Fact-check: 2008 quote does not reflect scientific consensus that humans do cause global warming – Austin American-Statesman
Viral Facebook post: “Global warming is part of (a) natural cycle and there’s nothing we can actually do to stop these cycles.”
PolitiFact’s ruling: False
Here’s why: During the U.N’s global summit on climate change in Scotland, Facebook users shared a viral image claiming that global warming occurs naturally, and that humans are not part of the cause.
The image contains a photo of a man and this quote, attributed to Dr. David Bellamy:
“Global warming is part of (a) natural cycle and there’s nothing we can actually do to stop these cycles. The world is now facing spending a vast amount of money in tax to try to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist.”
The photo is of Bellamy, an English botanist who died in 2019. The scientist and onetime TV broadcaster uttered the quote in a 2008 interview, where he reiterated his opinion that warming is not man made.
The current scientific consensus is that humans do cause climate change.
It dates back at least to when PolitiFact began fact-checking such claims in 2007, when we found that the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists was that humans are the main cause of global warming.
In a landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released Aug. 9, 234 authors relying on more than 14,000 studies said “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”
The report said that it has “high confidence” that the main driver of increased frequency and intensity of hot extremes experienced over most land regions since the 1950s is human-induced climate change.
It is also “likely,” the report said, that human influence has resulted in a greater frequency of concurrent heatwaves and droughts on the global scale, fires in some regions and compound flooding in some places.
NASA explains the consensus around human contributions to climate change this way: “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that human activities are the primary cause of the observed climate-warming trend over the past century,” and multiple studies “show that 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
NASA explains that the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history and, over 800,000 years, most of those changes are due to small variations in the Earth’s orbit, which affects how much solar energy the planet receives.
But today’s trends are not a result of just variations to Earth’s orbit. NASA says there’s a greater than 95% probability that most of the current warming trend is the result of human activity since the mid-20th century. Increased levels of so-called greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, cause the Earth to warm by blocking heat from escaping the atmosphere and radiating it back toward the Earth’s surface.
Carbon dioxide can be released through, say, volcanic eruptions, but humans have also increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide by 47% since the Industrial Revolution started. Methane can likewise be produced through both natural sources and human activities, such as agriculture and livestock manure management.
“Human activities are changing the natural greenhouse,” NASA says. “Over the last century the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This happens because the coal or oil burning process combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make CO2. To a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry and other human activities has increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.”
A viral image claims: “Global warming is part of (a) natural cycle and there’s nothing we can actually do to stop these cycles.”
The quote is from an English botanist from 2008. It does not reflect the current scientific consensus, which is that human activity does contribute to global warming.
We rate the post False.
- Facebook, post, Nov. 1, 2021
- Facebook, post, Oct. 31, 2021
- PolitiFact, “No, NASA didn’t say human-caused climate change is a hoax,” Feb. 16, 2021
- PolitiFact, “Most scientists say humans cause warming,” June 12, 2007
- Belfast Telegraph, “David Bellamy, the broadcast giant with unfashionable views on climate change,” Dec. 11, 2019
- PolitiFact, “What does extreme weather tell us about climate change?”, Aug. 10, 2021
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Sixth Assessment Report,” Aug. 9, 2021
- NASA, “Scientific Consensus: Earth’s Climate Is Warming,” accessed Nov. 3, 2021
- DW.com, “Fact check: Is global warming merely a natural cycle?”, June 28, 2021
- Express, “BBC shunned me for denying climate change,” Nov. 5, 2008
- The Guardian, “TV naturalist David Bellamy dies aged 86,” Dec. 11, 2019
- Reuters, “Fact Check-David Bellamy quote questioning human responsibility for global warming is from 2008 and is not based on the latest science,” Nov. 2, 2021