by Greg Laden
In an ongoing effort to discredit mainstream climate science, climate contrarians have incorrectly asserted that there is a “pause” in the rate of global warming. This was never true, but now, it is even less true.
Greg Laden teaches anthropology at Century College and blogs for National Geographic Scienceblogs.com. He is a long time resident of the Twin Cities and has written extensively on matters of climate change and other areas of science.
To any objective observer, the Earth is now a world warmed. The decade 2001-2010 was the hottest decade on record, and every single month since March 1985 has been warmer than the 20th century average. The present year promises to be the sixth warmest year on record. Already this year, our fellow Americans out West have been confronted by record breaking wildfire, extreme drought, and devastating floods. All this in addition to the ongoing pine beetle epidemic ravaging our forests. All of these “natural” disasters are exactly what climate scientists expect from a world warmed by human emissions.
Despite all these facts, the contrarians have been heavily (and somewhat successfully) asserting that the world isn’t warming, that global warming has paused.
While this has always been a blatantly misleading argument that deliberately confuses short-term variation with long-term trends, a new study makes it perfectly clear that the world has warmed.
Contrarians focused on the rate of warming since 1998, which was an exceptionally hot year due to climate change and El Nino. This makes later years appear to be relatively cool, and is a form of lying with statistics. They draw a line on a graph showing the rate of warming from that unnatural peak in 1998 to now, and make it look like warming has continued at a steady pace, and not accelerated as expected (an argument that would fail any Statistics 101 class, as it ignores “regression to the mean”).
With this cherry-picked and statistically laughable graph in hand they cry “Global warming has paused! The climate models have failed!” as though the rate of acceleration of temperatures is somehow going to make or break the fact that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas. This would be quite the achievement, considering CO2’s greenhouse characteristics have been known since the 1820’s!
Our current system for measuring temperatures has a relatively large area around the poles that is not well covered. This new research uses advanced techniques to fill in the gaps in our measurements. When these holes are filled, what looked like a slight stagnation in the rate at which temperatures were increasing rose to agree with model projections.
What Cowtan and Way found, to the dismay of contrarians, was that when the poles are included the rate of global temperatures has been on pretty much the same upward trajectory since at least the 1950s. Climate change has continued to get worse and worse, despite what contrarians claim.
This means that not only is the “pause” a statistically unsound argument, but now we know it never existed in the first place!
So for those keeping score, the contrarians have only a debunked and imaginary pause in the rate of acceleration of warming, while there is a 97% consensus among climate scientists that humans cause warming, the UN’s climate change panel states 95-100% certainty that humans are causing warming, every major scientific institution endorses the consensus that humans cause warming, there have been almost 345 consecutively warm months in a row, and broken extreme weather records all over the world.
For those that may be wondering what motivates contrarians, since it clearly isn’t the science, other new research finds the answer is exactly what you would suspect. Fame and fortune seemingly outweigh the condemnation that comes with resolutely denying the realities of our warmed world.
Given that sad fact, we begrudgingly await for the contrarians next excuse, now that they have been caught trumpeting this “faux pause.”