Among the many interesting articles in National Review‘s 60th anniversary issue is “Rational OptimistMatt Ridley‘s critique of the science used to perpetuate climate alarmism.

… [B]ecause this catastrophe is always in the comparatively distant future, predictions of it are largely immune to debunking. The failure of the climate over the past three decades to warm anywhere nearly as fast as predicted has mattered little. Activists just reached for some excuse to explain away the dearth of warming and then asserted that the future would be even worse than we had thought.

That’s a scientific sin. Making predictions that fail, and then making excuses for failure, is what distinguishes pseudo-science from science. But it’s now routine in climate science. The best example of it is the reaction to the “pause” or “hiatus” in warming that even mainstream scientists agree has occurred roughly since 1997.

This pause was not predicted. In fact, several prominent climate scientists have stated that a pause of more than 15 years would undermine the claim that anthropogenic climate change poses a danger. Here’s what one of them, Phil Jones, head of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, wrote in 2009, when the pause was only a decade old: “Bottom line: the ‘no upward trend’ has to continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried” that climate projections are inaccurate. A statement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asserted in 2008 that simulations “rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of 15 yr or more.” The pause is now around 18 years long.

Some observers are eager to declare that the pause has ended, since it’s looking like 2015 will prove to be the warmest year yet, by a few tenths of a degree, in at least some of the surface-data sets (although not necessarily in the satellite data). But another way of putting this is that, in this era of supposedly rapid climate change, it has taken 18 years for the global average temperature to clearly break the record it set in 1998. Whether this represents the start of a surge in temperatures or a resumption of the gradual warming of the 1990s remains to be seen.

More than 20 “explanations” of the pause have now been published in the scientific literature, many of them little more than hand-waving guesses. But the explanation that makes the most sense — that climate models have overestimated the sensitivity of the climate to carbon dioxide and underestimated natural influences on climate, implying both that the warming of the 1990s was partly natural and that the warming of the 21st century will be less than expected — is strongly resisted.

Ridley goes on to note that there’s nothing either unusual or especially harmful about scientists pushing their “pet theory,” as long as other scientists have opportunities to challenge those theories. The problem with climate science is that its alarmists have “managed to impose a monopoly hypothesis” — the so-called consensus view on climate change — and punish dissenters by denying them funding, publication, and other support.