Times Struggles to Keep Climate Hope Alive

The latest chapter in our climate change endgame series comes courtesy of the New York Times, which struggled mightily on Sunday to cope with the inconvenient news that temperatures have been flat for more than a decade now.  In “What To Make of a Warming Plateau,” Times reporter Justin Gillis leads with the most compelling scientific argument yet: “luck.”

As unlikely as this may sound, we have lucked out in recent years when it comes to global warming.  The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace.

Keep in mind as you proceed here that climate science is “settled,” and that 97 percent of all scientists agree (even though a closer look at the study that produced this statistic sweeps up all the main “skeptics” who do not dispute that CO2 is a greenhouse gas).  Because what follows certainly undermines the narrative in ways that even a skilled Timesman has trouble obscuring:

The slowdown is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists.

But the science is settled!  Hand over your car keys now!

It gets better:

True, the basic theory that predicts a warming of the planet in response to human emissions does not suggest that warming should be smooth and continuous. To the contrary, in a climate system still dominated by natural variability, there is every reason to think the warming will proceed in fits and starts.

But given how much is riding on the scientific forecast, the practitioners of climate science would like to understand exactly what is going on. They admit that they do not, even though some potential mechanisms of the slowdown have been suggested. The situation highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system, some of which cannot be closed until we get better measurements from high in space and from deep in the ocean.  (Emphasis added.)

But the science is settled!

As you might imagine, those dismissive of climate-change concerns have made much of this warming plateau. They typically argue that “global warming stopped 15 years ago” or some similar statement, and then assert that this disproves the whole notion that greenhouse gases are causing warming.

Gillis offers no citations or quotations from any of the leading skeptics that greenhouse gases do not cause warming.  The argument has been about the extent of warming that can be expected from a likely doubling of CO2 a century from now (as well as what would be sensible policy depending on the level).  And why would anyone be “dismissive” of alarmist climate claims in light of the flattening out of the temperature record?  Might it be because of the breathless coverage of the media, constantly crediting every crazy prediction and seldom reporting the weaknesses in the case?  Nah–couldn’t be that.

This is the face of a climate campaign desperate to keep what little momentum it has left.

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