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Did global warming stop in 1998?

By Dennis T. Avery
web posted May 29, 2006

The official thermometers at the U.S. National Climate Data Center show a slight global cooling trend over the last seven years, from 1998 to 2005.

 

Actually, global warming is likely to continue -- but the interruption of the recent strong warming trend sharply undercuts the argument that our global warming is an urgent, man-made emergency. The seven-year decline makes our warming look much more like the moderate, erratic warming to be expected when the planet naturally shifts from a Little Ice Age (1300–1850 AD)  to a centuries-long warm phase like the Medieval Warming (950–1300 AD) or the Roman Warming (200 BC– 600 AD).

 

The stutter in the temperature rise should rein in some of the more apoplectic cries of panic over man-made greenhouse emissions. The strong 28-year upward trend of 1970–1998 has apparently ended.

 

Fred Singer, a well-known skeptic on man-made warming, points out that the latest cooling trend is dictated primarily by a very warm El Nino year in 1998. "When you start your graph with 1998," he says, "you will necessarily get a cooling trend."

 

Bob Carter, a paleoclimatologist from Australia, notes that the earth also had strong global warming between 1918 and 1940. Then there was a long cooling period from 1940 to 1965. He points out that the current warming started 50 years before cars and industries began spewing consequential amounts of CO2. Then the planet cooled for 35 years just after the CO2 levels really began to surge. In fact, says Carter, there doesn't seem to be much correlation between temperatures and man-made CO2.

 

For context, Carter offers a quick review of earth's last 6 million years. The planet began that period with 3 million years in which the climate was several degrees warmer than today. Then came 3 million years in which the planet was basically cooling, accompanied by an increase in the magnitude and regularity of the earth's 1500-year Dansgaard-Oeschger climate cycles.

 

Speaking of the 1500-year climate cycles, grab an Internet peek at the earth's official temperatures since 1850. They describe a long, gentle S-curve, with the below-mean temperatures of the Little Ice Age gradually giving way to the above-the-mean temperatures we should expect during a Modern Warming.

 

Carter points out that since the early 1990s, the First World's media have featured "an increasing stream of alarmist letters and articles on hypothetical, human-caused climate change. Each such alarmist article is larded with words such as 'if', 'might,' 'could,' 'probably,' 'perhaps,' 'expected,' 'projected' or 'modeled' -- and many . . . are akin to nonsense."

 

Carter also warns that global cooling -- not likely for some centuries yet -- is likely to be far harsher for humans than the Modern Warming. He says, "our modern societies have developed during the last 10,000 years of benignly warm, interglacial climate. But for more than 90 percent of the last 2 million years, the climate has been colder, and generally much colder, than today. The reality of the climate record is that a sudden natural cooling is more to be feared, and will do infinitely more social and economic damage, than the late 20th century phase of gentle warming."

 

Since the earth is always warming or cooling, let's applaud the Modern Warming, and hope that the next ice age is a long time coming.

 

Dennis T. Avery is a senior fellow for Hudson Institute in Washington, DC and the Director for the Center for Global Food Issues. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. Readers may write him at Post Office Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421.


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