The ‘pause’ in global warming in historical and conceptual context

The alleged significant slowdown in global warming during the first decade of the 21st century, and the appearance of a discrepancy between models and observations, has attracted considerable research attention. We trace the history of this research and show how its conclusions were shaped by several sources of uncertainty and ambiguity about models and observations. As those sources of uncertainty were gradually eliminated by further research, there is now insufficient remaining evidence to infer any discrepancy between models and observations or a significant slowing of warming. We discuss possible reasons why the slowdown attracted so much public and research attention.

Stephan Lewandowsky is a cognitive scientist with an interest in computational modeling. He has examined the persistence of misinformation in society, and how myths and misinformation can spread. He has become particularly interested in the variables that determine whether or not people accept scientific evidence, for example surrounding vaccinations or climate science.