Monday, June 10, 2013

About the Plateau

Justin Gillis writes, in a very good article in the New York Times:
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.

Rarely do they mention that most of the warmest years in the historical record have occurred recently. Moreover, their claim depends on careful selection of the starting and ending points. The starting point is almost always 1998, a particularly warm year because of a strong El NiƱo weather pattern.

Somebody who wanted to sell you gold coins as an investment could make the same kind of argument about the futility of putting your retirement funds into the stock market. If he picked the start date and the end date carefully enough, the gold salesman could make it look like the stock market did not go up for a decade or longer.

But that does not really tell you what your retirement money is going to do in the market over 30 or 40 years. It does not even tell you how you would have done over the cherry-picked decade, which would have depended on exactly when you got in and out of the market.

Scientists and statisticians reject this sort of selective use of numbers, and when they calculate the long-term temperature trends for the earth, they conclude that it continues to warm through time. Despite the recent lull, it is an open question whether the pace of that warming has undergone any lasting shift.
Unfortunately, I don't think Justin's article will change anything.

But personally, I'm getting a little tired of the "plateau." Arguments about it it simply aren't scientific.

Of course, I've done my own reporting on the subject.

1 comment:

Paul S said...

Unfortunately, you may have to endure this for a while longer. The Nino1+2 data for the past few weeks have been strongly negative, which is usually an indicator that we're heading firmly into La Nina for the next year or so.