Has global warming stopped?

'The global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 and every year since"

'The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 and every year since 2001'. Plus read Mark Lynas's response

Global warming stopped? Surely not. What heresy is this? Haven’t we been told that the science of global warming is settled beyond doubt and that all that’s left to the so-called sceptics is the odd errant glacier that refuses to melt?

Aren’t we told that if we don’t act now rising temperatures will render most of the surface of the Earth uninhabitable within our lifetimes? But as we digest these apocalyptic comments, read the recent IPCC’s Synthesis report that says climate change could become irreversible. Witness the drama at Bali as news emerges that something is not quite right in the global warming camp.

With only few days remaining in 2007, the indications are the global temperature for this year is the same as that for 2006 – there has been no warming over the 12 months.

But is this just a blip in the ever upward trend you may ask? No.

The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 as well as every year since 2001. Global warming has, temporarily or permanently, ceased. Temperatures across the world are not increasing as they should according to the fundamental theory behind global warming – the greenhouse effect. Something else is happening and it is vital that we find out what or else we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly.

In principle the greenhouse effect is simple. Gases like carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere absorb outgoing infrared radiation from the earth’s surface causing some heat to be retained.

Consequently an increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases from human activities such as burning fossil fuels leads to an enhanced greenhouse effect. Thus the world warms, the climate changes and we are in trouble.

The evidence for this hypothesis is the well established physics of the greenhouse effect itself and the correlation of increasing global carbon dioxide concentration with rising global temperature. Carbon dioxide is clearly increasing in the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s a straight line upward. It is currently about 390 parts per million. Pre-industrial levels were about 285 ppm. Since 1960 when accurate annual measurements became more reliable it has increased steadily from about 315 ppm. If the greenhouse effect is working as we think then the Earth’s temperature will rise as the carbon dioxide levels increase.

But here it starts getting messy and, perhaps, a little inconvenient for some. Looking at the global temperatures as used by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the UK’s Met Office and the IPCC (and indeed Al Gore) it’s apparent that there has been a sharp rise since about 1980.

The period 1980-98 was one of rapid warming – a temperature increase of about 0.5 degrees C (CO2 rose from 340ppm to 370ppm). But since then the global temperature has been flat (whilst the CO2 has relentlessly risen from 370ppm to 380ppm). This means that the global temperature today is about 0.3 deg less than it would have been had the rapid increase continued.

For the past decade the world has not warmed. Global warming has stopped. It’s not a viewpoint or a sceptic’s inaccuracy. It’s an observational fact. Clearly the world of the past 30 years is warmer than the previous decades and there is abundant evidence (in the northern hemisphere at least) that the world is responding to those elevated temperatures. But the evidence shows that global warming as such has ceased.

The explanation for the standstill has been attributed to aerosols in the atmosphere produced as a by-product of greenhouse gas emission and volcanic activity. They would have the effect of reflecting some of the incidental sunlight into space thereby reducing the greenhouse effect. Such an explanation was proposed to account for the global cooling observed between 1940 and 1978.

But things cannot be that simple. The fact that the global temperature has remained unchanged for a decade requires that the quantity of reflecting aerosols dumped put in our atmosphere must be increasing year on year at precisely the exact rate needed to offset the accumulating carbon dioxide that wants to drive the temperature higher. This precise balance seems highly unlikely. Other explanations have been proposed such as the ocean cooling effect of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation or the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.

But they are also difficult to adjust so that they exactly compensate for the increasing upward temperature drag of rising CO2. So we are led to the conclusion that either the hypothesis of carbon dioxide induced global warming holds but its effects are being modified in what seems to be an improbable though not impossible way, or, and this really is heresy according to some, the working hypothesis does not stand the test of data.

It was a pity that the delegates at Bali didn’t discuss this or that the recent IPCC Synthesis report did not look in more detail at this recent warming standstill. Had it not occurred, or if the flatlining of temperature had occurred just five years earlier we would have no talk of global warming and perhaps, as happened in the 1970’s, we would fear a new Ice Age! Scientists and politicians talk of future projected temperature increases. But if the world has stopped warming what use these projections then?

Some media commentators say that the science of global warming is now beyond doubt and those who advocate alternative approaches or indeed modifications to the carbon dioxide greenhouse warming effect had lost the scientific argument. Not so.

Certainly the working hypothesis of CO2 induced global warming is a good one that stands on good physical principles but let us not pretend our understanding extends too far or that the working hypothesis is a sufficient explanation for what is going on.

I have heard it said, by scientists, journalists and politicians, that the time for argument is over and that further scientific debate only causes delay in action. But the wish to know exactly what is going on is independent of politics and scientists must never bend their desire for knowledge to any political cause, however noble.

The science is fascinating, the ramifications profound, but we are fools if we think we have a sufficient understanding of such a complicated system as the Earth’s atmosphere’s interaction with sunlight to decide. We know far less than many think we do or would like you to think we do. We must explain why global warming has stopped.

David Whitehosue was BBC Science Correspondent 1988–1998, Science Editor BBC News Online 1998–2006 and the 2004 European Internet Journalist of the Year. He has a doctorate in astrophysics and is the author of The Sun: A Biography (John Wiley, 2005).] His website is www.davidwhitehouse.com

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The New Statesman Quiz of the Year, 2016

Grab your pen and paper for this year's New Statesman quiz.

Brexit

1 Which foreign politician hailed Leave’s win in the EU referendum as a “Victory for freedom!”?

a Geert Wilders

b Norbert Hofer

c Donald Trump

d Marine Le Pen

 

2 Which London borough had the highest percentage of Remain voters in the EU referendum, at 78.6 per cent?

a Lambeth

b Ealing

c Merton

d Hammersmith and Fulham

 

3 Which of these newspapers did not support Leave?

Sunday Express

Sunday Times

Mail on Sunday

Sunday Telegraph

 

4 Boris Johnson caused controversy by suggesting to an Italian economics minister that Italy would allow the UK access to the single market in order to safeguard exports of what?

a Parma ham

b Prosecco

c Pasta

d Parmesan

5 In a YouGov poll asking voters how they thought fictional characters might vote in the EU referendum, who was viewed as most likely to vote Leave?

a Jim Royle

b Basil Fawlty

c Alan Partridge

d Mary Poppins

 

US politics

 

6 Which of these words did Donald Trump use most frequently during the three
presidential debates?

a Unbelievable

b Wonderful

c Tremendous

d Amazing

 

7 During his campaign, Trump suggested the father of his rival Ted Cruz could have been linked to whose assassination?

a John F Kennedy

b Robert F Kennedy

c Martin Luther King

d Anwar Sadat

 

8 What was Nigel Farage’s description of Trump during the second debate, in which he had to defend himself against assault charges and seemed to invade Hillary Clinton’s space?

a “A big silverback gorilla”

b “A mighty mountain
of a man”

c “A great white shark
sniffing blood”

d “A defiant, strong lion”

 

9 At a New York fundraiser in September, Hillary Clinton was assailed for saying that “half” of Donald Trump’s supporters could be described as “a basket of . . .” what?

a Unmentionables

b Deplorables

c Awfulness

d Idiocy

 

10 Which of these states did not swing from the Democrats to the Republicans in the 2016 US presidential election?

a Iowa

b Pennsylvania

c Ohio

d Virginia

 

UK politics

 

11 In August, which former cabinet minster was photographed firing off a machine-gun, Rambo-style, while on holiday in Vietnam?

a George Osborne

b Michael Gove

c Nicky Morgan

d Ken Clarke

 

12 Who claimed in his autobiography, Speaking Out, that the idea Jeremy Corbyn will take Labour back to power is a “leftist utopian fantasy”?

a David Miliband

b Ed Balls

c Alastair Campbell

d Neil Kinnock

 

13 In the first round of voting in the Conservative leadership contest, who received the support of 34 MPs?

a Liam Fox

b Michael Gove

c Andrea Leadsom

d Stephen Crabb

 

14 Who won in the Politician category at GQ magazine’s Men of the Year awards?

a Boris Johnson

b Nigel Farage

c Sadiq Khan

d Jacob Rees-Mogg

 

15 Labour now boasts the largest number of members of any political party in western Europe. What was the party membership figure by September?

a 388,400

b 551,000

c 776,300

d 917,000

 

Around Britain

 

16 What did Sergeant Colin Norden, a Cambridgeshire police officer, call “the biggest organised crime group” in the country because of a racket in picking wild berries and selling them on?

a Scouts

b Ramblers’ Association

c Women’s Institute

d Camra

 

17 Despite public demand for the name Boaty McBoatface, after whom was the UK’s new polar research ship eventually named?

Michael Palin

David Attenborough

Ranulph Fiennes

Bear Grylls

 

18 London’s new railway Crossrail will be given what name when it opens in December 2018?

a The Regal Line

b The Elizabeth Line

c The Queen Line

d The Windsor Line

 

19 A new Royal Bank of Scotland £10 note will be the first to carry a picture of a woman who is not a member of the royal family. Who?

a Mary Somerville

b Muriel Spark

c Flora MacDonald

d Winnie Ewing

 

20 Which of these products briefly became scarce in Tesco supermarkets this year after a price disagreement with the supplier, Unilever?

a Pot Noodles

b Colman’s Mustard

c Bisto

d Marmite

 

21 According to the Office for National Statistics’ happiness index, which religion has the highest happiness rating?

a Hinduism

b Buddhism

c Christianity

d Judaism

 

22 A study found that which biscuit can endure the most number of dunks into a cup of tea before breaking apart?

a Bourbon

b Custard cream

c Digestive

d Rich Tea

World

 

23 The Cuban leader Fidel Castro died in November at the age of 90. Ten US presidents held office during his time in power, but who was Fidel’s first US counterpart?

a Harry S Truman

b Dwight D Eisenhower

c John F Kennedy

d Lyndon B Johnson

 

24 Archaeologists used laser technology to discover a number of hitherto lost medieval cities in the jungles of which country?

a Guatemala

b Thailand

c Cambodia

d Brazil

 

25 Maria Grazia Chiuri became the first female creative director of which fashion house?

a Valentino

b Givenchy

c Louis Vuitton

d Christian Dior

 

26 Which European country voted to reject a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all its citizens?

a Finland

b Norway

c Switzerland

d Austria

 

27 In which US city were 11 police officers shot, five of them fatally, by at least two snipers at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in July?

a New Orleans

b Atlanta

c Dallas

d St Louis

 

28 Adama Barrow won Gambia’s presidential election. As a student in London, he once worked as a security guard for which high-street retailer?

a Marks & Spencer

b Argos

c John Lewis

d Boots

 

29 Which politician was heavily criticised for having a personal barber who earns €10,000 a month?

a Matteo Renzi

b Joachim Gauck

c Mariano Rajoy

d François Hollande

 

Sport


30 The 23 March is a special day for sport, as three of Britain’s four most successful Olympians, in terms of gold medals won, share a birthday on that date. Which of the four men won his medals despite being born on 28 April?

a Chris Hoy

b Steve Redgrave

c Bradley Wiggins

d Jason Kenny

 

31 In which sport did Great Britain win most of its gold medals from the Rio Olympics?

a Rowing

b Cycling

c Swimming

d Sailing

 

32 Great Britain took second place in the Rio Paralympics table with 147 medals (including 64 gold) behind which country?

a China

b Russia

c United States

d Germany

 

33 Which Scottish golf course was removed from the list of possible venues for the Open Championship after it voted to retain its “men only” membership policy?

a Turnberry

b Muirfield

c Carnoustie

d Royal Troon

 

34 Who appeared on the BBC’s Match of the Day wearing only his underpants, after he promised to do so if Leicester City won the Premier League?

a Alan Shearer

b Mark Lawrenson

c Ian Wright

d Gary Lineker

 

35 Which British tennis player won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon?

a Laura Robson

b Naomi Broady

c Johanna Konta

d Heather Watson

 

36 Borussia Mönchengladbach changed their name to “A German Team” on Twitter in response to fans of which UK side being unable to spell the name?

a Liverpool

b Celtic

c Aberdeen

d Manchester City

 

Arts and books

37 Love by All Sorts of Means was Brendan King’s biography of which writer, whom he worked for as secretary and assistant for 23 years?

a Beryl Bainbridge

b Penelope Lively

c Doris Lessing

d Barbara Pym

 

38 Which former Blue Peter presenter published the debut novel The Butcher’s Hook?

a Valerie Singleton

b Mark Curry

c Konnie Huq

d Janet Ellis

 

39 Which comedian and television presenter’s painting of David Beckham’s tattoos was part of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition?

a Nick Hancock

b Justin Lee Collins

c Harry Hill

d Leigh Francis

 

40 Which artist acquired exclusive rights to “Vantablack”, said to be the “blackest black” pigment of paint?

a Grayson Perry

b Chris Ofili

c Jeremy Deller

d Anish Kapoor

 

41 Which musical won 11 Tony Awards from 16 nominations, falling one short of the all-time record held by The Producers?

School of Rock

Hamilton

Waitress

Fun Home

 

42 Who was the only Briton to make the Forbes Top Ten list of the world’s highest-paid comedians?

a Peter Kay

b Frankie Boyle

c Kevin Bridges

d John Bishop

 

Science and media

 

43 In the first 15 years of Wikipedia, which person’s entry was edited the most?

a Justin Bieber

b Barack Obama

c Adolf Hitler

d George W Bush

 

44 A study found the average smartphone user touches their device how many times a day?

a 137

b 589

c 1,457

d 2,617

 

45 The wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham controversially suggested that children should be encouraged to eat which local wildlife?

a Snails

b Earthworms

c Tadpoles

d Grasshoppers

 

46 Researchers found that the milk of which Australian marsupial is capable of killing antibiotic-resistant human pathogens?

a Tasmanian devil

b Red kangaroo

c Quokka

d Tiger quoll

 

47 Scientists suggested which sixth “basic taste” to describe the flavour of bread and potatoes?

a Starchiness

b Solid

c Heavy

d Glutinous

 

Media

 

48 Which national newspaper closed after only nine weeks of operation?

New Day

New European

First News

24

 

49 Which newspaper led the investigation that brought Sam Allardyce’s time as England manager to an end after 67 days?

Times

Daily Telegraph

Daily Express

Observer

 

50 Which magazine published Sean Penn’s interview with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán that Mexican officials claim led them to the drug kingpin’s hiding place?

Esquire

New Yorker

Rolling Stone

Vice

 

Film, TV, music

 

51 Spike Lee’s latest film, Chi-Raq, is a modern-day adaptation of which play by Aristophanes?

The Clouds

Lysistrata

The Frogs

The Birds

 

52 Which film won the
Golden Globe award for
Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, despite being neither a musical nor a comedy?

Carol

The Big Short

Steve Jobs

The Martian

 

53 Who played the title role in Fleabag, the TV adaptation of her 2013 Edinburgh one-woman play of the same name?

a Joanna Vanderham

b Zawe Ashton

c Phoebe Waller-Bridge

d Immy Waterhouse

 

54 Who became the highest-grossing female film star of all time?

a Jennifer Lawrence

b Scarlett Johansson

c Zoë Saldana

d Nicole Kidman

 

55 Which German film by the director Sebastian Schipper was shot in a single, continuous take?

Victoria

Mary

Anna

Eva

 

56 The season finale of Westworld revealed the existence of which other theme park?

a Space World

b Medieval World

c Gangster World

d Samurai World

 

57 The video for Kanye West’s song “Famous” did not feature which of these people in the form of a naked sleeping waxwork?

a Barack Obama

b Anna Wintour

c Donald Trump

d Bill Cosby

 

58 Which musician released the online animal rights game This Beautiful Creature Must Die in collaboration with Peta?

a Paul McCartney

b Morrissey

c Moby

d Dave Navarro

 

59 The Eurovision Song Contest-winning song “1944” commemorated which event?

a D-Day landings

b Deportation of the
Crimean Tatars

c Battle of Monte Cassino

d Liberation of Leningrad

Click here for the answers.

This article first appeared in the 15 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special 2016