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“What to Make of a Warming Plateau” Essay

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Updated: May 12th, 2022

The article attempts to look at the reasons that have individually or collectively reduced the rise in the surface temperature of the earth in the last 15 years even though greenhouse emissions continue to be accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace. To date, no conclusive explanation to this phenomenon has been given by climate scientists, leading the author of this article to make a submission that there are important gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the climate system due to lack of superior measurements (Gillis para. 1-4).

Although the author is clear on the fact that scientists cannot expect global warming to be a smooth and continuous process due to natural variability in the number of human emissions released into the atmosphere over the years, the notion of reaching a “plateau” as marked by the minimal rise in the surface temperature of the earth in the last 15 years still begs a valid response. Individuals opposed to the global warming paradigm have already taken advantage of this situation to disprove the concept that greenhouse emissions serve as the triggering agent for global warming; however, they fail to explain why most of the warmest years in the historical record have been experienced recently, hence their argument lacks in scientific rigor (Gillis para. 6-8).

Scientists using objective instruments to measure the long-term temperature trends for the earth have concluded that the planet continues to warm through time despite the recent lull in the surface temperature relative to the high carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases being released into the environment through human activities. In this light, the author brings into the fore two theories to explain where the heat coming from the greenhouse gases might be going as it is not contributing to any substantial rise in the surface temperature. One of the theories, known as the deep-ocean theory, posits that the deep ocean might be involved in drawing down the extra heat generated by the greenhouse emissions due to possible changes in winds and currents, hence the lack of significant rise in the surface temperature of the earth. The second theory is predicated upon the fact that sunlight-blocking pollution from dirty facilities in China and other places may in fact be reducing global warming by blocking some sunlight (Gillis para. 12-15).

Opinion

Although the article is informative and insightful in explaining the relationship between greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere and global warming, the author fails to provide conclusive findings on why the earth is experiencing a sudden lull or insignificant rise in surface temperature of the earth despite the fact that greenhouse gases continue to be produced and released into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. Climate scientists need to develop tools and measurements that could be used to explain the global warming “plateau” scenario as the theories already mentioned are yet to be validated. In my view, sealing this gap in knowledge may be critical in developing approaches and strategies that could be used to reduce global warming and the adverse effects associated with this phenomenon. Overall, it is clear that scientists need to do more tests and develop complex methods of collecting and analyzing data that could then be used to provide valid and reliable explanations of the global warming plateau.

Reference

Gillis, Justin. “What to Make of a Warming Plateau.” New York Times 2013. Web.

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