walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
We Really Don't Understand Our Climate

Earth-e1364501633968

Scientists are still struggling to explain the slower-than-predicted global warming over the past decade. It’s a puzzle with enormous implications: we know that we’re emitting greenhouse gases in record quantities, and we know that these gases trap more of the sun’s heat, yet global surface temperatures are significantly lower than what our climate models predicted. If our models are otherwise correct, then where is this heat going? A group of UK climate scientists have some ideas:

A range of factors have been pinpointed for what has come to be called the “hiatus” or “pause” in warming, which the scientists said they expected to be temporary.

These include small airborne particles known as aerosols from volcanic eruptions that have a cooling effect as they reflect sunlight back into space; the impact of the regular cycle of solar activity; the sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases, and the way the oceans absorb heat.

There are innumerable variables in the climate system that could be responsible for the warming slowdown. These scientists have identified some of the likeliest culprits, but one professor admitted that they “don’t fully understand the relative importance of these different factors.”

That’s a big problem, considering most green legislation aimed at reducing emissions calls for measures to prevent very specific degrees of warming. This recent warming plateau is exposing our limited understanding of climate, and it’s effectively killing the rationale for green policies that limit growth and, at the most basic level, try to force people to do things they would rather not do. The biggest cause of climate skepticism isn’t evil oil companies and campaigns of disinformation; it is the inability of greens to refrain from overstating their case and insisting dogmatically and self righteously on more certainty than the frustrating facts can give.

[Earth image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Corlyss

    “If our models are otherwise correct, then where is this heat going?”

    Garbage in, garbage out. Of course, considering that models were wrong is simply heresy. They were inadequately constructed and they have had bad data fed into them for 20 years. None of them have even attempted to take into account the sun’s activity when the sun is the major agent of warming and cooling. Still the greens cling to their most compelling arguments for destroying modern prosperity, even if they are largely fantasies, because to give them up might cause mass suicide in their camps. The idea that maybe we can’t save Gaia is not nearly as disturbing and painful to the greens as the idea that Gaia just might not need saving after all.

    • lagrangia

      Quite so; the Green agnda is nothing to do with saving an unendangered planet, but to force us into a new Dostoyevskian “Inquisitors’ Bargain”- surrender your freedoms and we will give you security and bread. cf “The Brothers Karamazov”

      Without exception, the real goal is a totalitarian regime ruled by a corrupt and self serving elite which begins with mendacity and goes on to commit grand larceny violence and murder on an epic scale, and, BTW the pretended problem to be combated is NEVER solved.

      In the Green Case, Humanity itself is to be the scapegoat for the ills of the world- The Tribes of Judah and the bourgeois Kulaks are no longer enough to feed this truly homicidal “god”

      Good to know the would be Emperor is revealed as naked in good time…

      • CB

        Goofballs.

        If it were so likely that ice caps can withstand CO₂ passing 400PPM, why have ice caps never existed with levels of CO₂ that high in Earth’s entire history?

        This article is nonsense. Looking at climate over the last few years and ignoring 4.5 billion years of climate history is the height of myopia.

        • klem

          “..ignoring 4.5 billion years of climate history is the height of myopia.”

          And believing we actually know 4.5 billion years of climate history is the height of, what?

          • klem

            I’m thinking of words like fantasy, delusion, deception, fabrication, lie, words like that.

  • Andrew Allison

    Occam’s Razor suggests that the heating effect of CO2 is very, very much less that postulated by climate hysterics.

    • Corlyss

      We wouldn’t even be faced with the phony narrative about CO2 if we’d had a Supreme Court that was scientifically literate. That’s the problem with everything ending up in the courts: the judges don’t know enough.

      • Andrew Allison

        Oh, please. The job of the Supreme Court is to adjudicate in the context of the Constitution. The CO2 scam is something entirely different. It’s a sociopolitical narrative which, like the ongoing attempt to lynch a guy who’s as “white” as the President for firing in self-defense, is completely faux but benefits it’s promoters (e.g., the Fat and Formerly-fat Als).

        • Another_Lurker

          Scientific illiteracy means they are dazzled by BS and not facts.

        • Corlyss

          My point, Andrew, was that the Supremes should never have drunk the Kool-Aid, i.e., that CO2 was a dangerous air pollutant that fell within EPA’s mandate to regulate. They wouldn’t have if they had been scientifically literate. The case before them was precisely that, whether the Clean Air Act required EPA to regulate CO2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts_v._Environmental_Protection_Agency
          That decision ranks right up there with their Hamdan decision for sheer stupidity.

          • Andrew Allison

            With respect, the Court held that the CAA gives the EPA the authority to regulate tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases.
            The Court did not make a determination as to whether CO2 is, as conventional wisdom holds despite recent evidence to the contrary, a greenhouse gas. The auto industry could, and should, challenge the regulatory authority on the grounds that there’s no evidence that greenhouse cases (as opposed to oxides of nitrogen which have been shown to cause smog) can “cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”
            ;<)

          • Corlyss

            Okay. I take your point that my characterization of the findings was overbroad, but the result was that CO2 falls within EPA’s mandate. That the auto companies haven’t found the magic bullet to kill this court-granted authority may be moot. Either challenge is precluded by the failure of subsequent cases to chip away at EPA authority or because they have decided it ain’t worth the candle to take on an Administration that endorsed the auto-bailout. It might very well have been a condition of the bailout that the auto industry shut up and sit down in the face of EPA’s jackbooted regulations. Gone are the good old days when EPA suits were just a means of shaking down Republican contributors.

          • Andrew Allison

            Sorry to be a pendant, but the Court did not grant the mandate, they simple confirmed that it was legal. It’s up to somebody else to prove to the Court that CO2 is not a threat (a high hurdle, I grant, but the link between CO2 and temperature is clearly broken) :<)

          • Corlyss

            I can be just as pedantic. Agreed SCOTUS did not grant EPA a mandate. I didn’t say it did. SCOTUS said CO2 fell within EPA’s mandate to control air pollutants.

          • Andrew Allison

            But you did: “My point, Andrew, was that the Supremes should never have drunk the
            Kool-Aid, i.e., that CO2 was a dangerous air pollutant that fell within
            EPA’s mandate to regulate.” It was already part of the mandate. LOL

  • JohnSkookum

    Is CO2 a greenhouse gas? Yep, we’ve known it since the days of Arrhenius. But we also know its effect is logarithmic, meaning each incremental increase in temperature requires more and more CO2. All of the hysteria we’ve seen over the past few decades is based on postulated positive feedback loops due to water vapor, for which the evidence had always been far more shaky than the heat trapping effects of CO2. Increasingly, it appears that the feedback is either absent or even negative. And for sure, the overall effect is mere statistical noise next to natural variability. We have been swindled of trillions of dollars, both directly and indirectly via lost prosperity, for the climatological equivalent of belly button lint.

    • Andrew Allison

      “Is CO2 a greenhouse gas?” If it is, how come despite a one-third increase in CO2 since 1996, the temperature hasn’t increased? AGW hysterics are attempting to change the terms of the debate by throwing up the explanation du jour for this undeniable truth.
      Is increasing CO2 increasing global temperature or not? It’s not. Where is all the excess heat disappearing to? Occam suggests that there isn’t any.

  • d1stewart

    Do they understand the factors well enough to justify calling it a “pause” or “hiatus”? It doesn’t seem to me that they do. It may not be a pause at all, and calling it a pause or hiatus is begging the question. They are insisting that the direction of the “global temperature” (itself a question-begging concept) is upward, that they know it’s upward, they know why it’s upward, they know how it’s upward, they know it must be upward, they know how to prevent it from being upward, and that they know how to stop it from being upward.

    Calling it a pause or hiatus assumes that they know all this–yet they don’t know why warming has stopped for nearly two decades. They don’t know that it has paused. It may have stopped. It may not have ever been anything that humans have done, and therefore there’s no anthropogenic global warming at all–not at all. And thus, calling it a pause or hiatus is false. It definitively proves that their explanation of warming–AGW–is at best a falsified hypothesis. (Though I expect them to do what they do: Continue to use it as an unfalsifiable claim, and use it to explain anything and everything that they consider a negative effect of the natural world, from major hurricanes to a lack of hurricanes to fertility rates to snail extinctions.)

    Yet it’s not been upward for almost two decades—two decades in which we’ve been told hysterically that the globe IS warming, not was in the recent past and in the future will be again, but IS, and we must, and can (without cost, ultimately), arrest the upward direction. What we’ve been told for these nearly two decades has been false–not maybe, not “you just don’t understand it,” not “you’re a flat-earther,” but false. It has not been up, and they who have been saying it is have been wrong, and telling us something that is not true.

  • nickshaw

    Has anyone noticed that the temperatures “paused”, “hiatus-ed” or whatever term they want to use, at about the exact moment the warmistas started bleating about Gorebull Warming?

    Darn that Mother Nature is such a cruel jokester!

  • DrElsarAmosOrkan

    Well, both camps are partially right. The alarmists are right since the global warming is factual and the deniers are right since the
    global warming isn’t anthropogenic.
    Unfortunately both of them are causing an irreversible damage to the humanity.
    Global warming is caused mainly by increased solar radiation due to sudden shortening of the distance between the Sun and the Earth about 10 000 years ago and only the urgent shadowing of the Earth (Prof. R. Angel University of Arizona) may be considered as
    the saving procedure. The alarmists and not alarmists scientist should make a
    shift from their weak trenches to the realistic causal treatment of the global warming phenomenon. Read more: “Can Mankind survive the consequences of Global Warming due to the shortening of the distance between
    the Earth and the Sun?”
    Dr Elsar (Amos) Orkan
    The Israeli Association for the Global Warming Fight

    • Andrew Allison

      Sorry, but while the empirical evidence suggests that solar radiation is a much more significant driver than CO2 (or cow-farts, aerosols or any other controllable influence), the fact is that we just don’t know what causes climate change. This suggests that we should stop the almost certainly futile efforts to control climate and start planning on how to live with it.

      • DrElsarAmosOrkan

        The distance between the
        Sun and the Earth – and measurements of the Sun’s radiation falling on the
        Earth’s surface – are believed to have remained constant since the first man
        started to observe and explore these parameters. However, are these
        assumptions correct?

        The three dimensional
        congruity between the bodies of the Earth, Moon and Mars together with
        geological and paleontological evidence confirm that a collision between Earth
        and Mars must have happened approximately 10 000 (±5 000) years ago.

        The collision with Mars
        almost entirely crushed our planet, totally reshaped its surface, created
        floods and glaciers, pushed the Earth closer to Sun causing a significant
        shortening of the distance between them, and in consequence an increase in
        solar radiation which brought Global Warming into effect.

        It is only now, with the fulminating melting of the
        polar ice caps, and their diminished ability to cool the planet, that the
        impact of this collision can be felt through all the indicators of global
        warming. I contend that global warming is not anthropogenic and that the
        theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is wrong; that this argument
        hampers the search for the real cause of Global Warming; makes the fight
        against Global Warming impossible and consequently endangers the future of our
        posterity.

        Dr Orkan

        • Andrew Allison

          Unfortunately, you major thesis is flawed. There is bountiful evidence that the Sun’s radiation falling on the Earth is variable. Ergo, your other arguments must fail.

  • teapartydoc

    When things don’t change as expected in any experimental situation one must consider the possibility of overlooked or as yet unknown homeostatic mechanisms. In this case the very fluidity of our atmosphere should have been an indication that something like this could have been run into. The same is probably true of the ozone layer. Ultraviolet light is the biggest producer of ozone in the upper atmosphere. It may not have mattered at all that we stopped using CFC’s.

  • Meekrob

    So, wait, am I to understand that the sky is not, in fact, falling?

  • crystalpoint

    President, Obama, your staff of scientist, need to be replaced, when considering that, 32,000 other scientist in the world disagree with your thoughts regarding man made climate change!
    It is your staff of existing scientist that you rely on for making decisions which effect all of us! When you propose unfounded principals or theories from your staff then jump the gun assuming they are the gospel! You do this nation a great disservice, by placing those into action!
    These guys or girls who make up this gang of experts on your staff, all have a vested interest of some kind, i.e. security in their jobs, perhaps and interest in solar power, or wind energy, last but not least, they are tied to AL Gore or the environmental movement!
    What you need is a “Think Tank” of honest people, from the business sector e.g. independent businessmen who have been seriously harmed by your actions to change the worlds climate! Which cannot be achieved by your present actions!
    Ray Smith

  • texan99

    “Our models have failed, but we confidently predict that the failure is only temporary.”

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2014 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service