The “pause” is old enough to vote

One thing I have learnt in the 2+ years of blogging is the importance of a post’s title. A clever, sexy title can attract a lot of views to an otherwise dry and technical essay. Conversely, uninspiring titles have sunk many a brilliant posts. After this little introduction let us get into it.

I have written quite a few posts dealing with the issue troubling the best minds in the World of climatology. The “pause”. There are different methods for working out trends from the climate data. Using the simplest one of them – linear regression – we have not seen any surface warming for 18 years and 1 month now. This means there are people entering the voting age who have experienced no global warming in their lifetimes. The story has a number of angles which I want to explore.

First, this is not a confabulation of the paid lapdogs of Exxon-Mobil (otherwise known as “deniers”). The “pause” is real and the length of it can be easily calculated from the publicly available climate databases run by the mainstream academic institutions. Anyone possessed of a computer can download the archived temperature record, enter it into Microsoft Excel and get the same result. The “pause” is a scientific fact.

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In saying that, the interpretations of the “pause” vary, depending on the spin people try to put on it. The mainstream climatologists have been coming up with the explanations why the “pause” is either not real or else irrelevant. A list of 52 such excuses is presented at the following blog link. The most popular claim is that, while the surface of the Earth is not warming, the depths of the oceans are (based on the recently available data) so there is no “pause”. I am finding this very unconvincing because when the surface temperature was rapidly increasing in the 1970s and 1980s we were not told that this had little meaning since the deep sea temperatures were not accounted for. The issue only came to prominence when the surface trend leveled. To a seasoned cynic like me this is too much of a coincidence.

I equally do not accept the assertion of some people on the other side of the debate that the “pause” invalidates all research into Earth’s climate. A lot has been learnt about the complex interactions between the land, water and atmosphere. But in the process we have also realised how much we do not know. Crucially, to give momentum to the political push for carbon emissions control, what we know has been perhaps over-emphasised at the expense of the uncertainties. It happens in life when we sometimes appear more convinced than we really are to impress the decision makers. “Officer, I am sure I was doing only 51 so can you not let me off with a warning?”. Well, a similar thing may have happened in science where research grants, tenures and reputations depend on the validity of a contentious climate theory proposed by the academia in the 1970s.

The last aspect of the story I want to touch on are the repeated claims that things are “worse than we thought” in the World of climate. If no warming for 18 years is worse than they thought then what did they think was going to happen? A cooling? Surely, no warming must be better, not worse than whatever they thought – otherwise what was the fuss all about?. Also, we keep hearing that the emissions of CO2 are rising faster than projected which is a bad thing. Hello – if the CO2 levels are going through the roof and still there is no warming does it not mean that our understanding is of the correlation between the two is seriously incomplete?

One explanation of the above paradoxes is that climatology is a new branch of science which is yet to develop its own checks and balances. Well, as the “pause” is entering adulthood, the need for maturity in the science interpreting it is becoming really urgent.

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