It's long been noted by those skeptical of the "consensus" on global warming that over the last decade, the Earth's average surface temperature has been more or less flat. The New York Times's Andrew C. Revkin notes a forthcoming peer-reviewed paper that argues that flat temperatures—and indeed even cooling spells—are not incompatible with a larger warming trend.
I'm not sure how much this paper proves. Does it prove so much that its conclusions backfire? Lacking a subscription to the journal, I can't read the article. But it would seem to me that what's sauce for the goose also works for the gander: the converse should also be true: short warming spells should also be compatible with an overall cooling trend. The question then is: how scale-dependent are these relationships? Could a century-long warming spell be compatible with a much larger cooling trend? If they're stochastic in the usual sense, the answer would have to be yes.
In that case, the paper's conclusions are actually a much more powerful weapon in the hands of climate-change skeptics than global-warming believers. The paper's analysis would equally argue that the recent century of warming would provide no good evidence that we're not in the midst of a larger cool trend.
Take note of the end of the Revkin piece about other efforts he's engaged in to defend the politically correct faith. Read: the failure of rising water levels to materialize shouldn't make you question the reality of an unnaturally warming planet. But somehow, an increasing number of people appear to be questioning the conventional "wisdom."
Linus: [to Sally as she walks away with everyone else] Hey, aren't you going to stay to greet the Great Pumpkin? Huh? It won't be long now. If the Great Pumpkin comes, I'll still put in a good word for you!
Linus: Good grief! I said "if"! I meant, "when" he comes!
Linus: I'm doomed. One little slip like that could cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by. Oh, Great Pumpkin, where are you?
Easterling, D. R., and M. F. Wehner (2009), "Is the climate warming or cooling?" Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2009GL037810.
Quotation from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966).