Recent measurements demonstrate that the "background" stratospheric aerosol layer is persistently variable rather than constant, even in the absence of major volcanic eruptions. Several independent data sets show that stratospheric aerosols have increased in abundance since 2000. Near-global satellite aerosol data imply a negative radiative forcing due to stratospheric aerosol changes over this period of about -0.1 watt per square meter, reducing the recent global warming that would otherwise have occurred. Observations from earlier periods are limited but suggest an additional negative radiative forcing of about -0.1 watt per square meter from 1960 to 1990. Climate model projections neglecting these changes would continue to overestimate the radiative forcing and global warming in coming decades if these aerosols remain present at current values or increase.