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At a glance - Human fingerprints on climate change rule out natural cycles

Posted on 26 March 2024 by John Mason, BaerbelW

On February 14, 2023 we announced our Rebuttal Update Project. This included an ask for feedback about the added "At a glance" section in the updated basic rebuttal versions. This weekly blog post series highlights this new section of one of the updated basic rebuttal versions and serves as a "bump" for our ask. This week features "Human fingerprints on climate change rule out natural cycles". More will follow in the upcoming weeks. Please follow the Further Reading link at the bottom to read the full rebuttal and to join the discussion in the comment thread there.

Fact Myth Box

At a glance

The passage of time reveals many things. Consider for a moment the myth in the box above. It is dated 2008 and says, "Global warming (i.e, the warming since 1977) is over." Fifteen years on from that date and we can say, with complete confidence, "utter rubbish" (or words to that effect).

In a temperature record stretching back into the late 19th Century, the ten hottest years have all occurred since 2010. The hottest by a large margin (at the time of writing - early 2024) was 2023, with 2016 in second place. In both cases manmade global warming augmented by El Nino nudged these years into pole position. The opposite to El Nino, La Nina, is a phenomenon that cools the planet. One of the top ten, 2022, was also the warmest La Nina year on record. Starting to see a pattern here?

There are many natural cycles out there that do affect the climate. Consider the Milankovitch orbital cycles that are strong enough to trigger the switches between glacials and interglacials. These cycles operate over tens of thousands of years so their year-to-year effects are barely discernible.Yet they can cause ice-sheets to wax and wane over vast areas of the planet, especially in the Northern Hemisphere where the vast majority of landmasses currently reside. At the other end of the spectrum is the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that most folk have heard of because it causes newsworthy weather events. Climate scientists know all about these cycles and their effects. It's part of the job description.

Those of you who click on the myth's link will find a lot about a cycle known as the 'Pacific Decadal Oscillation' (PDO). That's not a regular cycle that turns up on time, as buses and trains ought to. But yes, it does influence climate as it has warm and cool phases, just like ENSO but in a different part of the Pacific Ocean and over longer periods. And yes, climate scientists monitor the PDO, just like everything else. The PDO is expressed as an Index: values above 0 are positive (warm) and those below 0 are negative (cool). And here's the rub. Since autumn 2019, the PDO Index has been negative, often strongly so. Yet the planet's temperature continues to rise unchecked.

The problem is that in climate more than one thing can happen at once. And since 1950, our CO2 emissions have surged ever-upwards and the climate is responding to that, too. In other words, human-caused global warming is now overdubbing the effects of such cycles. They used to count for a lot more than they do now.

The carbon cycle describes the way in which carbon moves around the planetary system comprising the atmosphere, the oceans, the biosphere and the solid Earth. The first and last components are where the problem lies. In burning fossil fuels, we have accessed carbon that by rights should have stayed in the solid Earth for untold millions of years. In doing so, that carbon has been dumped into the atmosphere. It represents a disturbance to the carbon cycle rarely seen in the geological record. And the planet is responding to that by heating up.

There's only one cycle we need to worry about and that's the carbon cycle.

Please use this form to provide feedback about this new "At a glance" section. Read a more technical version below or dig deeper via the tabs above!

Click for Further details

In case you'd like to explore more of our recently updated rebuttals, here are the links to all of them:

Myths with link to rebuttal Short URLs
Ice age predicted in the 1970s
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
CRU emails suggest conspiracy
What evidence is there for the hockey stick
CO2 lags temperature
Climate's changed before
It's the sun
Temperature records are unreliable
The greenhouse effect and the 2nd law of thermodynamics
We're heading into an ice age
Positives and negatives of global warming
The 97% consensus on global warming
Global cooling - Is global warming still happening?
How reliable are climate models?
Can animals and plants adapt to global warming?
What's the link between cosmic rays and climate change?
Is Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth accurate?
Are glaciers growing or retreating?
Ocean acidification: global warming's evil twin
The human fingerprint in global warming
Empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming
How do we know more CO2 is causing warming?
Explaining how the water vapor greenhouse effect works
The tricks employed by the flawed OISM Petition Project to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change
Is extreme weather caused by global warming?
How substances in trace amounts can cause large effects
How much is sea level rising?
Is CO2 a pollutant?
Does cold weather disprove global warming?
Do volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans?
How do human CO2 emissions compare to natural CO2 emissions?
Climate scientists could make more money in other careers
How reliable are CO2 measurements?
Do high levels of CO2 in the past contradict the warming effect of CO2?
What is the net feedback of clouds?
Global warming vs climate change
Is Mars warming?
How the IPCC is more likely to underestimate the climate response
How sensitive is our climate?
Evidence for global warming
Has the greenhouse effect been falsified?
Does breathing contribute to CO2 buildup in the atmosphere?
What is causing the increase in atmospheric CO2?
What is methane's contribution to global warming?
Plants cannot live on CO2 alone
Is the CO2 effect saturated?
Greenhouse warming 100 times greater than waste heat
How will global warming affect polar bears?
The runaway greenhouse effect on Venus
What climate change is happening to other planets in the solar system?
Has Arctic sea ice returned to normal?
Was Greenland really green in the past?
Is Greenland gaining or losing ice?
Human activity is driving retreat of Arctic sea ice
The albedo effect and global warming
Does CO2 always correlate with temperature?
Human fingerprints on climate change rule out natural cycles


If you think that projects like these rebuttal updates are a good idea, please visit our support page to contribute!

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