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Global warming ‘hiatus’ is the climate change myth that refuses to die

Posted on 26 December 2018 by Kevin C, Stephan Lewandowsky

Kevin Cowtan, Professor of Chemistry, University of York and Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair of Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The record-breaking, El Niño-driven global temperatures of 2016 have given climate change deniers a new trope. Why, they ask, hasn’t it since got even hotter?

In response to a recent US government report on the impact of climate change, a spokesperson for the science-denying American Enterprise Institute think-tank claimed that “we just had […] the biggest drop in global temperatures that we have had since the 1980s, the biggest in the last 100 years.”

These claims are blatantly false: the past two years were two of the three hottest on record, and the drop in temperature from 2016 to 2018 was less than, say, the drop from 1998 (a previous record hot year) to 2000. But, more importantly, these claims use the same kind of misdirection as was used a few years ago about a supposed “pause” in warming lasting from roughly 1998 to 2013.

At the time, the alleged pause was cited by many people sceptical about the science of climate change as a reason not to act to reduce greenhouse pollution. US senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz frequently argued that this lack of warming undermined dire predictions by scientists about where we’re heading.

However, drawing conclusions on short-term trends is ill-advised because what matters to climate change is the decade-to-decade increase in temperatures rather than fluctuations in warming rate over a few years. Indeed, if short periods were suitable for drawing strong conclusions, climate scientists should perhaps now be talking about a “surge” in global warming since 2011, as shown in this figure:

Global temperature observations compared to climate models. Climate-disrupting volcanoes are shown at the bottom, and the purported hiatus period is shaded. 2018 values based on year to date (YTD). NASA; Berkeley Earth; various climate models., Author provided

The “pause” or “hiatus” in warming of the early 21st century is not just a talking point of think-tanks with radical political agendas. It also features in the scientific literature, including in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and more than 200 peer-reviewed articles.

Research we recently published in Environmental Research Letters addresses two questions about the putative “pause”: first, is there compelling evidence in the temperature data alone of something unusual happening at the start of the 21st century? Second, did the rise in temperature lag behind projections by climate models?

In both cases the answer is “no”, but the reasons are interesting.

Reconstructing a historical temperature record from instruments designed for other purposes, such as weather forecasting, is not always easy. Several problems have affected temperature estimates for the period since 2000. The first of these was the fact that uneven geographical distribution of weather stations can influence the apparent rate of warming. Other factors include changes in the instruments used to measure ocean temperatures. Most of these factors were known at the time and reported in the scientific literature, but because the magnitudes of the effects were unknown, users of temperature data (from science journalists to IPCC authors) were in a bind when interpreting their results.

‘This glacier was here in 1908’: warming might fluctuate, but the long-term trend is clear. Matty Symons/Shutterstock

A more subtle problem arises when we ask whether a fluctuation in the rate of warming is a new phenomena, rather than the kind of variation we expect due to natural fluctuations of the climate system. Different statistical tests are needed to determine whether a phenomena is interesting depending on how the data are chosen. In a nutshell, if you select data based on them being unusual in the first place, then any statistical tests that seemingly confirm their unusual nature give the wrong answer. (The statistical issue here is similar to the fascinating but counterintuitive “Monty Hall problem”, which has caught out many mathematicians).

When the statistical test is applied correctly, the apparent slowdown in warming is no more significant than other fluctuations in the rate of warming over the past 40 years. In other words, there is no compelling evidence that the supposed “pause” period is different from other previous periods. Neither is the deviation between the observations and climate model projections larger than would be expected.

That’s not to say that such “wiggles” in the temperature record are uninteresting – several of our team are involved in further studies of these fluctuations, and the study of the “pause” has yielded interesting new insights into the climate system – for example, the role of changes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

There are lessons here for the media, for the public, and for scientists.

For scientists, there are two lessons: first, when you get to know a dataset by using it repeatedly in your work, make sure you also still remember the limitations you read about when first downloading it. Second, remember that your statistical choices are always part of a cascade of decisions, and at least occasionally those decisions must be revisited.

For the public and the media, the lesson is to check claims about the data. In particular, when claims are made based on short periods or specific datasets, they are often designed to mislead. If someone claims the world hasn’t warmed since 1998 or 2016, ask them why those specific years – why not 1997 or 2014? Why have such short limits at all? And also check how reliable similar claims have been in the past.

The technique of misinformation is nicely described in a quote attributed to climate researcher Michael Tobis:

“If a large data set speaks convincingly against you, find a smaller and noisier one that you can huffily cite.”

Global warming didn’t stop in 1998. Don’t be fooled by claims that it stopped in 2016 either. There is only one thing that will stop global warming: cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

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Comments 1 to 46:

  1. I have a favorite plot I like to use to show the lack of a pause, and I just updated it with the GISS Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index. I find it interesting that a linear fit of the temperature record since 1970 parallels a linear fit of the decadal maximum temperatures. The point being that if the cherry-pickers were honest, they would see that their cherries are increasing at the same rate as the rest of the data. I don't expect to convince them, but hope others might find this interesting.

    GISS Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index

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  2. Excellent, and well explained, however I think the problem is some scientists have denied there was a pause which is technically correct in energy accumulation terms etc, but the public see a clear slowdown or "pause" in surface temperatures from about 2002 - 2007 in the smoothing line in the nasa giss graphs, so the public get confused. You have to ackowledge there was a pause in surface temperatures, or it looks deceitful.

    I remind people that the intermittent slow periods of warming of a few years are just the influence of natural variation, and that the early IPCC reports predicted there would be slow warming periods of up to 10 years, due to the impact of natural variation. We have seen a couple so its exactly what was predicted! So the so called pause never bothered me.

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  3. nigelj@2 yes, we agree on the need to acknowledge a slowdown in atmospheric warming. When we acknowledge a pause in atmospheric warming, we need to remind people that during that period the oceans are still warming. In other words, we don't want to let people think that by natural variation we mean the warming has stopped for a few years and may stop for a couple of decades. Natural variation means that the way that oceans move energy around has natural variations, but that as long as there is an energy inbalance, the energy is always increasing. If you live in an earthquake zone, you become more concerned during a lull in earthquakes, not less, because you know that the energy is still building, and that the next one might be the big one.

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  4. Nigelj and Evan,

    As the OP clearly states, rigourous statistical analysis has shown without any doubt that there was no "slowdown", "hiatus" or "pause" at any time in global warming between 1990 and the present.  Chopping into smaller lengths only increases the uncertainty.  Your 2002-2007 time period is so short that no useful analysis can be done on it. 

    Noisy data always has periods where the data increases faster and periods when it increases slower.   That is caused by chance.  All periods that appear by eye to have a slower slope are due to this random variations.  They cannot be ascribed to any pause or slowdown.  They are just expected , random variation around the upward trend.

    Most of the claims of "haitus" use the technique of broken trends which is unphysical.  Unphysical claims by defination cannot be considered as real under any reasonable standard.

    Experienced scientists know that eyeballing the data often yields incorrect results.  Re-read the OP if you have questions.  It has been definatively shown that there was no "pause".

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  5. Just wanted to say thanks for the good work!

    What I'm concerned about is not the little bit of cherry picked data that could be construed to say "the physics of GHGs have now changed to suit skeptic claims". No, what I'm concerned about is how we will come up with enough (clean) energy and willpower to remove the excess CO2. Realize that the growing world will need at least 25 TW of clean energy generation to meet the demands of almost 10 billion at high enough standards, to build very large space programs and to remove the excess CO2 by means of more infrastructure.

    This is how I like to deal with skeptics. I show them the picture and say "we've burnt upwards of a hundred of these cubic miles of oil. Do you really think there will be no consequences?". We now burn the equalivalent of about 3 of them in all forms of FFs every year.

    Will we ever come up with enough renewables/molten salt nuclear to match our fossil fuels use?

    Cubic Mile of Oil

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Reduced image width.

  6. Michael Sweet @4 yes point understood, and I clearly said there is no pause in underlying warming,  but you have to see this from the publics perspective: They see a pause as just a flat period of temperatures on a graph, understandably, and the scientific explanation is a bit arcane for them. I've seen this confusion.

    Perhaps the answer is simply to say temperatures were flat for a few years and explain why it happened and is of no consequence in the scheme of things etc, and there was no pause in underlying build up of energy.

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  7. I like to use the analogy of seasonal climates. From February to July in the northern hemisphere, the temperature gradually warms. But that doesn't mean every day will be hotter than the last. That should help people understand why "no warming since 2016" is not a valid argument.

    From the think tank:

    “we just had […] the biggest drop in global temperatures that we have had since the 1980s, the biggest in the last 100 years.”

    The 1980s wasn't 100 years ago; I don't get why he used two numbers there.

    fireofenergy @5

    That photo helps visualize exactly how many fossil fuels we burn, and is a great resource to deal with the "humans are too insignificant to change the planet" argument, but it shouldn't be used as an argument in of itself that burning fossil fuels does indeed warm the planet by unsafe amounts.

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  8. Nigelj,

    You said " I think the problem is some scientists have denied there was a pause" which is completely false.  It cannot be twisted into a correct statement.  there was never a pause in the increase of global surface temperature.

    I think it is better to explain the escalator (available in the sidebar):


    In person describe the escalator.  I thnk most people over the age of five recognize that there is variation in temperature from day to day.  From today until August 15 in the USA everyone expects it to get hotter (in New Zealand it will get colder).  There will be periods of cold during the warming.  This week happens to be warm at my house.  The warm period does not prove winter has ended.  

    There was never a period of "slowdown, haitus or pause" in atmospheric warming.  Your verbal gymnastics confuse the situation.  Deniers deliberately lie about the existance of the "pause".  Scientists should be vigorous in confronting those lies.

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  9. This is an excellent, clearly written article, but I do have two minor quibbles. First, the title is misleading, because this is not the climate change myth that refused to die, it's a climate change myth that refused to die. There are many others--for example, the myth that our current warming is caused by the sun.

    Second, the singular of "phenomena" is "phenomenon."

    I congratulate the authors on my finding only two things to quibble about. I'm hypercritical--in most essays I find many more problems.

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    Moderator Response:

    [TD] On the left side of every page of this site is a list of the most used climate myths. At the bottom of that list is a link to let you view all the myths ("arguments"). Alternatively, hover over the "Arguments" (myths) link in the menu bar at the top of the page. Each myth (argument) is listed with a factual rebuttal.

  10. M Sweet @8 ah I see what you mean. Deny was a bad use of words on my part. I should have said scientists have found there was 'no pause'. Apologies if it was confusing.

    However I stand by the rest of what I said. Lots of people see any slight flattening in temperatures as global warming stopping, unfortuntately we have to tediously explain otherwise. Unfortunately people don't see the obvious that you assume.

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  11. Whether or not there was a "pause" in the rise of surface temps is actually irrelevant, and the fact that so much time is being wasted debating the issue is just another example of how we have let the deniers hijack the conversation. It's like debating the ridiculous notion that climate researchers are getting rich by forming a worldwide conspiracy to lie about the scientific data to justify their "enormous" research grants, which they spend sipping wine on the Riviera instead of freezing their butts off on the Greenland ice sheet. We are wasting time with these fools. We need to find a way to stop this.

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  12. Anticorncob6 - I also like to use the axial tilt theory of seasons as an analogy -  on average each day of Spring will be warmer than the day before but we don't expect a few days or weeks of colder than average weather in Spring to mean there won't ever be Summer any more or that it "proves" the axial tilt theory must be wrong.

    I admit I was surprised at how much traction "the Pause" got; to me it always looked exactly like the variability overlaying a continuing warming trend that closer studies confirm. Too little "expert" effort distinguishing between shorter term variability and underlying warming and expert efforts at learning what processes are involved in that shorter term variability?

    Foster and Rahmstorf's work that estimated and "removed" ENSO, Volcanic Aerosol and Solar Intensity changes confirmed what I thought - that known sources of variability alone were enough to make "the Pause" indistinguishable within a longer term warming trend.

    Averages of many model runs, where each run has ups, downs, pauses, accelerations may make for a smooth, each year warmer than the last type graph; it is not and should never be seen as a year by year prediction. Should perhaps have taken a leaf out of Exxon's book; their projections were of a (smooth) band of tempertures rising, not a single line average. But people making policy or having fiduciary duties of care - or journalists reporting about it - should be expected to know better.

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  13. Susnspot@11 I understand the spirit you are conveying about the need to stop catering to fools. However, part of the purpose of this site is to help sharpen people's ability to spot and debunk myths. I find value in discussing the myths with people here because I learn about new data and analysis to help debunk the myths. Because of the discussions with others in this comment section, this week I formulated a new analogy that I will be posting on SkS.

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  14. Nigelj,

    We agree that it is difficult to explain the situation to people who are not really interested.  I find people who are genuinely interested (but uninformed) are easy to talk with.

    On the positive side, I taught High School Science for 15 years until last year.  15 years ago every class had 3 or 4 rabid deniers (out of 25 students) who thought scientists were faking the data.  In the last few years there was essentially no-one who thought the data was faked.  Unfortunately, I did not keep a count of everyone's position.

    It was rare for skeptical students to listen to anything I had to say.  I was able to reach a number of students by assigning them to read the NCDC climate reports (no current link due to shutdown).  They frequently expressed surprise at how much temperature has already changed.

    Sunspot: what your said times 2.  Unfortunately, that is the situation we are in.

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  15. We are talking as though there are deniers and non-deniers. This is not the case. The people following and contributing to SkS are on one end of the spectrum. Deniers are on the other end of the spectrum. In between there are the hoards trying to make up their minds, and they are listening, more than they are speaking. As conditions in the world rachet up with continued global warming, people will become more open to our message. The more we learn from others about how to speak to the people in the middle, the faster we will move them to accept the science.

    I agree about not trying to convert the hard-core deniers. But if you are challenging a hard-core denier in a group of people, there will be many, many people listening to what you have to say. Many people who are more open than the deniers.

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  16. Michael Sweet @14, I wouldn't be surprised if the children talking about so called faked data were simply told that by their parents. But it's good to hear some improvement in attitudes and understanding of young people towards climate change.

    I am very philosophical about the whole issue of denialism. Here are some random thoughts not specifically responding to points you made, but just my perspective. Firstly I broadly agree with Evans point of view @15.

    Secondly look at other issues like evolution, dangers of tobacco, and the vaccines debates and even after decades there are still a few deniers out there who will probably die being deniers, for a variety of reasons. I'm not sure why climate science would be different, especially as it has so many real world implications that affect peoples lives.

    However the number of people who deny the dangers of tobacco and theory of evolution has fallen over time from some poll I saw somewhere. Again I think climate change would follow a similar track. There has got to be a big group of people towards the middle of the bell curve open to persuasion, and I would suggest a group of ideologues, and cranks etc at the outer extreme who will never be convinced. But get the vast majority convinced and you are on track.

    The trouble we have is to identify who we are talking to and not to waste energy. One on one debates with scientific cranks are useless. I would not be wasting time with them over the barbecue, and I tend to avoid them on websites unless their mistakes are so simple they can be pointed out irrefutably and briefly. Plus I don't have enough physics knowledge to take on some slippery cranky physicist, although I will get to the bottom of almost any issue if I have the time.

    I think deniers that post lists of denialist myths are a bit different. It's important to refute these for the benefit of "other people listening" and for general education. If lies or missinformation go unrefuted they will obviously gain traction. But it requires judgement, because one doesn't want to give these people too much of a platform by engaging in pages of back and forth debate.

    Young people must obviously be told the facts about climate science just as with any science. I have huge respect for teachers, but I have zero tolerance for teachers who teach climate denialism and they should be fired.

    Of course we have to avoid the label of brainwashing but that is easily done by some factual messaging that the IPCC are 95% sure etc and a small number of cranks do dispute the findings. This all seems commonsense to me. Tell me if I'm wrong.

    I don't know why humanity makes it all so difficult. Ray Ladbury says humanity is just not smart enough.

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  17. Something on the pause which simply didnt't happen. There was however a flattish period of temperatures of about 6 years around 2002 - 2007, and this coincided with weak el ninos and a lot of la ninas, low sunspot numbers, high volcanic activity and high growth in coal fired aerosols. All these exert a temporary mild cooling influence.

    It is therefore no surprise to me that land surface temperatures were flat for a few years. But I would suggest such a coincidence of factors would be pretty uncommon. Don't expect too many flat periods like this.

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  18. There is a very simple explanation for why people reject science:


    I know lots of people try to merge science and religion, but the hard truth is that science and religion are exact opposites. Science relies on objective evidence. Religion relies on belief. Evidence not required. Science begins when these beliefs are questioned, and when the evidence comes in, the belief vanishes into thin air. Or it should. Tyson puts it well - "The best thing about science is that it is true whether you believe in it or not".

    Here's what happens though:  Little Johnny goes off to school, and some atheist communist humanist science-type teacher tries to explain to him that the basis of science is the questioning of belief, and we should always demand evidence. So of course little Johnny goes home and demands that Mom and Dad show him evidence of this "god" they keep going on about. It's what the teacher said, isn't it?

    But of course this scenario can't be allowed, so we can't teach the most fundamental truth about the world, the universe. Science is truth. Religion is fantasy. All religions are incorrect views of the universe. Until most of us agree that this is true, we will never make the hard decisions that could give us a chance for long-term survival. But it is clear that, as survival becomes more challenging due to the damage that we have inflicted on the planet, a great many will turn back to superstition to explain the world. Which is the problem to begin with. It's already happening. Our government now officially rejects science. 

    All of which seems inevitable to me. Maybe there is intelligent life somewhere in the universe, but I don't think it's here.

    I don't expect this comment to be very popular. As you may have noticed, I don't care.

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  19. Fortunately we have people like Katharine Hayhoe and others who demonstrate how to merge the two. My father was a well-respected scientist and a well-respected Christian. I also merge both in my life with no problem.

    So whereas I agree 100% with you Sunspot about the existence of the face-off between science and religion, there are people who merge the two. Such as John Cook, the originator of this site.

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  20. I agree with Evan - for Good Helpful Altruistic Reasons (no personal benefit expected to be obtained by agreeing with Evan).

    Spiritual beliefs are not a problem. Associating rules for human behaviour, or perceptions of superiority to such beliefs, is a serious problem.

    That means that Religion is a problem when it is used to justify rules that have no real basis other than having been written by someone in the past. The obvious governing rule should be Good Helpful Altruistic Reasoning improving awareness and understanding and applying that learning to achieve and improve the Sustainable Development Goals (all of them).

    That makes the likes of the GOP (with an influential portion of their United Group believing that the governing rules are the Written Rules of Their God - their interpretations of their preferred texts), a serious problem that undeniably needs to be corrected in order for humanity to develop a sustainable better future.

    I really like the way that Yuval Noah Harari, presents the problem in his book "21 Lessons for the 21st Century". He opens Chapter 13 "God" with "Does God exist? That depends on which God you have in mind: the cosmic mystery, or the worldly lawgiver?". Later in the chapter he presents the following that I will not try to paraphrase:

    "When the faithful are asked whether God really exists, they often begin by talking about the enigmatic mysteries of the universe and the limits of human understanding. “Science cannot explain the Big Bang” they exclaim, “so that must be God's doing”. Yet like a magician fooling an audience by imperceptibly replacing one card with another, the faithful quickly replace the cosmic mystery with the worldly lawgiver. After giving the name of “God” to the unknown secrets of the cosmos, they then use this to somehow condemn bikinis and divorce. “We do not understand the Big Bang - therefore you must cover your hair in public and vote against gay marriage.” Not only is there no logical connection between the two, but they are in fact contradictory. The deeper the mysteries of the universe, the less likely it is that whatever is responsible for them gives a damn about female dress codes or human sexual behaviour.”

    And Yuval's presentation on God is reinforced by Sean Carroll's presentation in “The Big Picture” of how our investigation into the fundamental physics we exist in has advanced to the point of certainty that there is no physical mechanism for a God to influence things or communicate with a human mind. That means the written religious texts may provide some very good guidance for people to live by, but it is all made-up by humans and is therefore open to justified correction just like science is.

    One of Sean Carroll's strongest points regarding religious writings is that if there was indeed a God that was able to influence and communicate with humans the messages received and written by such humans would not be as diverse and contradictory as religious texts are. And it is highly unlikely that such a God would have instructed three of its most popular sects (Jewish, Christians and Muslims revere different prophets of the same God) that they are superior to the others (unless the God has no desire for humanity to have a better future).

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  21. I think some religious people do obviously reject science because of conflicts with belief, but not all do, and in fact many of the greatest scientists are religious. And theres K Hayhoe as well. But the thing is, they are intelligent and able to compartmentalise things, and lots of people struggle to do that.

    And heres something quirky. Not all athiests accept the theory of evolution: "Questioning evolution is neither science denial nor the preserve of creationists"

    I think Y N Hariri and S Carrol are very good. For me the athiest and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is right. From memory he says there may be a god in the sense of some incredible power behind the universe that we don't yet understand, but there is no evidence of a god in the form described in the bible, a sort of patriachal creator god with semi human characteristics.

    The ethical teachings of the new testmament are another matter and seem inspired, but incomplete and open to interpretation, suggesting human origins in the writings.

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  22. Religion is based on belief. Science is based on evidence. I don't think we should try to reconcile the two using either the discipline of belief or the discipline of evidence applied to both.

    If you want to know if God exists, go talk to him. The response received from such an inquiry is the basis of belief and is not easily put into words nor easily proven. For me that is the essence of belief.

    Science, on the other hand, is much easier to quanity and demonstrate to others through experimentation and logical discourse, such as by using this great forum.

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  23. Evan @22,

    Another way to look at it is:

    Spirituality is fine for any aspect of our existence that cannot be observed, tested or investigated. Being Spritual is valid in the realm of the unkowns (where any and all beliefs or faiths are equally valid). ANd thta realm will constantly be reduced by improving science.

    Science is restricted to things that can be observed, tested or investigated. Being Scientific requiresacceptance of imrpoved awareness and understanding (something that some scientists struggle with when their prefered scientific understanding is challenged by an improved understanding)

    Religion is a special case. It becomes irrational when the spiritual part is considered to be superior to other spiritual beliefs, or when it is cojoined with laws for human behaviour and the developed tribal group resists being corrected by improving awareness and understanding.

    Neoliberalism (and to a degree, free market economics) is very much like a Religion. The harmful results of people freer to believe what they prefer as excuses for harmful selfish pursuits of benefit are not acknowledged by the faithful followers of the likes of Milton Freedman. Neoliberals are more fanatically opposed to the climate science identified corrections of developed human economic activity than the spiritually religious people generally are (religious people politically aligned with neoliberals, the United Right GOP types, are being neoliberals, not Religious, in that regard).

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  24. "If you want to know if god exists, go talk to him". 

    I'm sorry, but all I hear is my own thoughts. Because that's all there is. That's what I mean by the difference between fantasy and reality. Feel free to choose your own reality. I stay with objective evidence. That is what truly changes the world. Once you are capable of believing in god, you are capable of believing anything. Powerful people and governments understand this all too well. 

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  25. My bottom line just occurred to me: I came to the same conclusions Carl Sagan did when he wrote "Demon-Haunted World", so when I read it I was nodding my head so much I need a pillow. Not surprisingly, Carl got it right. So while I should maybe investigate these people who have supposedly integrated science and religion - I doubt there will be anything there that will satisfy me. No evidence. Not without having to "believe" in it. And I simply don't do belief. 

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  26. Sunspot, there is a way to talk to God, but it is different than the methods used in science. At least respect that people like myself, Katharine Hayhoe, John Cook, and so many other Christians are not just chasing fantasy. Nor am I trying to "convert" you. I just ask that we find common ground. I believe as you do that one of the major problems preventing significant action on climate change is the impenetrable beliefs of many Christians and other religious people, who will not consider objective facts. But that does not invalidate the experiences many religious people have had.

    I find it interesting that there are scientific people who cannot understand true religion (everything must be objective), just as I find it interesting that there are religious people who cannot understand science (everything is based on belief).

    I don't think we'll solve the problem in front of us unless we can find common dialogue and understanding between religion and science.

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  27. OPOF@23, understanding does not destroy religion. For me it strengthens it.

    I understand your perspective, I think, but I offer the following twist. If we understood scientifically all that we see, this would not remove my faith, awe, and wonder at the creator anymore than it would if I understood everything about a smart phone. I feel that part of the problem with many people is that they have no understanding or awe of the scientific advancement that the smart phone represents. When I look at a smart phone I have respect for the creator, just as when I look at everything around us it inspires awe and admiration at the creator of the natural world. No amount of scientific explanation of the what I see around me will ever remove that awe and admiration, anymore than any amount of scientific understanding will remove the awe and admiration behind the creation of the science and technology in a smart phone.

    But for some reason, as soon as someone can assign a scientific explanation to something we previously did not understand they then conclude that that understanding proves it was not created. I don't get this link. I am not defending creationists who insist the world was created in xxxx thousand years. Just saying that scientific understanding does not invalidate the concept of creation.

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  28. One additional comment for the die-hards still reading. Christians get beat up pretty bad for their blind faith and rejection of science. In my opinion much of this is deserved, for many Christians do show a blind allegiance to dogma. But let's not forget that this site spends a lot of its effort debunking myths put forward by ... scientists. So the ability to reject what Climate Scientists are saying is shared by Christians, athesists, agnostics, and just plain scientists.

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  29. Evan @27 and 28,

    You appear to be unnecessarily conflating Religion with Spirituality. I separate the two for very Good Helpful Altruistic Reason. I have presented some of them in my earlier comments.

    People can be harmfully Religious about things that have nothing to do with Spirituality. And people can be Helpfully Religious related to Spirituality.

    People can also abuse the potential human desire to be part of a Tribe and become harmful Religious followers of a set of unjustified beliefs.

    The real focus needs to be understanding that the most important actions for anyone are to help by improving awareness and understanding and applying that improved correct learning to actually sustainably develop a better future for humanity, achieve and improve the Sustainabel Development Goals, especially the Climate Action Goal.

    That focus identifies the harmful people in politics, businesses, and religions. It also divides/polarizes the actions of people in politics, business and religion into helpful and harmful people.

    That division/polarization is important. It is critical to improve the awareness and understanding of who needs to be corrected. And it helps understand that the socioeconomic-political system that people develop their beliefs in may be what needs to be corrected to reduce the number of harmful people that get developed.

    And the major motivation I see for resistance to accepting climate science is a powerful self-interest to keep undeserved developed perceptions of prosperity and superiority relative to others. Easily amplified by misleading marketing, that drives resistance to global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

    System corrections are undeniably required. The systems have continued to develop inequities leaving many people destitute and starving even though the total perceived wealth of humanity has grown far faster than the total population.

    Those Religiously defended systems need to be significantly corrected regardless of their power and regional tribal popularity and profitability. And the most harmful people (in politics, business and religions) need to be the focus for most urgent correction.

    Raising awareness that way, identifying the harmful who need correction, should reduce the popular support for the most harmful people.

    p.s. Another way to say it is that any beliefs that are not harmful to efforts to achieve and improve on the SDGs are benign or helpful and do not require a focus on correction. As an example, Flat-earthers can be left alone if they do not want to use that belief to excuse a harmful action. And they can be helpful even if they maintain that now understood to be incorrect belief.

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  30. OPOF, I think there is more common ground in our views than different.

    "An Inconvenient Truth" is a brilliant title for the following reason. If AGW is not occurring, then the people being afflicted by AGW are being afflicted by an act of god over which we have no control, and all that we are required to do is to pray for them and to send some money to help. If, however, people accept AGW as originating from our lifestyle, then instead of just praying for these afflicted people (an activity that can co-exist with an otherwise wasteful western existence), we have the inconvenient reality that we need to change our lifestyle. I think this is at the heart of the Christian resistance to accepting AGW, as much as it is about not wanting to be under a set of UN-mandated policies (whether or not it would come to that).

    By the way, for those reading, I am not selling myself as a theologian nor as a philosopher. But this dialogue does help me understand how others view the problem and helps develop talking points. I don't mean to be argumentative, and I do appreciate all of the great comments.

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  31. A fun follow-on about Flat-Earthers. A Flat-Earher may actually be very supportive of correcting the harmful developed burning of fossil fuels. The shape of the planet does not affect the understanding of the link between the massive burning of fossil fuels and harmful climate change impacts.

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  32. Interesting discussion. But, for me, religion is totally devoid of evidence. I understand that many people have had personal experiences that lead them to religious beliefs, but are any of these experiences objectively verifiable? I think about the commonality of near-death experiences, but is this something more than a dying brain trying to make sense of the situation? I need a scientific examination of religion, but I don't think such a thing is possible. Beliefs are simply not available for objective examination. I guess this means to some that belief is just somehow special, but to my way of thinking it simply makes belief irrelevant.

    Maybe the world would be a better place if we all agreed on the same set of religious beliefs. But what I see is that differing religious beliefs just establish a chasm between people that can seldom be breached, there are no objective facts to agree on. And now we are faced with seemingly intelligent people who somehow dismiss science altogether, which is of course ridiculous unless you live in a cave. What I see is people replacing evidence with belief. It simply doesn't work. Science is what built our civilization. Dismissing science can destroy it.

    If we had a few worlds to experiment with, I'd like to try one without any form of religion, or "spirituality", at all. Just the facts. People working together to make life better for us all. Not just for those who agree with a particular view of some invisible man in the sky who watches everything we do (Carlin).

    I absolutely agree that there should be freedon of religion. Believe whatever you want. But I want freedom FROM religion. Because that is true freedom, to choose to believe or not. Religion is getting too involved in how we run our society, and there are too many who would force their views on others. I do take "The Handmaid's Tale" seriously. 

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  33. Sunspot @32, I have to be honest I do identify pretty closely with your views there. For me there is a singular lack of evidence for some form of religious creation, and the stories events, and miracles in the bible and there are many contradictions, and I cannot seem to get passed that, although I hear what Evan is saying.

    I'm reduced to believing that if god exists such an entity takes an imaginable form of a power, not a creator as such, and our only hope of understanding such a thing would be science itself.

    However there is evidence of a god gene that programmes us to at least believe in a god (doesn't mean god exists). Religion was a unifying influence in the past I think by placing faith in a higher power. For me we should be taking the best ethical teachings of religions of all types and distilling them into something really good and logical.

    Discussion above is good because its non aggressive. I think its also important to remain open minded, and I cannot be 100% sure of my own beliefs, but I'm ok with them at this stage. 

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  34. I like the discussions here (including those about religion), because everybody here is trying to discern the truth, and not just hold on to a self-interested view point. It is an honest discussion from honest truth seekers.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] However, at this point the discussion is very far from the topic of this article. Interesting as discussions of religion are, this is not the forum for them. Commentary and particularly studies on religion with respect to climate denialism could be discussed on an appropriate topic - not this one.

    If you want a more appropriate forum, this search seems to offer plenty of alternatives. No more here please.

  35. A further follow-on to my comment @31 about Flat-Earthers.

    I have yet to encounter a Flat-Earther. But I expect a Flat-Earther to be far more likely to understand and accept climate science and the required corrections of developed human activity that it has exposed than a NeoLiberal.

    NeoLiberalism is a far more harmful Religiously believed made-up human faith system.

    And NeoLiberals Uniting with Religious Law adherents (the United Right likes of the GOP and similar groups in other nations), are potentially the most serious threat to the future of humanity that humanity has ever developed (even a more serious threat than nuclear weapons).

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  36. My comment @35 is a little unfair to NeoLiberalism.

    NeoLiberalism could help develop sustainable improvements for humanity:

    • if absolutely everyone is dedicated to honestly improving their awareness and understanding and applying that learning to altruistically help sustainably improve the future for all of humanity.
    • if everyone is willing to quickly correct incorrect harmful developments no matter how popular or profitable they may have become.

    But of course everyone being unswervingly Altruistic is a Fantasyland - which makes the dream of Good Results being developed by NeoLiberalism a Fantasy.

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  37. OPOF @36

    Yes. Neoliberalism is problematic I think. It is clearly funamentally embedded in the climate problem, so not off topic I hope.

    I don't know that neoliberalism is a religion, but its adherents sure can be dogmatic. It's  a belief system, or prescriptive system, and is not science. It says that the economy will work best if we do a,b, and c and I think that  the evidence now says neoliberalism is not a fully resolved system.

    Normally neoliberalism is defined as promoting free trade, open immigration, largest private sector possible, austerity, deregulation, flat taxes and minimising influence of trade unions. Neoliberals believe inequality doesn't matter. But definitions differ and that is half the problem. 

    The real world evidence suggests free trade (which I like) optimises outputs globally but is very harsh on blue collar workers in western countries, something the neoliberals did not forsee. So much for the theory. But you can mitigate all this with some income redistribution.

    Completely open immigration is nuts. There have to be some limitations.

    Inequality does matter and even the neoliberal IMF now admits this.

    The evidence suggests financial deregulation hasn't worked very well. Liberal economists do not actually oppose environmental, health and safety regulations. It's polticians who falsely  promote this as "good economics". Liberal economics does not mean go to the extreme and deregulate everything, it just means avoid arbitrary regulations and those that protect special interests.

    The evidence suggests privatisation works well for manufacturing but is problematic for key resources like healthcare and the water supply.

    I could go on. You get the picture. So how do we rate neoliberalism? Maybe 5 / 10?

    We should get sustainable development goals front and centre of any economic ideology.

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  38. Just one more quick point - for the best discussion I know of on the perspective of the non-believer, you can't beat Sagan's "Demon-Haunted World". It was the last book he wrote, his last message to humanity. He sent James Randi an early draft, and when the final version was published Randi noted that much of the language had been strengthened even more. During the final edit, at least, Sagan knew he was dying. He had things he needed to explain to us. For want of a better word, this book is my "bible". If I was going to start a humanistic "religion", I think I'd call it "Saganism". Carl would be appalled, lol...

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] While I heartily admire Sagan's book too, enough please of offtopic comments.

  39. Clearly your commenting rules, and, frankly, your views of Global Warming are too restrictive for me. I won't attempt to comment on this site anymore.

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  40. Sunspot @39, thanks for the tip on the book. I admire Sagen as well. But come on you know religion is getting off topic, especially on an article about the Pause. I hope you comment further on other matters.

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  41. Sunspot @38

    It was a great book and Carl Sagan was making an appeal to reason, not belief and emotion.


    In my long experience in discussing science and empirical evidence based topics on anonymous formats such as this, the moment that religion and politics are introduced a rational discussion ends.

    People stop sharing their common views and start defending their personal belief systems.

    Skeptical Science has been such an important resource on this most important of issues because of the guidelines that allow rational facts based discussion. Not primal chest beating with the "win" going to the most aggressive and persistent, not the best informed and coherent.

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  42. Ok one more:

    I don't have a complaint with this site or the way comments are moderated. The problem is a combination of the nature of the internet and how humans are interacting with it. This is a new form of communication we are trying to cope with. On sites with few rules - Yahoo Comments, for example - it's frequently just ridiculous, with people putting up all sorts of garbage. So some form of moderation is needed. I heartily agree.

    Of course the problem becomes where to "draw the line". The problem with a subject like Global Warming, and any other big existential subject. is that it is intimately connected with all forms of human thought and activity. I find it impossible to have an honest discussion about human reactions to anything scientific without discussing the role of religion in society. And I can't have an honest discussion about Global Warming without discussing the science presented at the Arctic Blogspot. But this site has been dismissed here I assume because of a few "predictions" that haven't panned out.

    But carry on. I'll be reading. I won't stir up any more "controversy". When the Arctic belches up a huge gasball of methane from a massive glacial rebound earthquake and the resulting tsunami washes over half of the cities in the Northern Hemisphere, it will be a big surprise to most. Or maybe that won't happen and it will just get hotter - EXPONENTIALLY - until it is too hot to grow food anymore. But I do know the heat can't be linear. Not with over 70 feedbacks adding to it. But this site doesn't yet acknowledge that reality. And if you don't understand the role of Global Warming feedbacks on our atmosphere, then you simply don't understand Global Warming.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Off-topic snipped.

    [PS] Let me try to explain. SkepticalScience is setup to respond to climate misinformation by reporting what the science says instead. It is organized into topics, and someone interested say the Global warming "hiatus" can explore that topic, preferably without encountering a lot of offtopic comments. If you want to comment about AGW, find the appropriate topic and comment there. All topics are live - the community uses the "Recent comments" menu item to see where new comments are made.

    Climate politics and religion can be discussed on this site here for instance.

    If you cant find an appropriate topic, the Weekly digest is a place for more general discussion.

    People interested in discussing science and religion are hardly going to look at SkpSci as an appropriate forum. When a discussion veers totally offtopic, it is best to find a more appropriate forum (on or off this site), make a comment there and then post a link on this comment thread to where interested parties can continue the discussion. The Search function and the "arguments" item in the menu are good resources for finding appropriate topics on this site.

    The comments policy is not optional and not up for discussion. Can I ask all commentators to please stick to topic.

  43. Sunspot @42

    The internet has been around for decades and was used by academics long before it went universal in the early 1990s with the introduction of the WWW.

    Internet History Timeline: ARPANET to the World Wide Web


    When it comes to science there are guidelines that date back centuries and allow an exchange of empirical evidence and agreed means to test it and place it in a meaningful context. You seem to be creating obstacles where none really exist.

    The line is clear, if you lack the data and what you have doesn't fit in with already very well established theories then the burden of proof is on your shoulders, not someone else's. That's what scientific skepticism means, an open mind in an informed context always testing new data in the context of what we have already assimilated into the overall body of evidence.

    The is no "problem" with the science of fossil fuels forced global warming and associated climate change. We don't need to understand how humans feel about it and what their beliefs are to understand the physical dimnersions of global warming. We just need data and a consistent structure to place it in.

    And we have that going back centuries all consistent with the theory of global warming and the real world evidence we are seeing as it unfolds.

    In your last paragraph you are entering into almost entirely hypothesis not theory. Geostatic rebound takes place over thousands of years, North America is still in the process of rebound from the melting of the massive ice sheets over 10,000 years ago.

    There are other much more immediate concerns with global warming and climate change and it is important to place all these factors into a context based on the best evidence in the clearest context.

    Which is why it is essential to leave politics and religion out of this discussion. These are based far more on internal subjective reality than objective testable data.

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  44. I think there is a huge intersection between the climate issue and politics, and some level of intersection with religion as well. We cannot escape this, and ignoring it doesn't make sense to me.

    Yes politics and religion can become divisive shouty subjects. Generally discouraged at dinner parties! But this is an analytical website and Im a bit wary of putting any subject out of bounds because where would you stop?.

    We just dont want politics and religion getting out of control and dominating all discussion  and becoming shouty. Isn't that the key thing?

    I suggest maybe keep such discussion on appropriate threads, so articles that refer to political issues, or the weekly news roundup thread which is general. And keep discussion on it restrained, and not finger pointing. Discussion above was restrained.

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  45. Climate change issues clearly have a huge impact on subjective politics, the opposite cannot be said of politics influencing in the slighest the physical mechanisms of warming the entire globe by steadily increasing the atmospheric concentration of the most important persistent GHG.

    But that is exactly how this issue has been treated for decades, as if slick political games for short term gains have somehow "solved" this growing catastrophe. There have been multiple international summits over the last 30 years with a progressively clearer political consensus that climate change must be mitigated to avoid unsustainable costs and impacts. And non-binding agreements to do this. There is the UN IPCC which although it deals with many scientific issues is still part of a political body and there is no question that climate change is highly political in many places as we experience every day here in Canada.

    But as I've already said, none of that changes in the slightest the physical nature of fossil fuels driven climate change. Something that still is not being addressed as human CO2 emissions are still massive and most of the main contributors are still engaging in functional denial as they claim to be working for solutions.

    And the main reason this is the case is the continued use of politics and religion to cause as much confusion and resistance to change as possible.

    Belief and adamantly defended ideology aren't going to get us through this rapidly accelerating nightmare. Acceptance of reality is.

    And being led down ideological and spiritual alleys where the destinations are always highly subjective and open to a vast range of interpretations is a luxury we no longer have.

    We have no time left to trade for space.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Please, please, please move this to an appropriate topic - see comment to sunspot below.

  46. "However, drawing conclusions on short-term trends is ill-advised because what matters to climate change is the decade-to-decade increase in temperatures rather than fluctuations in warming rate over a few years. Indeed, if short periods were suitable for drawing strong conclusions, climate scientists should perhaps now be talking about a “surge” in global warming since 2011, as shown in this figure:"

    Which makes sense seeing as how climate is weather averaged over time.

    And to understand climate does in fact require looking at decadal and centuries of change. And the trend is clearly towards a warming Earth as most of the warmest years on record are in this century which is now 19 years old.

    An entirely consistent with the fact that carbon dioxide has been recognized as a heat trapping gas for a century and a half.

    As is explained by the evidence over and over, there is no pause in warming, just misrepresented short term variability in weather that when included in a longer term graph of temperature is cancelled out by a greater presence of above average points.

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