Just as it seemed that Global Warming was an accepted scientific fact, a set of predictions has surfaced with the intriguing assumption that the Earth's temperature would stay roughly the same for a decade, due to a cooling phase in climatic cycles.
Somehow odd is that this study originates from Germany, which is widely perceived as an environmentally aware country - with its flaws as well, given its dependency on the car industry and lack of motorway speed limits.
The study revolves around a new computer model developed by German researchers. It suggests that cooling will counter greenhouse warming but by about 2020 temperatures are to rise again quickly.
This will of course be seized by some to cast doubt on the whole global warming concept and provide reason to postpone doing anything to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is not exactly helpful in communicating the urgency of a possibly serious issue.
In fact, this new discovery should not be allowed to have any effect on how we think. The whole point is that we are threatened by a potentially catastrophic situation and we should take sensible precautions. After all, neither the US nor Europe is immediately threatened by invasion but we still maintain troops, ships and aircraft at a great expense.
Indeed, the whole situation was best summed up in another context, the North Sea pollution, by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Promoting what has become known as the "Precautionary Principle", the heir to the British throne noted in relation to the parlous state of the North Sea that "while we wait for the doctor's diagnosis, the patient may easily die!".
This statement could not be more true of Global Warming. The phenomenon may not be proven to everyone's satisfaction but the consequences of completely ignoring the available evidence could be so severe, that doing nothing should not be an option for anyone at all.
Moreover, many of the measures which will alleviate Global Warming have a significant second rationale: the timely reduction of our dependency on fossil hydrocarbon fuels, which is the main culprit of Global Warming and so will sooner or later in any case need to be replaced by renewable energy sources. The key to the new prediction is the natural cycle of ocean temperatures called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), which is closely related to the warm currents that bring heat from the tropics to the shores of Europe. The oscillation appears to come round about every 60 to 70 years and may be part of the reason why temperatures rose in the early years of the 20th century but cooled in the 1940s.
The originators of the findings from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University are, however, quick to point out that while its forecast varies from other computer models for about 15-20 years, predictions converge again after that.