This morning our resident aspirant global warming troll evcricket left this comment:
Anyway guys, it’s time to update your memes. There is no global warming pause. None.
Scanning the contents of the journal you’ll notice that there are several articles dealing with the “pause” or “hiatus”. Evcricket has selected one for our attention. So what is the story?
In summary, this analysis shows that not only is there no pause in the evolution of the warmest daily extremes over land but that they have continued unabated over the observational record. Furthermore, the available evidence suggests that the most ‘extreme’ extremes show the greatest change. This is particularly relevant for climate change impacts, as changes in the warmest temperature extremes over land are of the most relevance to human health, agriculture, ecosystems and infrastructure.
Okay – the argument being that the pause isn’t really a pause, it is a measurement problem. If you slice and dice the data differently you can get a different answer. This is bread and butter work for academics and this sort of thing keeps the journals full of articles.
But the journal has other articles on the same topic and an editorial.
To complicate things even more, in the past decade the climate hasn’t warmed at the rate projected, and evidence of the slowdown in temperature rise has sparked a lively scientific and public debate, as highlighted this month by a collection of articles in our Focus ‘Recent slowdown in global warming’.
Now if the editors of the world’s leading environmental journal think that an issue should be highlighted it does seem a bit churlish of pseudonymous blog posters to simply dismiss those concerns.
Then there is this admission (emphasis added):
The media reporting of a ‘hiatus’ came as a surprise to the public. Prior to this, the message had been of continuous warming — to be suddenly told that this was not true led to confusion. Questions started to arise as to whether the previous message had been incorrect — was global warming not happening?
As the editors of Nature Climate Change recognise, this is not unreasonable.
The surprise of the slowdown in warming and the subsequent media engagement by scientists, with a focus on uncertainties, leaves the public questioning what is actually known.
To the extent that the public have been asked to pay higher taxes, higher fees, to restrict economic growth and prosperity it is not unreasonable to ask what is actually known. Indeed that very issue of Nature Climate Change contains a letter to the editors where the authors admit that climate scientists haven’t differentiated between variation and uncertainty in their analysis (emphasis added):
Uncertainty is a measure of unexplained variation, and can be partly caused by measurement errors, and partly by our lack of understanding about cause and effect. But predictions of climate change, and approaches to its mitigation, do not only carry uncertainties in the magnitude of responses, they also entail significant natural variability in time and space.
That is what the public have now recognised and that is what they are worried about – simply blaming the media coverage as some climate scientists do, isn’t going to help their cause.
To be clear – the editors of Nature Climate Change and all the authors in that issue are convinced that global warming is happening and is a serious problem. They also recognise that explaining the “hiatus” or “pause” is a scientific challenge. They are not simply denying its existence.
As an academic endeavour what we see in this issue of Nature Climate Change is fantastic. There are theories to test, large amounts of data, and empirical anomalies to resolve. Fruitful academic work. I find, however, that the public at large tend to get a bit impatient when being asked to make huge sacrifices on the basis of that sort of thing.
* The title is a bit of fun. The pause is being described as a slowdown in the increase in temperature. In some circles a slowdown in the increase in government spending has described as being austerity.