Good news: the warming pause finally appears in the news as journalists learn about science.

Summary:  Telling the public about climate change is among the most difficult challenges for journalists, ever. Complex, rapidly changing, no consensus among scientists beyond a few basics about mechanisms and history, and highly politicized. Here we look at two examples, good and not-so-good. These show progress, and also how the Left’s dogmatic adherence to its narrative has forced them to abandon science (a commonplace in history for both Left and Right).

Community Climate System Model
Community Climate System Model

(1)  Good journalism

Sample #1: “Scientists now know why global warming has slowed down and it’s not good news for us“, Jeffery DelViscio, Quartz, 27 February 2015.

They accurately report two studies. They quote scientists — not activists. They often put things in context. Most important, they break the Left’s narrative of denying the pause, which for several years been one of the hot topics in climate science.

Roberts told Quartz that this all suggests our current warming pause is unique, but, despite the low probability, it is also “very possible” that the pause could continue a few more years. And that wouldn’t be inconsistent with what we know about the effects of the heat-trapping ocean oscillations at work in the Science study.

… >Some even say that 2014, the hottest year on record, already marked the end of the hiatus. But Roberts of the Met Office advised caution before calling it officially off. “I would argue that we need a run of several unusually warm years to be able to definitively identify the end,” he said.

All of the researchers who spoke to Quartz about the two studies agreed that the warming pause was just that. “Eventually we expect temperatures to ‘catch up,’ but it may take longer than five years for that to happen,” Roberts told Quartz.

The article’s overall frame is, however, incorrect. Individual scientists have theories about the cause(s) of the pause. But there is as yet no consensus on this. See for yourself by reading abstracts of (and links to) 37 articles describing of the major 12 theories about causes of the pause, many by leaders in this field.

Saying that the pause will end with accelerating warming (which seems to be a strongly held consensus view) raises the question as to when? Unfortunately there is little published yet about this, and even less of a consensus. One of the studies mentioned gives an answer:

… Although the absolute probability of a 20-year hiatus is small, the probability that an existing 15-year hiatus will continue another five years is much higher (up to 25%). Therefore, given the recognized contribution of internal climate variability to the reduced rate of global warming during the past 15 years, we should not be surprised if the current hiatus continues until the end of the decade. Following the termination of a variability-driven hiatus, we also show that there is an increased likelihood of accelerated global warming …


(2)  Not so good journalism

Sample #2: “Scientists just blew apart the myth of the global warming ‘pause’”, Lindsay Abrams, Salon, February 2015 — “A new study explains why manmade warming has appeared to slow down — and why it’s due to ramp up again soon.”

The most important part of an article is the headline, often not written by the author. This one supports the Left’s science denial, since dozens of articles explicitly discuss the “pause” (or “hiatus”) in warming of the surface atmosphere since roughly 2000 (here are 2 dozen abstracts and links about the pause, plus the 3 dozen cited above). Their efforts to hide this from the public have accomplished nothing but reducing their credibility, plus that of the journalists assisting them.

The opening is weak: “The so-called “pause” in global warming, object of much scientific study and climate denier mockery, is a mystery no more.” It’s activists’ favorite trope: a new study proves me right. That’s not how science works. These two studies add to the dozens of others exploring causes of the pause; as yet there is no consensus.

It’s downhill from there, as the article conflates the large body of skeptics (who generally agree largely with the IPCC, but not with the  activists’ exaggerations of its findings) with the clown car of deniers:

It’s tempting to want to gloat about the findings which, along with the news that scientists directly observed carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere, have the makings of the ultimate “so there!” to climate deniers. (Except they probably won’t: just this afternoon, Sen. Jim Inhofe was tossing a snowball on the Senate floor to illustrate a rant about the “global warming hoax.”)

There is little or nothing in these 2 new studies contrary to the views of most “skeptic” scientists (and amateur experts). In fact they were pointing to a large role for natural cycles (ENSO, El Nino, AMO) when the consensus said otherwise (ditto for the theory that the warming is going to the oceans. Eminent climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr was declared a “denier” for saying that before it became a consensus theory).

The penultimate paragraph is suitable alarming:

But the true implications of the study are far more sobering than that. Natural variations may have partially offset the warming caused by human activity for the time being, the study warns, but based on past variation, that trend “will likely reverse” soon, “adding to anthropogenic warming in the coming decades.”

Unfortunately the word “soon” is the authors’ addition. One of these papers gives no date for the pause ending. The other says that the odd of it continuing for five years are 25%, and the odds of another 10 years are “small.” Other scientists give estimates ranging from soon to decades from now. There is as yet no consensus. But the final paragraph is spot-on. We can thank both Left and Right for politicizing this important issue so that precious time has been wasted.

“That is perhaps the most worrying implication of our study,” Mann writes at RealClimate, “for it implies that the ‘false pause’ may simply have been a cause for false complacency, when it comes to averting dangerous climate change.”

(3)  For More Information

Journalists have risen to meet the challenge of covering climate change, although it’s taken 20 years. For an example of excellent coverage see the New York Times: “Consider Clashing Scientific and Societal Meanings of ‘Collapse’ When Reading Antarctic Ice News” by Andrew C. Revkin.

Both Left and Right often reject science when it contradicts their beliefs. See the new study “The Partisan Brain: How Dissonant Science Messages Lead Conservatives and Liberals to (Dis)Trust Science“, Erik Nisbet et al, Here’s the Ohio State press release describing it. The March issue has several other articles about this subject.

Key posts about climate change:  Scientists explore causes of the pause in warming, perhaps the most important research of the decade., with abstracts and links to 37 articles describing 12 theories about causes of the pause.  And One of the most important questions we face: when will the pause in global warming end? with abstracts and links to 15 articles giving predictions from very soon to several decades from now.

Posts about the political debate about climate change:

  1. Watch the Left burn away more of its credibility, then wonder why the Right wins.
  2. Scientists speak to us about the warming pause, while activists deny their work.
  3. Climate denial by Left & Right dominates the public debate.
  4. More good news about the climate, giving us a priceless gift.

15 thoughts on “Good news: the warming pause finally appears in the news as journalists learn about science.”

  1. According to the Mar 1 AJC Prof Curry is being ‘investigated’ by US Rep Raul Grijalva D-AZ. Can’t the politicians leave the science alone?

    1. Socialbill,

      Activists on Left and Right are the same under the skin. The Right started this game. It’s fun to see them whine when the Left does it too.

      As you said, it is sad that Left and Right deal with scientific disputes by attacking scientists. It shows their contempt for science.

  2. Derrick Collier P.E.

    I think for me it is always been about the left talking about science as it pertains to AGW when it is not very scientific at all. Models of theory will produce what was theorized not proven physics. For any person to jump up and say the the science is settled based on models is insane. No physicist would ever join that group. I think this is entirely stupid and I wish that PHD’s in physics would put it to bed regardless of the endowment.

    1. Derrick,

      I agree on all points. I’ve documented examples in dozens of posts.

      This is logical behavior by the Left. They’re repeating the “nuclear winter” play, again counting on academia to not queer their play (“you’re don’t want a nuclear war, do you?”).

      It’s interesting that the nuclear winter scam was run successfully, but never got traction with the public. The certain global warming catastrophe scam has repeated both the operational success and the failure to gain sufficient public support for public policy action.

  3. It’s important to remember that global warming has accelerated, not slowed down. The ‘pause’ is in only one very small part of the climate system.

    1. icarus62,

      “It’s important to remember that global warming has accelerated, not slowed down.”

      Can you provide some citations for that belief?

      “The ‘pause’ is in only one very small part of the climate system.”

      While technically correct, the surface temperature warming is of great importance to us. For example, heat content of the deep ocean is far larger than the heat content of the atmosphere, but the changes seen in it (during the decade of data from ARGO) have relatively little effect on us.

    2. Our sun during cycle 20-23 was then most active in 3000 years and the earth thawed more out of the coldest period during the Holocene called the little ice age. Now during sun cycle 24 the sun has been the least inactive in over 200 years and the Great Lakes froze two years in a row. Because cycle 24 is longer than normal and has two peaks that is highly predictive of an extremely weak cycle 25. Expect bitter cold for the next 30-100 years with a news grand minimum.

      1. Visionar,

        The influence of solar cycles on Earth’s climate is a controversial frontier of climate science, with papers advocating a wide range of not just theories — but also data! See sections 6 & 7 on this Reference Page for citations and links to 85 papers about this. The titles themselves show the lack of consensus.

        “Our sun during cycle 20-23 was then most active in 3000 years”

        That’s one theory. Be careful about stating theories as facts, and doubly so for non-consensus theories! Reconstructions of past solar activity are the foundation on which these theories are built, and unfortunately there is no consensus. For example, Space Science Reviews (a high-impact journal) recently publish the result of the Sunspot Number workshops — which came to quite different conclusions.

        “the Great Lakes froze two years in a row.”
        Weather is not climate. Activists are both sides endlessly toss such chaff into the debate. All the major global temperature datasets showed 2014 as being one of the warmest years on record.

        “Because cycle 24 is longer than normal and has two peaks that is highly predictive of an extremely weak cycle 25.”
        Again, please don’t state theories as fact. There is no consensus on how to predict solar activity, as seen in the wide range of forecasts in 2008 for cycle 24.

        “Expect bitter cold for the next 30-100 years with a news grand minimum.”

        I don’t understand why people write such things. If climate scientists can’t agree, why do you believe you can make such a confident prediction?

      2. I have been deeply immersed into climate cycles for the past five years. A great starter was a paper by Alexander {“Linkages Between Solar Activity and Climatic Responses“, Energy & Environment, July 2009}. who studied 1500 year Nile river flood cycles for his planning four dams for South Aftrica for 500 year flood levels and has very convience measure cycles.

        Svensmark’s Cosmic Ray Cloud formation theory best fits climate cycles; when the sun is weak, more cosmic rays impact earth. Sun Cycle 24 is very weak, I don’t understand why you would write “I don’t understand why people write such things. If Climate Scientists can’t agree, why do you believe you can make suck a cofident prediction?”

        I see all AGW climate models not matching observations. to paraphrase Physicist Freyman: No matter how elegant your theory is, if it doesn’t match observations you are wrong. Climate hasn’t warmed for nearly 20 years and has in fact been cooling with the weak sun cycle 24 since 2004. So I am very confident the sun cycle 25 will be much weaker.

      3. Vision,

        You can find links to wide range of studies about solar influences on climate on this Reference Page. However, as the PBL survey shows, these theories have only small support in the literature because of an inadequate explanatory mechanism. Svensmark’s theory has many weaknesses, and as yet few supporters.

        The forecasts of climate models have not yet reached the point at which you can say “have not matched observations”. Actual temperatures are in the low end of their forecasts.

  4. Climate models have failed to match observations

    The fact the AGW crowd’s models ignore the sun is clearly coming to haunt the models. Eisenhower warned not only of the Military Industrial complex, but government lead science which describes the waste going into intermittent and inefficient renewable energy vs investing in 4th generation nuclear. There is much evidence of our governments changing the past temps to show warming today….

    1. Walter,

      I know that’s endlessly repeated by conservative websites. It is however not accurate. Predictions about weather trends (climate) on a decadal basis have wide margins of error. Confident statements about GCMs’ reliability are exaggerated, but so are categorical statement that they have “failed.”

      The climate change debate has degenerated to grade-school playground levels. Let’s try to fix that.

      Re: the sun

      The linkage with the sun on the time scales under discussion are controversial. Much of the correlations found are far weaker with the new solar cycle dating now under review.

    We need to consider also the warming-cooling (Dansgaard-Oeschger-Bond — DOB) cycles, which seem to be solar-controlled and have a period of approx 1000-1500 years; its most recent cooling phase, the “Little Ice Age” (LIA), ended about 200 years ago. For details, see Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years by Singer and Avery [2007].

    The LIAs are not nearly as severe as the major glaciations; yet they present an important threat to the food supply and to current civilization. Available technology seems adequate to assure human survival — at least in industrialized nations. The main threat is warfare, driven by competition for food and other essential resources. With nuclear weapons and delivery systems widely dispersed, the outcome of future wars is difficult to predict.

    Read more:
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    1. Walter,

      I am uninterested in getting information about science from political activists on the Right or Left. The “global cooling” scare is as idiotic as the “Earth burning” scare. The only interesting aspect of this is the parallel methods both Left and Right use on their flocks. Natural enough, since both are Americans. And today that means gullible.

      As I have written so many times, until we develop the ability to more clearly see the world — or at least some skepticism about the tales we’re told by our tribal leaders — we have no hope of regaining control of America. For details see these posts.

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