The Obama administration and environmental groups have long claimed 97 percent of scientists agree that human activity is causing the Earth to warm, but there’s a new consensus they may be less willing to acknowledge.
Using the same methodology as the vaunted “97 percent” paper by researcher John Cook, two climate scientists have made a bold discovery: virtually all climate scientists agree that global warming has “stopped” or “slowed down” in recent years.
“We didn’t find a single paper on the topic that argued the rate of global warming has not slowed (or even stopped) in recent years,” wrote scientists Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger with the libertarian Cato Institute.
“This is in direct opposition to the IPCC’s contention that global warming is accelerating, and supports arguments that the amount of warming that will occur over the remainder of the 21st century as a result of human fossil fuel usage will be at the low end of the IPCC projections, or even lower,” the two scientists added. “Low-end warming yields low-end impacts.”
Last year, President Obama claimed that “ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: [climate] change is real, man-made and dangerous.” His claim was based on a paper by Australian researcher John Cook, who looked at scientific papers as the basis for his finding that 97 percent agreed that humans caused global warming.
“Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on [anthropogenic global warming] is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research,” Cook wrote in his study that was published last year.
Cook’s paper, however, has been heavily criticized for “cooking” the numbers on what scientist actually think about global warming. Others, however, say Cook’s paper misses a key scientific question: what is the current state of global warming?
“So while 97% of scientists may agree that global warming is caused by humans, virtually 100% agree that global warming has stopped or slowed considerably during the 21st Century,” wrote Michaels and Knappenberger.
Michaels and Knappenberger searched for papers published between 2009 and 2014 in the Web of Science database, searching for the terms “pause,” “hiatus” or “slowdown” along with the terms “global” and “temperature.” They then read the abstracts, or the whole paper if necessary, to determine what position the authors took on the pause in warming.
Of the 100 papers identified by Michaels and Knappenberger, 65 had nothing to do with recent global temperature trends — which is typical of papers written before 2010. The remaining 35 papers used by the Cato scientists all acknowledged in someway a “hiatus, pause, or slowdown in global warming was occurring.”
“We surely may have missed a few papers that were not cataloged in the database we used, or that weren’t captured by our search terms, but the evidence is overwhelming — virtually all (if not actually all) scientific papers that mention a hiatus or pause agree that it exists,” the Cato scientists noted.
Scientists have been struggling to explain why there has been no significant warming trend during the 21st century. Satellite data shows there has been no warming for the 18 years and surface temperature data points to a lack of warming for the last 15 years or so.
Dozens of explanations have been put forward in an attempt to reconcile why most climate models were unable to predict such a prolonged period with no warming despite rapidly rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
A study from earlier this year found that the lack of warming is due to “heat transported to deeper layers in the Atlantic and the southern oceans, initiated by a recurrent salinity anomaly in the subpolar North Atlantic.”
This oceanic cooling cycle “associated with the latter deeper heat-sequestration mechanism historically lasted 20 to 35 years,” according to Professor Ka-Kit Tung from the University of Washington.
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