After the second what is climate note and the second testing ideas note, how might one go about testing whether climate had changed, and, more specifically, whether a prediction of change were supported or not. At hand is the question of whether the IPCC projection (not forecast) of 0.2 C/decade for the first two decades of the century could be rejected by observations currently in hand. I concluded in the testing ideas post that the methods used there were not useful, as they hadn't compared like to like in making the tests, nor been working with climate variables.
Now that the second what is climate note is in hand, we can make a better sort of test. Still not rigorous, but better than the one I discussed. That is, let us take the 20 year average from 1981 to 2000 (IPCC was allowing 20 year averages, though preferred 30) and compare to the 7.6 year average from January 2001 to July 2008. The latter period is only 91 months, which is short for a climate definition, per our experience in the what is climate note. See again how wobbly the averages are for averages that are only that short.
I took the NCDC data again and computed the averages. (At least I hope so, I might have been off in my start periods, but probably only by a month or two.) For 1981-2000, the average was 0.277 C, with 0.155 standard error (if we also assume the terms are normally distributed, which is a question at this point). For 2001-present, the average was 0.540 with standard error 0.104. To compute the trend, we take the difference between those two averages (0.263) divided by the number of years between the midpoint -- 1990.5 and 2004.8, respectively. We wind up with 0.18 degrees/decade for our slope. Does that represent a significant difference from 0.2? Well, for starters, the 0.2 was a round figure from the IPCC -- their actual words were 'about 0.2'. 0.18 is 'about' 0.2. Eyeballing the spread of the different projections, a difference of 0.02 is within the envelope. Then, to be serious, we'd also have to allow for the errors of measurement that go in to computing the global averages.
The upshot is, to the extent that it's meaningful to test IPCC 4AR projection 13 years too early, observation of global average surface air temperature are pretty close to what's expected from this consideration. Allow for the fact that the sun's been quiet the since 2001 vs. warmer, and there's even better agreement.
One can definitely do a more rigorous test than this. And, for professional publication, would have to.