Conservative media are distorting a New York Times article that explained scientists' research on how the ocean has absorbed much of recent global warming to deny manmade climate change. A prime example is the conservative website The Daily Caller, whose article is easily refuted by one of its own sources, a scientist who stated that "people should be exactly as concerned as before about what climate change is doing."
Here's The Daily Caller claiming that scientists have "lowered their warming estimates," (it actually means estimates of climate sensitivity, or the amount that the surface temperatures would warm in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide):
Researchers from the UK recently reported that global temperatures will only rise between 0.9 degrees Celsius and 2.0 degrees Celsius. Before that, Norwegian researchers found that the earth may warm only 1.9 degrees Celsius.
"The most extreme projections are looking less likely than before," Dr. Alexander Otto of the University of Oxford told BBC News.
In fact, Patrick Michaels of the libertarian Cato Institute compiled a partial list of studies that have lowered their warming estimates:
"Richard Lindzen gives a range of 0.6 to 1.0 C (Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 2011); Andreas Schmittner, 1.4 to 2.8 C (Science, 2011); James Annan, using two techniques, 1.2 to 3.6 C and 1.3 to 4.2 C (Climatic Change, 2011); J.H. van Hateren, 1.5 to 2.5 C (Climate Dynamics, 2012); Michael Ring, 1.5 to 2.0 C (Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, 2012); and Julia Hargreaves, including cooling from dust, 0.2 to 4.0 C and 0.8 to 3.6 C (Geophysical Research Letters, 2012)."
Here's the scientist that The Daily Caller cites, Dr. Otto of the University of Oxford, saying to the BBC that "We would all like climate sensitivity to be lower but it isn't":
The IPCC said that climate sensitivity was in the range of 2.0-4.5C.
This latest research, including the decade of stalled temperature rises, produces a range of 0.9-5.0C.
"It is a bigger range of uncertainty," said Dr Otto.
"But it still includes the old range. We would all like climate sensitivity to be lower but it isn't."
Here's the Daily Caller casting doubt on The New York Times' explanation that the ocean has been absorbing more heat:
Despite the global temperature plateau, [New York Times science reporter Justin] Gillis argues that global warming skeptics are still wrong to claim that global warming is not caused by carbon dioxide emissions. He suggests that maybe the ocean has absorbed some of the heat that would have otherwise been pumped into the atmosphere.
Here's the BBC reporting that the scientist the Daily Caller cited earlier did in fact base his research on oceans absorbing more heat:
The researchers say the difference between the lower short-term estimate and the more consistent long-term picture can be explained by the fact that the heat from the last decade has been absorbed into and is being stored by the world's oceans.
Here's the Daily Caller giving credence to the claim that recent temperatures boost global warming "skeptics":
For the past 15 years there has been a lull in rising global temperatures which has many climate scientists scrambling to find an explanation and global warming skeptics arguing that the dire predictions made by activists are full of hot air.
Here's the scientist it quoted earlier stating that there's "[n]o comfort whatsoever" for global warming "sceptics" in his examination of how recent temperatures affect climate projections:
"We would expect a single decade to jump around a bit but the overall trend is independent of it, and people should be exactly as concerned as before about what climate change is doing," said Dr Otto.
Is there any succour in these findings for climate sceptics who say the slowdown over the past 14 years means the global warming is not real?
"None. No comfort whatsoever," he said.
The Daily Caller's confusion on climate sensitivity obscures the larger point that global greenhouse gas emissions are skyrocketing, meaning that even if climate sensitivity ends up on the lower end of the ranges, our current path is one that leads to dangerous warming.*
*Language has been updated for clarity.