Scientists can now explain the “pause” in global warming that sceptics have used to bolster their arguments. Sceptics had claimed we have nothing to fear from climate change because it has stopped being a problem.
A new study has found that global temperatures have not flat-lined over the past 15 years, as weather station records have been suggesting, but have in fact continued to rise as fast as previous decades, during which we have seen an unprecedented acceleration in global warming.
The findings will undermine the arguments of leading sceptics, such as the former Chancellor Lord Lawson, who have criticised scientists from the Met Office and other climate organisations for not accepting that global warming has stopped since about 1998.
Two university scientists have found that the “pause” or “hiatus” in global temperatures can be largely explained by a failure of climate researchers to record the dramatic rise in Arctic temperatures over the past decade or more.
When Kevin Cowtan of York University and Robert Way of Ottawa University found a way of estimating Arctic temperatures from satellite readings, the so-called pause effectively disappeared and the global warming signal returned as strong as before.
The paucity of surface-temperature records in the remote and inaccessible Arctic has long been recognised as a problem for global estimates, not least by the Met Office itself.
However, the scale of the Arctic warming highlighted by Dr Cowtan and Mr Way has surprised seasoned climate researchers.
“The problem with the polar areas lacking data coverage has been known for a long time, but I think this study has basically solved it,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
He added: “People will argue about the details, as is normal in science, but I think basically this will hold up to scrutiny.”