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It’s true that, if the sun alone were controlling our climate, there would be reason to suspect that we’re headed for a new ice age— eventually. This was the logic proposed in a handful of scientific journal articles and one Newsweek story in the 1970s.

The notion of global cooling has recently resurfaced, but this time it’s got nothing to do with what people were talking about in the 1970s. Now, it focuses on what’s happened in two individual years: 1998 and 2008.

The true change in global temperature— an undeniable warming—is seen by drawing a red line across multiple decades. The blue line shows how some use this same record to support an argument that the world actually cooled from 1998 to 2008.

At first glance, one might think this suggests that global warming is slowing down or has even reversed. But climate change is about what is happening across decades and centuries. It’s not about the difference between two specific years.

Plus, what happens if you start in 1997 or 1999 instead of 1998? You get a large warming. This illustrates the problem with selecting two individual years that are a decade apart, connecting the dots, and then arguing for global cooling.

Here’s the difference between long-term climate change and short-term variability:

The key to climate change lies in trends over 30 years or more. The long red line shows 50 years of global temperature increase. The short blue line shows the temperature difference between two points, 1998 and 2008, chosen to provide the illusion that global warming is slowing or has stopped. In fact, 1998 was a particularly warm El Niño year, while 2008 was a relatively cool La Niña year. Such short-term natural variability does not negate the truth of the long-term warming trend.


And here’s where you can see the data for yourself, from NASA (which includes polar regions in its global average) and from the U.K. Meteorological Office (which does not).

Want more? Here's what NASA has to say about global cooling.

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