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Knowledge Center

Facts from climate researchers that correct common misconceptions about global warming and its impact.

The cause of climate change!

The cause of climate change is widely agreed upon in the scientific community

At least 97% of published climate experts agree that global warming is real and caused by humans. The myth that scientists disagree on climate change sometimes comes from misleading petitions that don't accurately represent the climate science community. These open petitions typically include non-scientists and scientists working in unrelated fields. Among scientists who study and publish research on the earth's climate, there is overwhelming agreement that human-caused global warming is happening.

Source: NASA

wildfires driven by the changing climate!

The severity of recent droughts and wildfires is driven by the changing climate

Rising temperatures cause water to evaporate from land faster, making heat waves, droughts and wildfires more frequent and intense. Over the past 50 years, scientists have measured an increase in the severity of these conditions worldwide. A common myth claims that droughts and wildfires aren't caused by climate change because they happen naturally during annual dry seasons. However, research shows that climate change is intensifying these events. While droughts and wildfires do happen seasonally, the claim doesn't account for the fact that global warming is now creating longer and hotter dry seasons. These factors cause more severe drought and heat waves, plus more frequent, destructive fires.

Source: Yale School of the Environment

Global warming is caused by humans!

Recent global warming is caused by humans, not natural events

Over the last century, the average temperature of the planet has risen rapidly. Climate scientists have concluded that human-caused greenhouse gases are the cause of this accelerated rate of warming. The claim that today's changing climate is just like historic periods of global warming wrongly assumes that the same natural factors, like the sun, are causing it this time. No natural factors can explain how fast the planet is warming today. According to scientists, the rapid global warming observed in recent history can only be caused by the billions of tons of carbon pollution created by human activities.

Source: NASA

The way scientists predict changes in climate patterns!

The way scientists predict changes in climate patterns has proven to be reliable

Climate models, which are computer-based tools used to make forecasts about potential future climate and weather, have accurately predicted many different patterns of climate change. This includes the prediction that increasing carbon pollution in the atmosphere would lead to global temperature increases, that the Arctic would warm faster than the rest of the world, and the upper atmosphere would cool while the lower atmosphere warms. All of these changes have been predicted by climate models. The myth that climate models are not reliable wrongly assumes that they are based on guesses and assumptions. In fact, they’re based on the laws of physics and have proven records of accuracy. Scientists are confident in the models that inform our understanding of climate change and how to combat it.

Source: NASA

Global warming and cold weather!

Global warming won't cause cold weather to disappear

Cold weather won’t disappear as a result of global warming, but it will happen less often. A common misunderstanding is that because we still have occasional periods of cold weather, the climate isn’t warming. This is incorrect because weather is not the same as climate. Weather describes day-to-day conditions, while climate describes patterns and trends over longer periods of time. Winter, snowstorms, and cold snaps will still occur, even as the world warms.

Source: Yale School of the Environment

Carbon cycle!

The Earth's natural carbon balance has been upset by human-caused emissions

Carbon moves between the atmosphere and life on Earth every day. When plants die and rot, they release CO2 into the atmosphere. That same CO2 is then absorbed as new plants grow. Humans have upset this balance by burning fossil fuels. A common misleading claim is that human-caused CO2 doesn’t matter that much because it only makes up a small portion of overall CO2. This ignores the fact that CO2 created by nature is reabsorbed by the natural world. However, the extra CO2 produced by the burning of fossil fuels cannot be fully absorbed by nature and instead remains in the atmosphere. This excess is what disrupts the natural carbon balance.

Source: NASA

The scientific method!

The scientific method is a reliable way to understand the world around us

The scientific method is how scientists study and learn new things. This method includes 6 main steps: form a hypothesis, make observations, analyze and interpret the data, draw conclusions, publish and replicate the results. Once individual scientists reach a conclusion, others run tests to see if they get the same result. Only after many scientists get the same results do they start to form a consensus. There is consensus about climate change in the scientific community: At least 97% of published climate experts are convinced that global warming is real and caused by humans.

Source: NASA

Rising sea levels!

Sea levels have risen an average of 8 inches globally since 1880

Global warming has melted land ice and warmed the oceans, causing sea levels to rise worldwide. This makes millions of people more vulnerable to flooding and property damage. It also threatens agricultural land, sources of clean water, wildlife habitats and essential things such as power and internet lines. A misleading argument is that sea level rise is not a threat because certain places haven’t risen as much as others. Sea level rise varies from place to place due to local factors like rising or sinking land. However, when scientists look at global trends, it is clear that sea levels are rising overall. This is based on multiple measures, including satellite imagery, tide measurements and flooding.

Source: Yale School of the Environment

Changes in trace gas levels!

Changes in trace gas levels greatly impact the atmosphere.

While greenhouse gases make up a small part of the atmosphere, they have a strong impact. One climate myth argues that because greenhouse gases make up less than 1% of the atmosphere, they can’t have a significant warming effect. This claim is misleading because it ignores the reality that small amounts of active substances can have a large effect. As an example, alcohol has a similar impact on humans. In the U.S. the legal blood alcohol driving limit is .08% BAC, less than one percent. Though a very small percent of blood content overall, even a small change in this number has serious consequences.

Source: IPCC

The atmosphere harms earth's plant life!

Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere harms earth's plant life

Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes global warming, which is damaging to plant life on earth. The myth that extra CO2 is universally good for plants assumes that plants need CO2 alone for food, and ignores everything else they need to flourish. CO2 emissions from human activities cause the climate to change, intensifying heatwaves, floods and droughts. These factors all disrupt the water supply and other conditions that foster healthy plant growth.

Source: Yale School of the Environment

Polar bear populations are declining!

Overall, polar bear populations are declining because of global warming

Climate change hurts polar bears because rising temperatures melt the sea ice that they rely on to hunt for food. That means polar bears have to work harder to catch less food, which puts their survival at risk. While some polar bear populations are currently stable, twice as many populations across the world are declining. A common myth claims that polar bears as a species are doing well. That claim is misleading because it only focuses on a few stable populations instead of the entire species worldwide.

Source: IUCN