Email, Richard Somerville, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego, Dec. 4, 2013
Professor Naomi Oreskes has suggested to me that I might respond to your recent email.
The claim is nonsense.
To say that global warming has stopped because the average surface temperature of the Earth does not increase from one year to the next is simply silly. It is very much like saying that because there are strings of ten or twenty years in which stock prices are nearly flat, therefore the stock market is not going to go higher in the long term. It is just plain foolish to focus on short-term distractions in the climate record due to natural variability, while ignoring the long term-trend due to human activities.
Please note that the sources cited in your email are not scientific sources. They are articles and opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines. They mis-represent or ignore what climate science has actually discovered, They are also not neutral or objective journalistic sources, because they include many people and organizations which are well known for their vehement disagreement with the results of mainstream climate science. If you seek responsible journalism on this topic, you shouldn't go to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, etc.
These and kindred organizations hold political views that lead them to attack reputable climate science, largely because they disagree with the policies that they think might be put in place if the science were to be taken seriously. These organizations are strongly opposed to carbon taxes, cap-and-trade systems, regulation of greenhouse gases as pollutants, government “interference” with free markets, etc. Their attacks on mainstream climate science are, in my opinion and that of many others, often simply a disguise for their ideological views.
The “hiatus" or “pause" in the global average surface temperature record is simply a red herring. The past temperature record has many periods of several years in which no continuous strong warming is apparent. That is because variability (including El Niños, volcanism, solar changes, and other natural factors) is always present. Global warming continues, however, and it is cherry-picking to focus on one measure of climate (global average surface temperature) on one brief period, and ignore all the other observational data.
For the basics of this phenomenon, see:
The skeptical science.com website is searchable and provides succinct plain-English refutations of many common claims by those who refuse to accept the findings of modern climate science.
Please note that ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica continue to lose mass, Arctic sea ice extent continues to decline, glaciers worldwide continue to retreat, sea level continues to rise globally, and ocean heat content (over 90% of the heat added to the climate system is in the sea) continues to increase, to name just a few counter-examples. For a sample of what climate science actually has found, please see the blog real climate.org which is run by climate scientists. Examples on this topic:
You may also consult statements of the national academies of science and the main scientific societies in the US and abroad. They all endorse the scientific view that climate change in recent decades is real and serious and largely human-caused. A recent typical example:
There are many useful articles and links and downloads on the following two useful websites with which I am connected:
There are quite a few good climate scientists in Texas, and I suggest you seek them out. Here are some names:
Andrew Dessler at Texas A & M: firstname.lastname@example.org
Katherine Hayhoe at Texas Tech: email@example.com
Robert Dickinson at UT Austin: firstname.lastname@example.org
A political candidate should not rely on biased journalism while ignoring sound mainstream climate science. It is easy to find media stories and the occasional outlier scientist who will assert all kinds of non-scientific nonsense, but it is foolish to seek these out and have confidence in them, just to confirm a pre-conceived viewpoint.
Richard C. J. Somerville
Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA