Greenhouse gases up; Temperature stable

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The uncertainty of science: Even as the Earth’s climate temperature has remained essentially unchanged for the past two decades, the rate of increase in greenhouse gases in 2013 hit its highest number in thirty years.

This Nature article is interesting in two ways. First, it actually breaks with the tradition of the past two decades and notes the gigantic uncertainties that exist in climate science.

The question remains, however, of why the rise in global mean temperatures near the surface has apparently slowed, after a series of exceptionally warm years in the 1990s.

To have mentioned an inconvenient fact like this, casting doubt on the theory of human-caused global warming, has been forbidden for decades in major journals like Nature. That the article does mention it shows that the inconvenient facts have become too obvious to ignore.

The second way the article is interesting is its repeated attempt to make believe that new theories, based on this very incomplete and contradictory data set, can explain the mystery.

Scientists have suggested a number of possible explanations for the global warming pause. According to the latest hypothesis, regularly occurring changes in circulation patterns in the Atlantic and Southern Ocean may have caused an increased volume of relatively warm water to sink to the depth of the ocean, thus reducing the amount of ocean heat escaping to the atmosphere.

The sad fact is that there are now dozens of theories to explain the long pause in global warming, none of which are convincing. The uncertainties continue to rule!

Similarly, the article also makes this naive statement:

Atmospheric methane, the second most important long-lived greenhouse gas, also reached a new high of about 1,824 parts per billion last year, mostly due to increased emissions from cattle breeding, rice farming, fossil fuel mining, landfills and biomass burning. [emphasis mine]

The certainty expressed here about the sources of methane increase in the atmosphere is misplaced. We don’t really know all the sources of the increase in methane in the atmosphere. Recent data instead suggests it could have many natural sources having nothing to do with human activities.

The bottom line remains: The knowledge we have of the Earth’s atmosphere and climate remains very incomplete and preliminary. Any theories about its nature and operation must be taken with a very large measure of skepticism. Any particular theory might be right, but it is just as likely that future research will very easily prove it wrong.

It would be nice if the journalists at Nature would take this advice.


  • mpthompson

    My leftist acquaintances assure me that there has been no pause in warming and that all claims to the contrary are a denialist conspiracy. That Nature is now only grudgingly admitting to what is obvious to anyone with a brain shows how deep leftist orthodoxy runs.

    Of course, the issue of global warming has never been about science. It is simply about power over others. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that modern leftists even try to justify the exercise of power on flimsy evidence. As history demonstrates, once they feel they can dispense with justification those of us in their way will really need to start worrying.

  • Cotour

    There are so many indicators and or causes for climate change and not just one indicator that tells the tale from where I sit. Isn’t there an established eight hundred year lag between CO2 levels and any correlation between it and temperature or climate?

  • “Isn’t there an established eight hundred year lag between CO2 levels and any correlation between it and temperature or climate?”

    In the long term geological record, going back millions of years, there is a very clear lag between changes in global temperature and changes in CO2. The temperature seems to always change before changes in CO2. In other words, in the past carbon dioxide was not a cause of climate change, but a result.

    However, it is incorrect to place a definitive time length to this lag (“eight hundred years”). The data isn’t that precise. To pin the number down that precisely is to give the incorrect impression that scientists know more than they do. Moreover, we have no data on what happens when CO2 increases first (which is what is happening now).

  • Max

    1.8 ppm methane is virtually unmeasurable. In science talk it is referred to as “statistically unimportant”. To better visualize parts per million (PPM) Think of $1 million Dollars representing all of our atmosphere. That’s 100 stacks of $100 Dollar bills stacked 100 bills high. Nitrogen would be close to $800,000, Oxygen near $200,000. Carbon dioxide would be $400. Methane would be represented by a dollar and $.80 cents.
    This is not science, it is religious dogma based upon Faith, intimidation and Fact less legislation. If there was more than a rare trace amount of methane in our atmosphere would it be a global warming gas? Who started the rumor and what is their science behind the claim? All I found was a visiting professor from India at the Goddard Institute made a statement saying methane, when it breaks down into other compounds, cause a Profound increase in global warming effect. He failed to name the compounds. Anyone who cooks with natural gas (methane) knows that the byproduct is carbon dioxide and water vapor. Carbon dioxide is less than one half of one 10th of 1% of the atmosphere and therefore is not a factor in warming. Water vapor on the other hand is estimated to be 3% of the atmosphere or 30,000 ppm. It is well known that clouds hold in heat, but they also reflect sunlight causing a drop in temperature. With 78% of the earth surface covered in water, this cannot be laid at the foot of methane.
    There are three major sources of methane. 1: The sun. (Methane is the blue in the aurora borealis. Solar storms deliver hundreds and sometimes billions of tons of methane and ammonia and other gases To our northern and southern hemisphere’s creating the northern lights. In the winter before last, carbon dioxide reached 400 ppm in the Arctic. It occurred during a solar storm, the worst of this solar cycle. The Sun is the primary source of fresh carbon and the cause of Ocean level rise.) 2: Continental drift. (The heat and pressure of continents over ancient Fossil seabeds of calcium carbonate Produce hydrocarbon compounds like oil and methane. Volcanoes recycle the ancient fossil fuels back into the atmosphere producing more carbon dioxide in one eruption then all of humankind ever) 3: Anaerobic bacteria. (All known lifeforms are made from carbon. anaerobic bacteria, when that life dies, returns the carbon to the atmosphere from where it came. Cows for example will eat hay and grass and provide a warm wet environment for bacteria to make methane. All the hay and grass the cows don’t eat will lie on the ground and rot during the winter and turn into methane anyway)
    Thank you Robert for giving us a forum for the truth, “for the truth shall set you free…”

  • Cotour

    Great perspective, very informative, and I love the money analogy.

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