I hope I am not beating a dead horse here, but I wanted to bring this topic up with a different tact (see other question on climate science).

A number of articles, notable scientists, and studies have noted that the world has not warmed over that past decade and current climate models are overestimating warming (though the models perform better than random forecasts). A few examples:

The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for the last decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slow down in the growth rate of net climate forcing.

My question to the community is, do we invite discussion of this on this site? It has significant implications on what we prioritize as sustainable. Many questions on this site explicitly ask about reducing carbon.

For instance, if I asked:

What are some possible scientific explanations for the warming slowdown of the past decade?

would we consider that on topic? As it is undecided and controversial, can it be a constructive question?

A question like this is probably more appropriate for GeoSciences, however, do we have a place for it here???

  • Meta questions are not here to be used as blogging platforms. Please don't do that.
    – 410 gone
    Jun 3, 2013 at 9:40

3 Answers 3


Being new to the site I don't really know the boundaries of this SE site but your example question (as it is formulated), for my feeling, belongs more to GeoSciences.SE or Biology.SE.

I don't see the obvious link between the question and living in a sustainable way which may be more focused on a practical approach. However I was curious about a similar issue (see the question on meta). Reformulating the question in a way that it addresses consumers rather than the results of climate change studies may make it on topic:

I am confused about climate change studies. What am I actually contributing with my "sustainable living" efforts?

(This question will most likely be too broad but serves just as an example)

In short: Discussing methodology and results of climate change studies misses the link to the actions an individual can take to live more sustainable and therefore may not be ontopic here.


The description of this site as of the writing of this answer is, "For folks dedicated to a lifestyle that can be maintained indefinitely without depleting available resources."

Where does climate science fit in within the site?

Climate science should inform such individuals that would join this site how to select living choices in such a way that are less likely to unbalance the biosphere's rhythms and equilibria as the human population grows. However, the folks that are rightly dedicated to living sustainably may not have formal scientific training or work for organizations where they are exposed to legitimate scientific culture on a daily basis.


As your question illustrates, it's very hard for lay people to ask deep meaningful questions on the subject, particularly if their knowledge is based on anti-science blogs; and in the absence of lots of climatologists around here, it will be difficult to gather awesome answers.

The papers you've quoted do not support the conclusions you've drawn - indeed, they contradict them. Remember that weather and climate are related, but they are different things. From the Hansen paper:

Note that the ten warmest years in the record all occurred since 1998.

So the question you've proposed isn't even meaningful: there has been no slowdown in the rise of global heat content - i.e. the world is still warming.

Furthermore, the papers you quoted explicitly show that observations strengthen our confidence in the models: directly the opposite of what you concluded.

And on top of this, the talking points you've raised, although very popular in the denialsphere, have been well-discussed and refuted in the scientific literature.

So no, it wouldn't really be a good example for the site.

There are, however, lots of meaningful questions to be asked about the realities of anthropogenic climate change, specifically about the possibilities for both mitigation and adaptation, and I'd see those as on-topic for here.

Please do remember that this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. So if your reason for asking is that you'd like to start a discussion about {any topic}, then you want a different site, not a StackExchange site. If you want to discuss real climate science, then Real Climate is a pretty good place to start. For example, they've got decent coverage of where the rising heat content has been stored over the last ten years.

  • You are putting words into my mouth. I am looking at a specific ten years - it's a single observation within the larger realm of climate science. I specifically mentioned atmospheric heat content fully realizing that total heat content may still rise as increased heat flux at TOA ends up in the ocean.
    – Eric H.
    Apr 30, 2013 at 17:53
  • Additionally, it's possible for the 10 warmest years on record since 1998 (2012 - 1998 = 14) to exist in the absence of a warming trend - it's called a plateau - though this doesn't imply that the long term warming trend won't persist after this warming slowdown. -1 for your ideological response.
    – Eric H.
    Apr 30, 2013 at 17:55
  • * rather than to exist in the absence of a warming trend, I meant to exist during a short term period without additional warming.
    – Eric H.
    Apr 30, 2013 at 18:06
  • +1 just for the term denialsphere. I hadn't heard that before, but like it immensely :)
    – Nate
    May 2, 2013 at 23:22
  • Read the papers. Jim Hansen, The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for the last decade. That doesn't imply the world is cooling, simply that the rate of warming has slowed (second derivative). If climate advocates cannot admit that, then they are turning their backs on science. I'd be curious to see the literature that refutes these arguments since I've provided papers from Nature Magazine and Jim Hansen, probably the biggest and longest standing name in climate science. Unfortunately you're right; with answers like this, this isn't the place for productive climate sci QA.
    – Eric H.
    May 6, 2013 at 23:59
  • Additionally, it's very important to note that even if climate models are performing well (as I've noted they've been out performing random walks), they are not perfect and can be improved. As a part of that process, you have to observe when they have overestimated global temperature and when they have underestimated it. Many projections, including those of the IPCC, have overestimated global temperature of the past 10 years. That doesn't deny climate change whatsoever. It's an observation about where the models can improve.
    – Eric H.
    May 7, 2013 at 0:07
  • @EricH., while I acknowledge that quote to be from Dr. Hansen, I suggest you see the actual data plotted on the same page. I would argue that it really doesn't even support that statement, or use of the word flat. If I can eyeball that chart, it looks like the latest 5-year smoothing datapoint is 2010 (that's about the latest you could get, needing 2.5 yrs on each side). Looking at the red line, 2010 is most definitely well above 2000-1. Maybe you could say that it's been flat over the years 2003-10. Solar cycles vary with different periods, the shortest being about 11 years. So, to ...
    – Nate
    Jun 2, 2013 at 9:19
  • 1
    ... discuss climate trends over time periods less than that really isn't very meaningful, statistically.
    – Nate
    Jun 2, 2013 at 9:20

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