade. In addition to what I wrote before, I'll just add the aesthetic impact: hills turn into mountains when their top halves are snow-covered. It'll be sad to have that happen less often.

And second, a post on how we'll see increased flooding because winter storms that would've stored some of their precipitation as snowfall at higher elevations will be more likely to drop it all as rain, all at the same time. I think it should be possible to model this effect quantitatively.

UPDATE: bonus blogging - GingkoGate is now breaking in the comments at Jules' and James' blog. They won't get away with it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Why hasn't the fossil fuel industry created a pro-skeptic climate model?

According to the denialists, the existing climate models can conclude whatever the designers want them to conclude: a fine tuning here and there, and presto, dangerous warming in the future, but only because the modeller wanted that conclusion.

So my question: why haven't skeptics produced computer models that support their own conclusion, models showing that increasing CO2 and other greenhouse gases will have minimal effects? It certainly isn't beyond their financial capability to do it, even as a confidential exercise they could try first before unveiling it to the world.

One possible reason is that every coal and oil corporation in the world realizes they could do this, but they understand that computer climate modeling is not good science, and they are simply too ethical to do something like that.

I was going to go on and speculate about other reasons for the lack of skeptic models, but I think the one I just mentioned is really makes a great deal of sense and must be the reason.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Afghanistan's a mistake and I hope it works

After years of my saying that we should get out of Iraq and into Afghanistan, I'm now saying that putting the extra 30,000 troops in is a mistake. I'm ambivalent about my position, but I think a deeply corrupt, unpopular regime that is about as illegitimate as the Iranian one isn't going to be a good partner in nation-building.

OTOH, a Taliban reconquest is unacceptable too. I think the best option is to wait out the Karzai government, keeping it alive and in power in the major Afghani cities at the lowest cost in blood and treasure, until a competent government is in place. Kind of like the Soviet strategy in Afghanistan - hardly the greatest selling point, but as Matt Yglesias points out, we've got advantages that the Soviets didn't.

While I don't usually have a high opinion of Joe Biden, he had a great point that we're focusing on the wrong country by putting 95% of our money into Afghanistan relative to Pakistan. If minimizing our effort in Afghanistan could redirect some of it to Pakistan, all the better.

The long-term solution for Pakistan, as far as I can tell, is development (same answer I had before). Not a quick solution, but maybe Pakistani society will look at how India is doing so much better than they are, and get inspired/threatened enough to make a change.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Volokh Correction #26: plenty of proxies don't use tree ring reconstruction

Jim Lindgren, normally one of the non-ridiculous posters at Volokh, screws up with a long quotation of someone else that begins

The bristlecone pines that created the shape of the Hockey Stick graph are used in nearly every millennial temperature reconstruction around today....

Of course, RealClimate shows three reconstructions from the year 1600 or earlier without bristlecones or any other tree rings, and multiple other reconstructions without the particular Yamal tree rings that Lindgren is now going on about. (Update: above sentence corrected from four reconstructions starting in 1500, my thanks to Glen in comments for spotting this.) I haven't followed the Yamal controversy that closely except to know that most people who have think it's nonsense. Maybe there's something new here, but I doubt it. (It appears to be all about the data not being available, refuted at Deltoid two months ago.)

Lindgren is pumping out the usual nonsense (by implication, not directly) that the climate consensus is based on a single piece of information, and that info is corrupt. He needs to get his head on straight before accusing other researchers of being ethically-challenged.

Lindgren earned a lot of credit by taking on his fellow conservative, the ethically-challenged John Lott. He's used up a bit of that credit now.

UPDATE: and Lindgren's repost about false Australian temperature data is, of course, wrong.

Friday, December 04, 2009

My Freedom of Information-type work and relation to the hacked emails

My legal work in the past has included a fair amount of activity regarding the California state equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act, called the Public Records Act. The PRA borrows heavily from FOIA, so I knew FOIA pretty well (I'm not current on latest developments). I know squat about the British version of FOI, other than it's relatively new, so many vague aspects may not have been resolved yet through legal interpretations.

I've both filed PRA requests and responded to them, working on behalf of government agencies. The two worst weeks I had in the law were spent responding to a single, huge PRA request by a litigious millionaire, paging through thousands of documents to figure out which he could see and which he couldn't. A huge waste of my time and of the taxpayer dollars that were paying for my time.

In the case of the CRU emails, I doubt the climate researchers had included this line item in their grant requests: "80 hours to respond to ridiculous, repeated, massive data requests from people who don't understand the information and will lie about it in order to cause harm to the scientific process and to society as a whole." So the researchers probably had to eat the time spent responding.

They've got my sympathy, but still. If email records were deleted, if the responder knew for certain that the records were required to be given, and if, contrary to reality, the responder had been a lawyer and not a scientist, I would consider that a firing offense. A scientist might not understand the gravity of his violation, and his knowledge is less certain than a lawyer's over whether the record he's destroying is responsive to the request. I'd hope a scientist would understand that destroying information is not a legal way to avoid turning it over, but who knows. (If you have grounds for refusing to turn over information, in the US you create a privilege log that describes the documents you're not going to turn over, and you give that log together with all the responsive info.)

The other "ifs" in the paragraph above still apply: whether emails were destroyed, whether they were responsive to the requests, whether any exemptions apply to the legal responsibility to turn them over, and what the researchers knew about their obligations.

All this is a long way of saying the email thing may be more than nothing regarding Phil Jones, and may require some response or reprimand, probably short of permanent dismissal. I don't know if it's more than nothing about anyone else. Most of the rest of the allegations are unimportant: the "trick" is minor, attempts to fire incompetent editors and disregard bad science are justifiable, the 1980s climate data is still available in its original form from national agencies. I don't know about database quality, but I doubt there's enough there to really say the instrumental record for every database is meaningless.

But as Jon Stewart said, the moral here is don't cut corners. On the PR side, this might be a good time to point out on the Sadly Wish It Was A Longer List Of Things I Admire In Roger Pielke Jr.'s Work, is his unflappable demeanor (Eli Rabett gets the same kudos on a longer list). Keeping that demeanor might make it easier to deal with the nonsense.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Do the skeptics have a point about a 300-year typo in the IPCC?

(Welcome, Just One Minute readers. I appreciate Tom's link, but I'd also encourage you to look at my proposed bets with people who dispute anthropogenic global warming. With a few honorable exceptions, the loudest skeptics have been very uninterested in putting their money where there mouths are.)

Skeptics say:

According to Prof Graham Cogley (Trent University, Ontario), a short article on the future of glaciers by a Russian scientist (Kotlyakov, V.M., 1996, The future of glaciers under the expected climate warming, 61-66, in Kotlyakov, V.M., ed., 1996, Variations of Snow and Ice in the Past and at Present on a Global and Regional Scale, Technical Documents in Hydrology, 1. UNESCO, Paris (IHP-IV Project H-4.1). 78p estimates 2350 as the year for disappearance of glaciers, but the IPCC authors misread 2350 as 2035 in the Official IPCC documents, WGII 2007 p. 493!

Let's go p. 493, shall we?

"Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other
part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate
continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035
and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at
the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present
500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005)."


The WWF cite:

"WWF (WorldWildlife Fund), 2005:An overview of glaciers, glacier retreat, and
subsequent impacts in Nepal, India and China.WorldWildlife Fund, Nepal Programme,
79 pp."

In 1999, a report by the Working
Group on Himalayan Glaciology (WGHG) of the International Commission for Snow and Ice
(ICSI) stated: “glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world
and, if the present rate continues, the livelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 is very

The ISCI is where I run out of direct online sources. But I did find this ref, also from 1999:

"The glacier will be decaying at rapid, catastrophic rates. Its total area will shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 square km by the year 2035," says formerICSI president V M Kotlyakov in the report Variations of snow and ice in the past and present on a global and regional scale.

This is a problem. Back to Kotlyakov's report (p. 66):

The degradation of the extrapolar glaciation of the Earth will be apparent in rising ocean level already by the year 2050, and there will be a drastic rise of the ocean thereafter caused by the deglaciation-derived runoff (see Table 11 ). This period will last from 200 to 300 years. The extrapolar glaciation of the Earth will be decaying at rapid, catastrophic rates— its total area will shrink from 500,000 to 100,000 km² by the year 2350.

If the IPCC's chain of citations does indeed reach back to and rely on Kotlyakov 1996 alone - and I'm not sure that it does - then the skeptics have a point. Worth noting that Kotlyakov assumed linear changes in warmth, which is optimistic under business-as-usual scenarios, but that won't erase a 300-year difference.

UPDATE: Skeptic Tom Maguire gets a little further than me, but no real results. So far it's looking like sloppy work, although the sloppiness isn't with the IPCC but the predecessor citations. Maybe someone else can get a better answer than Tom or me.