It looks like the science isn’t settled. Leaked documents obtained by the Associated Press show that the U.S. government and several European governments tried to get climate scientists to downplay the lack of global warming over the past 15 years.
The highly anticipated United Nations report on global warming is expected to affirm the link between human activity and global warming, but scientists are still having trouble explaining away the lull in rising global temperatures over the past 15 years despite rapidly rising greenhouse gas levels.
The lull in global warming has been noted by skeptics to show the flaws behind the science and the theory that human activities, primarily through burning fossil fuels, causes global temperatures to rise.
This has some governments worried, reports the AP, as documents show that the U.S. government along with some European nations tried to convince the report’s authors to downplay the lack of warming over the past 15 years.
The AP reports that “Germany called for the reference to the slowdown to be deleted, saying a time span of 10-15 years was misleading in the context of climate change, which is measured over decades and centuries.”
“The U.S. also urged the authors to include the ‘leading hypothesis’ that the reduction in warming is linked to more heat being transferred to the deep ocean,” the AP noted. “Belgium objected to using 1998 as a starting year for any statistics. …Using 1999 or 2000 as a starting year would yield a more upward-pointing curve. Hungary worried the report would provide ammunition for skeptics.”
Concern by governments over the lull in warming comes ahead of the deadline the world has set for reaching a global climate agreement in 2015. This report would serve as the scientific underpinning of such an agreement.
“This is the culmination of four years’ work by hundreds of scientists, where governments get a chance to ensure the summary for policymakers is clear and concise in a dialogue with the scientists who wrote it, and have the opportunity to raise any topics they think should be highlighted,” Jonathan Lynn, a spokesman for the UN’s climate authority, told the AP.
A leaked draft of the UN’s climate report from June said it was “extremely likely” that human influence caused more than half the warming since the 1950s.
However, the report also acknowledged that the rate of warming since 1998 was about half of what the average rate had been since 1951, citing natural variability in the climate system, cooling effects from volcanic eruptions, and downward phase in solar activity.
“I think to not address it would be a problem because then you basically have the denialists saying: ‘Look the IPCC is silent on this issue,’” Alden Meyer, of the Washington, D.C.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, told the AP.
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