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Is global warming still happening?

Posted on 18 August 2010 by AdamK

This blog post is the Basic version  (written by AdamK) of the skeptic argument "It's cooling".

When looking for evidence of global warming, there are many different indicators that we should look for. Whilst it's natural to start with air temperatures, a more thorough examination should be as inclusive as possible; snow cover, ice melt, air temperatures over land and sea, even the sea temperatures themselves. A 2010 study included 10 key indicators, and as shown below, every one of them is moving in the direction expected of a warming globe.


The question of global warming stopping is often raised in the light of a recent weather event - a big snowfall or drought breaking rain. Global warming is entirely compatible with these events; after all they are just weather. For climate change, it is the long term trends that are important; measured over decades or more, and those long term trends show that the globe is still, unfortunately, warming.

Note: we're currently going through the process of writing plain English versions of all the rebuttals to skeptic arguments. It's a big task but many hands make light work. If you're interested in helping with this effort, please contact me

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. "those long term trends show that the globe is still, unfortunately, warming." The above diagram may be true, but is slightly misleading/doesn't present the whole picture. Skeptics have pointed out that several indicators are slowing in their rate of warming, contrary to IPCCC projections. (Which is also why the kefuffle with Trenberth and Jones' (mis)quotes 'we cant account for lack of warming', 'no warming since 1995' etc etc has occurred-they cant account for the 'slowing rate', unless one takes into account overall ocean heat-which may just be a convenient excuse). If global warming 'rate' is slowing in these indicators (air T near surface, T over land, reduction in sea ice, sea surface T), this is in contradiction to IPCC projections. This may of course be natural variation, as often claimed, but it is more correct to state it so, and make it explicit, unlike in the diagram above: data indiactes several warming indicators are in fact slowing in the last decade or so. (Also in line with a cooling sun, also suggesting the sun is still a major factor in recent climate variations).
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  2. @thingadonta - I don't really think it's misleading. The whole point of the post is to answer the question: "Is the world still warming?" The answer to that question is an unequivocal "Yes". As this is the "basic" version of the response, I feel that discussion of the rates of warming, variations in the rates, and the causes of those variations are not appropriate, and would only confuse the issue. They belong in the intermediate-level version, perhaps, and certainly in the advanced version, but not in the basic one. And regarding Trenberth's misquoted line - ocean heat content may just be a convenient excuse, or it may just be the truth. The statement should perhaps be this: "We know X amount of additional heat energy is being retained by the Earth, but we don't know where it's going, as it doesn't seem to be warming the atmosphere as fast as we thought it might".
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  3. It seems to me (heretic as usual!) that such a short and simplistic explanation of a very complicated and politically highly-charged issue --"Is global warming still happening?"-- plays right into the hands of the deniers. If they hired me to do PR for them, I would say: "Look, this is the very best that believers in climate change can come up with. In contrast, here are 5,000 words proving that global warming is not happening at all."
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  4. @huntjanin: it appears it's not possible to please everyone... ;-) The original explanation is a bit longer, at 700-odd words, and includes numerous references to scientific papers that present the evidence in a more technical fashion. The whole point of this "Basic Version" is to provide a cut-down explanation that is clear, simple, and gets the main point across. Of course it's not going to cover every base - it's not intended to. And the next time I see a 5000-word article from the 'deniers' that contains more than one piece of valid scientific evidence (or perhaps even one!) will be the first... The most common skeptical tactic we've seen is to make a simple, sensible-sounding statement, and repeat it many, many times. The fact that the statement is often scientifically inaccurate (or just plain false) is usually irrelevant to the presentation. I feel that the mix John & co are going for with these basic arguments is good - present one, or at most, a few, clear scientifically valid pieces of evidence that support the AGW hypothesis.
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  5. #1, thingadonta: "The above diagram may be true, but is slightly misleading/doesn't present the whole picture. Skeptics have pointed out that several indicators are slowing in their rate of warming, contrary to IPCCC projections." Where in IPCC projections it shows that there can't be few years of slowing in the rate of warming?
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  6. Thingadonta, you are essentially arguing that we should consider the possibility that recent data are indicative of a change in trend rather than just standard short term variability. Ok. Clearly the extreme heat, weather, and other data this year indicates that we have now entered a phase of profound global warming which will quickly grow to devastating proportions. Either that, or focusing on the tree immediately in front of us is a poor way of viewing the forest.
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  7. Excellent rebuttal! I have only one suggestion to make, it is already so near perfect;) In place of the fancy sounding word, 'indicator', use the more normal sounding word, 'sign', which really will be readily understood here as meaning the same thing.
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