Archive for 2015-12-19

Has there been a ‘pause’ in global warming?

As I discussed in my previous post, records of global temperatures over the last few decades figure prominently in the debate over the climate effects of CO2 emitted by burning fossil fuels. I am interested in what this data says about which of the reasonable positions in this debate is more likely to be true —  the `warmer’ position, that CO2 from burning of fossil fuels results in a global increase in temperatures large enough to have quite substantial (though not absolutely catastrophic) harmful effects on humans and the environment, or  the `lukewarmer’ position, that CO2 has some warming effect, but this effect is not large enough to be a major cause for worry, and does not warrant imposition of costly policies aimed at reducing fossil fuel consumption.

A recent focus of this debate has been whether temperature records show a `pause’ (or `hiatus’) in global warming over the last 10 to 20 years (or at least a `slowdown’ compared to the previous trend), and if so, what it might mean. Lukewarmers might interpret such a pause as evidence that other factors are comparable in importance to CO2, and can temporarily mask or exaggerate its effects, and hence that naively assuming the warming from 1970 to 2000 is primarily due to CO2 could lead one to overestimate the effect of CO2 on temperature.

Whether you sees a pause might, of course, depend on which data set of global temperatures you look at. These data sets are continually revised, not just by adding the latest observations, but by readjusting past observations. (more…)

2015-12-19 at 11:52 pm 17 comments


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