Myths and Facts

Global Climate Change Myths & Facts

compiled by Pew Center and the Sierra Club

Myth: There is no scientific consensus on global climate change.
Fact: The overwhelming majority of scientists are in agreement about the following fundamental assumptions:

  1. The world has been warming and will continue to warm for the foreseeable future;
  2. The warming is due largely to human activity (burning fossil fuels – oil, coal, gas) and destroying forests, and
  3. The consequences of rising temperatures, in all projected futures, are grave enough to warrant global action.

Myth: This is all within natural variability.
Fact: The data extends further back than the approximately 140 year-old thermometer records. Using indirect measures from sources such as ice cones from the poles and tree rings from ancient forests, scientists can make excellent guesses about the baseline temperature trends.

Myth: Recent global climate change is caused by the sun.
Fact: The output of energy from the sun has been monitored by satellites for 30 years and has not increased during this period of rapid global warming.

Myth: Satellite measurements have not shown the trends toward global warming.
Fact: Recent studies (most notably a study by the National Academy of Sciences (2000) found that satellite data needed to be adjusted for some measurement and calibration problems. These adjustments bring surface and satellite records into better agreement, both showing a warming trend.

Myth: Scientists predicted global cooling in the 1970s.
Fact: When the next ice age would occur became a topic of debate during the 1970s, but there was no consensus on the topic and most of the debate was already focused on global warming.

Myth: Atmospheric water vapor is the heat-trapping gas that is primarily responsible for global warming.
Fact: Water vapor is increasing in the atmosphere in response to rising CO2 concentrations, amplifying the warming effect of human made CO2 emissions.

Myth: Scientists/environmentalists are exaggerating the impact of global climate change in order to get more funding.
Fact: Speaking out can actually be detrimental for a scientist’s career. The past chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lost this position after holding it for several years. The White House and Exxon admit to lobbying for his removal. If anything, the environmental community has been too cautious in expressing concerns. The anticipated changes documented in the IPCC reports are based on a doubling of atmospheric carbon. Unless we reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70% very rapidly, we will not be able to avoid a doubling and will be looking at scarier scenarios of a 3X or 4X carbon world.