My question assumes that the event has not yet occurred, and I ask it because I am a regular enough ABC listener/viewer to have picked it up had it happened. And I ask it also because, bit by bit, reluctantly, the mainstream media are coming to grips with this apparent reality, starting, I think with the New York Times. I wrote a post about the ‘pause’ two months ago, and have been waiting for it to become ‘official’ (that is, for the ABC to discover it). While the ABC gave respectful notice to another grievously sloppy piece of work by the Climate Commission the other day (which waved away the ‘plateau’ in warming), it is apparently still to learn that warming really has paused.
As I said in the April post, it doesn’t really matter which index of global temperature you use — they all show that there has been no resumption of warming for between ten and sixteen years. Bob Tisdale, who loves playing with all these temperature numbers, and is good at it, says there has been no hiatus like it since the 1970s, at the end of the last long cool period. And we keep pumping more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So something else must be at work.
The orthodox warmists are quick to tell us, not that warming has stopped, at least for the moment, but that these are the warmest years humanity has known since whenever. I don’t see any reason to object to at least the ordinary version of the claim, which is that so far there has been no significant cooling. That isn’t the point. They will also tell you, as I wrote the other day, that the increases in warming and in greenhouse gas emissions don’t have to move in a lockstep way — as though any fool would know that. But my inconvenient memory tells me that no one said this a decade or so ago, and I don’t think you can find it in the IPCC’s AR4. Back then any fool knew that these two entities were related in just that fashion, because they had behaved like that for the best part of twenty years.
The Economist, a respected UK journal that has also been a strong supporter of the AGW scare, now seems to have decided that it is time for it to air a little doubt about it all. You can read its thoughts here. Perhaps it was too much to expect a full recantation, but it’s at least a start. The article reminds us that temperatures aren’t declining, but accepts that the fact that they aren’t rising is a puzzle. And it assembles the evidence from recent studies to suggest that ‘climate sensitivity’ is likely to be much less than the IPCC’s estimate. Why would that be so? Well, the IPCC relies on models, and too many of the variables used in the models are only fuzzily understood. No one really knows about what effects clouds have. And so on. Sceptics have been saying these things for years.
Across the Atlantic, The New Republic, similarly respected and similarly sure of the AGW issue, has also decided it is time to think again. If global warming is happening more slowly than predicted (more usefully, not continuing at all), where is the imagined heat derived from greenhouse gas emissions going ? There are two obvious possibilities: it is going into the ocean, or the original assumptions were wrong, and there is less heat in the system than was once thought. There is a great debate going on about the deep ocean, and whether or not heat has gone there (and if so, when it might emerge). I have an open mind about this one, but puzzle about why the heat has gone through the upper layers of the ocean to nest in its coldest zone. It seems a rather tenuous proposition to me.
I liked one of the article’s sentences: ‘In the end, the so-called scientific consensus on global warming doesn’t look like much like consensus when scientists are struggling to explain the intricacies of the earth’s climate system, or uttering the word “uncertainty” with striking regularity.’ I agree. Having said that, the article goes on to return nervously to the orthodoxy: ‘The last decade is proof of climate change, not a cause for reflexive skepticism. It was the warmest on record, despite a laundry-list of mitigating factors like prolonged La Nina, a wave of modest volcanic eruptions, and an ebb in solar activity. As those attenuating factors subside, climate scientists anticipate another round of rapid warming.’
As usual, one wants to know which climate scientists expect such an outcome. There doesn’t seem much sign of it, though I accept that it could start tomorrow. I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else does, either. The longer this whole business continues, the more confident I get that the AGW scare was formulated and adopted long before ‘climate scientists’ had any true understanding of climate. And what is happening, though not yet in the case of the ABC, is that the more serious media entities are beginning to wonder about how to save their bacon if it all turns out to have been yet another Y2K scare.