Conservative media can't stop denying there was no global warming 'pause'

Scientists have proven time and time again that global warming continues unabated. Most recently, a study published last week showed that over the past two decades, the oceans have warmed faster than prior estimates. This study affirmed the findings of a 2015 NOAA paper – not surprisingly attacked by deniers – that removed a cool bias in the data, finding there never was a global warming “pause.”

This particular myth has been a favorite of deniers over the past decade for one simple reason – if people can be convinced that global warming stopped, they won’t consider it a threat that we need to urgently address by cutting fossil fuel consumption. It’s thus become one of the most common myths peddled by carbon polluters and their allies.

One of those allies is the anti-climate policy advocacy group Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which tries to make the case that aggressive climate policy isn’t needed. This weekend, its “science” editor David Whitehouse wrote for the conservative UK Spectator periodical – which often promotes climate denial – denying that the “pause” is dead:

their case rests on the El Nino temperature increase and will be destroyed when the El Nino subsides, as it is currently doing. A temporary victory over the ‘pause’.

The ‘pause’ can be accommodated into global warming – but not for very much longer. The world’s temperature has to increase outside the El Nino effect.

Testing the myth

If Whitehouse is correct and temperatures are not increasing outside the El Niño effect, then 2015 and 2016 should be no hotter than previous El Niño years. It’s a relatively simple test to run. In the video below, I’ve broken out the temperature data into years with an El Niño warming influence, years with a La Niña cooling influence, and neutral years.

Whitehouse’s argument immediately crumbles. Among just El Niño years over the past five decades, there’s a 0.18°C per decade warming trend. Among La Niña years it’s also 0.18°C per decade, and among neutral years it’s 0.16°C per decade. And recent years aren’t falling below the long-term trend lines.

In fact, 2016 is well above the El Niño trend line, as was 1998, because both saw particularly strong El Niño events. However, 2016 was 0.35°C hotter than 1998. How is it that the “pause” supposedly started in 1998, any subsequent warming is supposedly due to El Niño, and yet 2016 was 0.35°C hotter than 1998?

The answer is that global warming has continued unabated over the past 18 years. There are of course natural temperature influences superimposed on top of that human-caused warming trend. It just so happens that 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012 were all influenced by La Niña cooling, which along with some other factors, acted to temporarily dampen the warming. 

But those La Niña years were about 0.2°C warmer than the La Niña years around the turn of the century. That’s because human-caused global warming has continued to push temperatures higher, despite cherry picked arguments to the contrary.

The faux pause was debunked before 2015

Whitehouse’s argument also falls apart because scientists debunked the faux pause myth before the El Niño of 2015–2016. For example, in the summer of 2015, Grant Foster and John Abraham published a paper showing that there was no statistical evidence of a pause:

A barrage of statistical tests was applied to global surface temperature time series to search for evidence of any significant departure from a linear increase at constant rate since 1970. In every case, the analysis not only failed to establish a trend change with statistical significance, it failed by a wide margin.

A few months later, a study by Stephen Lewandowsky, James Risbey, and Naomi Oreskes showed that not only did the myth lack statistical support, but in a blind test, economists found “pause” claims “misleading and ill-informed.” In fact, by late 2015, at least six papers had been published debunking this myth. The record-shattering hot temperatures of 2015 and 2016 were simply more nails in its coffin. It’s a coffin with so many nails it’s hard to find room for more.

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Posted by dana1981 on Tuesday, 10 January, 2017

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