Climate change may be happening more slowly than scientists thought. But the world still needs to deal with it.
IT MAY come as a surprise to a walrus wondering where all the Arctic’s summer sea ice has gone. It could be news to a Staten Islander still coming to terms with what he lost to Hurricane Sandy. But some scientists are arguing that man-made climate change is not quite so bad a threat as it appeared to be a few years ago. They point to various reasons for thinking that the planet’s “climate sensitivity”—the amount of warming that can be expected for a doubling in the carbon-dioxide level—may not be as high as was previously thought. The most obvious reason is that, despite a marked warming over the course of the 20th century, temperatures have not really risen over the past ten years.
It is not clear why climate change has “plateaued” (see article). It could be because of greater natural variability in the climate, because clouds dampen warming or because of some other little-understood mechanism in the almost infinitely complex climate system. But whatever the reason, some of the really ghastly scenarios—where the planet heated up by 4°C or more this century—are coming to look mercifully unlikely. Does that mean the world no longer has to worry?
No, for two reasons. ...
Here is a graph from the article:
Here is a another chart from The Mail Online showing actual temps versus the forecasted temps based on computer models. The article is written in the publications typical bombastic style but graph is nevertheless helpful:
I'm glad to see reputable publications like the Economist addressing this development. It is clear to even the most casual observer that a plateau is happening. To keep behaving as if it isn't there and that people who are drawing attention to it are sinister does not help the public discourse. In fact, embracing anomalies that are particularly problematic for a narrative you want to communicate is key to making winning broad public support. As I've said before, I don't question scientific thought that human behavior has an impact on the environment. I do question our ability, to date, to appreciate the complexity involved or the sensitivity to human behavior. Prudence is an important value here.