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]