Our planet hasn’t been warming the way our best climate models predicted it would. This temperature pause has befuddled the public and policymakers alike, but given the difficulty of the task—predicting the future of one of the most complex systems we know of—maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. That’s the gist of a recent piece by climate scientist Tamsin Edwards on her blog, All Models Are Wrong:
Climate model projections have shown periods of cooling of about this length, embedded within longer-term warming, since before this pause happened. But our communication of this expectation has not been good: it has been a surprise to public and journalists alike.
First, the IPCC Summaries for Policymakers have not been very clear that pauses could occur, at least until the most recent report (quotes from these are given in the article)…Second, climate scientists tend to show averages of many simulations, which smooths out any temporary changes in trend…Third, the causes of slowdowns are complex and sometimes the desire to simplify means communication has been plain wrong.
Edwards recently published a commentary for the journal Nature entitled “Pause for thought” that looks at the communication—or failure thereof—of the current state of climate science. At the heart of this miscommunication lies a desire by scientists to simplify a complicated phenomenon. But whether this is done out of a desire to make a better case for policymakers to push through green schemes, or just to spread knowledge to the layman, the dumbing down of climate science has come at the expense of the facts.
Greens, in their quest to paint the darkest possible picture of our future, have been all too keen to seize on such oversimplifications, but in doing so they have given fodder to their dreaded enemies, the climate deniers. The greenhouse effect is fairly easy to understand, but the fiddly bits are decidedly less so. Ignoring them in favor of a cleaner narrative does the green movement more harm than good.