Reports that global warming is progressing slower than initially predicted have given fresh energy to climate skeptics. Experts say climate change remains a threat and efforts to cut carbon emissions should continue.
A temporary hiatus in the pace of global warming, despite rising greenhouse gas emissions has raised questions about the threat presented by climate change. But scientists gathering at the annual Severe Weather Congress (23.- 27.09.2013) in the German city of Hamburg say climate change is an ever-present threat which requires continued attention.
The output of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) continues to surge, forcing up global temperatures. Sea levels are also rising, said Mojib Latif of the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel. "This reprieve only refers to the ocean's surface temperature. We can't conclude that climate change has come to a halt."
Latif is a calm, self-controlled man, but he is easily angered by having to explain again and again why climate change isn't just a scam. Back in 2008, Latif shocked many of his colleagues by saying the rise of temperature could indeed stagnate. Oceans covering two thirds of the earth's surface are able to absorb heat and store it - especially in deep sea levels below 800 meters (875 yards).
This theory is supported by many other scientists, but there is limited data available about the deepest regions of the sea. That's why Latif continues to stress how important research is in order to learn more about deep sea areas. "We know about the surface of the moon, but we know very little about the deep sea," he told DW.
What factors are at play?
Determining the causes of climate change and making predictions about its impact is a complex science. Climate models and simulations are constantly adjusted in order to build a vision of the future.
In some cases, analysts have come up with apocolyptic scenarios predicting an immediate end to life as we know it. The recent discovery - that the planet hasn't warmed as quickly as expected - has diminished the credibility of climate scientists, said meteorologist Sven Plöger. "Only 39 percent of the German population fears climate change. A couple of years ago it was over 60 percent," he said.
Amid the recent revelations on global temperatures, climate skeptics have slammed climate protection advocates. But Plöger says those who deny the existence of climate change are connected to interest groups with an agenda.
Cutting emissions by 80 percent?
Being skeptical is important, Plöger explained, adding that every scientist should be critical of their own work at all times. He explained that argument and debate are encouraged in the scientific community. He said the one thing most researchers seemed to agree on was that the change in global temperature in recent years has be caused by human activity.
Mojib Latif added that there was also agreement that human beings will have to slash global CO2 emissions in order to survive. He says the best way forwrad is to drop emission by 80 percent.
But as the international climate negotiations creep forward at a glacial pace, challenged by resistance from the US, China and Poland, achieving an 80 percent drop in emissions seems unlikely. Plöger says that since CO2 is invisible and doesn't smell, it doesn't bother people,
"If it were a foul-smelling gas and if the smell were to increase as more CO2 was emitted - how fast do you think people would make it disappear?"