When Lewandowsky and Oreskes produce a paper together, then you know what you gonna get. Their latest effort is called Seepage: The effect of climate denial on the scientific community. When reading the article describing the paper, it sounds strange, even when I try digging real deep in my memories of past my alarmism.
As far as I can understand the paper is about a “contrarian meme” (more specifically, the pause) seeping from public debate into the scientific process.
This is a nuanced issue that can be addressed in multiple different ways. In this article, we focus primarily on the asymmetry of the scientific response to the so-called ‘pause’-which is not a pause but a moderate slow-down in warming that does not qualitatively differ from previous fluctuations in decadal warming rate.
They agree that there is a “slowdown in temperatures” in the last 15 years, let’s call it the common ground. The difference is that they don’t find it meaningful. In a way, looking back at my believer years, I can somehow understand their reasoning. If we look at the long-term datasets like Nasa Giss or HadCrut, we see that the direction of the temperature is up. The current global temperature is higher than the current one, about 0.8 °C, even when there were also slowdowns in temperature like for example 1950s until the 1970s.
So far, so good. Been there, done that.
What made the difference in my case? Well, the issue is even more nuanced than is shown.
Sure, the temperatures went up since the 1850s, 1950s or the 1980s, Sure, there were periods of slowdown. But the timing is a bit awkward. There was a decrease from 1880s until 1910s, an increase until the 1940s, a slowdown until the 1970s, an increase until the 1990s, followed by the current slowdown. Seems like a cycle to me. Yet only the increase from the 1950s is attributed to human emissions.
Where did that first increase in the beginning of the 20th century come from? It is not attributed to anthropogenic CO2. Emissions were starting to increase rapidly in the 1950s. If one believes those long term datasets, the increase was similar to the later one that was attributed to humans. This is at least an indication that other forces are also at play here. Other than anthropogenic, so natural, forces that can have the same effect as the CO2. I see no reason to think that this force(s) would disappear magically at the end of the 1970s.
Building on that, isn’t it possible that there are larger cycles than the period that we have been measuring until now? We know from history that there was a period, known as the Little Ice Age, that had colder temperatures. If this current increase of temperatures since the 17th – 18th century is a recovery from this cold period, then this puts this warming at the end of the 20th century in another light.
Then there is the big elephant in the room. If CO2 is the major driver of the temperature increase on Earth, having a “moderate slow-down” in a period where emissions go through the roof (from memory: about 30% of anthropogenic emissions were emitted during this period), this means that there is at least one, probably more, forces that have the power to counteract the effects of CO2, that supposed to be the “main driver”.
When I realized this it shed a new light on the issue. To me it showed there are more options than the only one that is proposed. Strange they don’t see this or don’t take this into consideration.