So what happened to global warming?
It’s not just that it’s disappeared from media headlines this year – shoved off by the credit crunch and natural disasters, for example. It can’t be ignored that 2007 came and went as another very warm year – the 7th hottest on record since 1850 according to the World Meteorological Organization.
But it wasn’t a record. In fact that was 1998, a full 10 years ago — the year of an exceptional El Nino, a Pacific weather pattern which heats the whole globe. So is global warming not living up to the hype?
Two weeks ago Leibniz Institute’s Noel Keenlyside stirred an academic hornet’s
nest by saying that we may have to wait longer – a decade or more – for another
peak year, because a natural weakening in ocean currents may be cooling sea
Many scientists flatly rejected the idea, saying Keenlyside had over-estimated the effect. But some pointed out that a recent switch in a weather pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation could indeed cool temperatures globally.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said last year recent warming was
“unequivocal” and most of it “very likely” manmade. And almost all scientists in the latest debate, including Keenlyside, agree that any temporary cooling doesn’t alter that – blips due to natural effects are to be expected.
But how long is a blip? No-one knows.
It could be many years before there’s an El Nino as bad as 1998, scientists say. And in the meantime the doubts will grow, just as policymakers try to negotiate one of the most complex global treaties ever. A new Kyoto Protocol will affect issues of equity and poverty: in the case of poor countries the right to grow, for island states perhaps the right to exist, and for rich countries the right to compete on a level economic playing field.
Meanwhile one or two doubters are already saying the present lull in warming
casts doubt on just how far manmade greenhouse gases are influencing the climate. MIT’s Richard Lindzen reckoned that if it was as bad as all that temperatures would be rising faster.
What do you think?