the national interest

Scientists Drop Science Bomb on Climate-Change Skeptics

Pack ice and calving icebergs, aerial view of Mertz Glacier, Terre Adelie Land, east Antarctica
Photo: Colin Monteath/ Hedgehog House/ Minden Pictures/Corbis

Over the last couple of years, the conservative movement, which loves science, has had a completely scientific-based reason for skepticism about climate change. The Earth’s temperature seemed to be rising at a slower rate than scientists had predicted. The global warming “pause,” as it was inaccurately called — it was actually “getting warmer at a slower-than-expected rate,” rather than an actual pause — served as grist for a massive flow of coverage expressing skepticism about scientific models and climate change.

An extremely partial list of leading conservatives holding up the “pause” as a reason to doubt climate science models includes The Wall Street Journal editors and their faithful, skeptical contributors; Fox News; Michael Barone; the Heritage Foundation; the American Enterprise Institute; the Cato Institute; National Review … and that’s not even descending to the level of the Daily Caller, Washington Free Beacon, and so on.

The importance of the global-warming pause, conservatives explained, was that we needed to get the science right. “One lesson of the IPCC report is that now is the time for policy caution. Let’s see if the nonwarming trend continues, in which case the climate models will need remodeling,” explained the Journal’s editors.

But fortunately we now have an answer. A new paper released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finds that the apparent slowdown in warming was an artifact of mis-measurement. The Earth is not warming at a slower rate. It’s warming at the same fast pace as it did the previous decade:

Chart via Washington Post. Photo: NOAA

So now that we know there is no pause, or even a slowdown, science-loving conservatives can rest assured that the conclusions of the climate-science field are correct, and the release of heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere does in fact trap heat. Obviously, right? Conservatives placed so much weight on the apparent existence of this pause that there’s no way they would just immediately switch over to some other justification for their same skepticism, like some kind of reflexive ideologues.

Scientists Drop Science Bomb on Climate Skeptics