Climate Change Facts
The Scientific Consensus
Most of us are not climate scientists, so we should refer to the experts. Expertise might be gained from a strong track record of publishing in reputable peer-reviewed journals or from working at a non-partisan institute or university. There are also multiple disciplines that have expertise in different areas, such as climate modeling, attribution, impacts, atmospheric physics, climatology, paleoclimatology, and oceanography. Finding the most appropriate expert is a crucial task for journalists.
At least six independent and peer-reviewed studies from 2004 and 2016 have found that between 90 percent and 100 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real and caused by humans. A summary of these studies and their methods was published in 2016 in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters.
The authors wrote: “An accurate understanding of scientific consensus, and the ability to recognize attempts to undermine it, are important for public climate literacy.“
Some 22 national science academies of the Commonwealth signed a “Consensus Statement on Climate Change” in 2018, which said: “The consensus view of the global climate science community based on current evidence is that avoiding the worst impacts of climate change will require concerted global action to reduce atmospheric carbon.”
Also in 2018, a special report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that “Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels.”
Scientists are also increasingly able to determine whether an event such as a hurricane, drought, heat wave, or flood, had been made more likely as a result of anthropogenic climate change. A 2020 peer-reviewed study was able to detect global warming “human fingerprints” on rainfall patterns around the globe which can lead to drought.
In 2014, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and UK’s The Royal Society issued a joint report on the evidence linking human activity to climate change. The report said: “It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, accompanied by sea-level rise, a strong decline in Arctic sea ice, and other climate-related changes. The evidence is clear.”
NASA also maintains a list of position statements from U.S. and international science groups and academies on climate change.
IPCC: The Scientific Basis
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advises governments across the world on climate change through major assessments of the science. The assessments, together with special reports, draw on the world’s scientific literature and are coordinated and authored by hundreds of leading scientists from around the world.
Current and historic climate observations
- NASA publishes up-to-date observations on CO2 levels, global temperature, Arctic sea ice, ice sheets, and sea level.
- NOAA maintains a Global Climate Dashboard with easy-to-read charts on temperature, CO2, sea level, ocean heat, glacial ice, solar energy, snow cover, and other greenhouse gases.
- NOAA has easy-to-read charts on ocean heat content. More than 90 percent of the Earth’s warming in the past 50 years has been added to the ocean.
- The UK’s Met Office makes its global temperature dataset, HadCrut4, available to the public.
- Berkeley Earth — an independent climate science group — maintains extensive land and ocean temperature charts for the globe as well as regions and countries.
- Skeptical Science is a go-to resource for debunking the most common claims and arguments made by climate science deniers.
- Climate Feedback is a nonprofit project that works with climate scientists to provide comprehensive fact-checking of published media stories on climate change.
- The Climate Science Rapid Response Team is a service driven by volunteer climate scientists who can help put members of the media in touch with relevant experts.
- Hosted by AAAS, SciLine is an editorially independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit service that connects journalists working under deadline with scientists.
Researching climate science denial
An entire industry has been created to hold back action on climate change, from think tanks and lobbyists, to partisan media outlets and compromised politicians. Some attack the science, some attack renewable energy, while others promote fossil fuels while pushing scare campaigns focused on jobs and economics. Some do all that and more. A large body of academic research and expertise now exists, devoted to understanding and communicating the nature and structure of climate science denial.
Here we provide some resources to help you to better understand and research the machinery of climate science denial and pro-fossil fuel advocacy.
DeSmog’s Disinformation Research Database
A database of individuals, organizations, thinktanks, PR pros, and corporations actively involved in clouding the science on climate change and slowing the transition away from fossil fuels.
A project of the Climate Investigations Center providing a unique archival database of documents detailing what corporations “knew” about climate change decades ago, and a behind-the-curtains look at the fossil fuel industry’s many campaigns to manufacture uncertainty about climate science and delay policy action.
ExxonSecrets exposes the campaign ExxonMobil has run for decades to fund climate science denial and delay political action.
Run by the Center for Media and Democracy, this site offers information on public relations (PR) professionals in all sectors, including the fossil fuel industry and climate change.
Also run by the Center for Media and Democracy, SourceWatch is an encyclopedia of well-documented information about corporate PR campaigns, including corporate front groups, people who “front” corporate campaigns, and PR operations.
Also run by the Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC Exposed tracks the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council’s efforts to undermine the public interest and democracy through lobbying and collaboration between corporations and politicians on “model bills” developed behind closed doors to shift state laws in favor of corporate interests instead of the public.
Formerly run by Media Matters Action Network, and now hosted by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, this website is an interactive database that tracks the flow of money among conservative donors, organizations, and candidates.
Climate Science and Policy Watch
A program of the Government Accountability Project promoting integrity in the use of climate science in government, and tracking changes made to federal and administrative websites over time.
U.S. Senate Lobby Filing Disclosure Program
A searchable database containing all U.S. lobbyists, who they work for, and the policies they are lobbying to change.
Government of Canada Corporate Registry
Find out the who’s who of a corporation or a nonprofit registered under Canada’s corporate registry act. For example, we found that the founding directors of a nonprofit called The Natural Resource Stewardship Project were also lobbyists for the energy industry.
Type in any website address in the “WHOIS” Lookup and see who really owns a website.
Check out this site for detailed information and analysis of industry donations to U.S. politicians. A project of the Center for Responsive Politics.
This database of climate-related lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel corporations is run by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.
This regulation tracker is run by Brookings.
Two great resources on EU lobbying are the transparency register and lobby facts.
Here you can query Senate lobby disclosure forms.
Monitor government action on Paris climate commitments.
This interactive map of climate-related extreme weather events is run by NOAA.
This tracker is run by New York University. It looks at actions taken by the Trump administration on environmental, climate, and energy issues between the 2020 election and 2021 Inauguration Day.
Books covering climate science denial and disinformation
- Merchants of Doubt, by Erik Conway and Naomi Oreskes
- Climate Cover-up, by James Hoggan
- Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand, by John Cook and Haydn Washington
- The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy, by Michael Mann
- Dark Money, by Jane Mayer
- Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America, by Christopher Leonard