Climate scientists are fighting back. They had heard enough when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt claimed in written Senate comments following his confirmation hearing as administrator of EPA that “over the past two decades satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming.” They decided to respond, not with reactionary rhetoric, but with science, with facts.
A team of scientists led by researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA and from MIT in Cambridge, MA examined temperature data from three satellite data sets going back to 1979 and calculated temperature trends for each 20-year period, and then determined whether the observed trends were significantly larger than the 20-year trends arising from natural processes internal to the climate system. The researchers concluded that the scientific data “do not support the recent claim of a ‘leveling off of warming’ over the past two decades.” The analysis was published in the scientific journal Nature. The conclusion directly refutes the statement on climate change made by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
The researchers led by Benjamin Santer, a world renown climate scientist, were clear that the reason they did the research was to refute the statement made by Pruitt. Santer told the Washington Post in an interview, “In my opinion, when incorrect science is elevated to the level of formal congressional testimony and makes its way into the official congressional record, climate scientists have some responsibility to test specific claims that were made, determine whether those claims are correct or not, and publish the results.”
The statement made by Pruitt has been echoed by other climate doubters. The main argument has been that temperature data collected at higher altitudes in the atmosphere show different trends than temperature data collected at the surface. Climate doubters argue that temperature data collected at higher altitudes (troposphere) show no global warming trend or that warming has slowed down in recent years in contrast to temperature trend data collected at the surface which show a clear warming trend.
While climate doubters will continue to cherry pick data to make their points, a growing number of scientists, whether in climate research or not, are standing up to the false statements and lies being perpetuated by this presidential administration. Scientists will continue to use hard data and a scientific approach to provide the best data and analysis available to draw conclusions.