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Fact Check-NASA did not announce that climate change is only driven by variations to Earth’s orbital position relative to the sun – Reuters.com

The National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA) did not announce that climate change is only driven by the Earth’s orbital position around the sun, despite viral posts claiming this that have been shared by users in June 2022. Social media users revived an already debunked claim that the Milankovitch Cycles – Earth’s slight shifting of position relative to the sun over geological time – can disprove anthropogenic climate change.

One user shared a tweet on July 4, 2022, with a caption that reads: “NASA has announced that CO-2 emissions have zero to do with climate change. It is solely caused by earth’s [sic] changing positioning as it orbits around the sun. Game Over” (here).

Another user shared a 2019 blogpost, with a caption that reads: “NASA admits climate change occurs because of changes in Earth’s solar orbit, not because of SUVs and fossil fuels” (here).

Other examples of the claim shared online can be viewed (here), (here), (here).

The posts and blogs shared online do not provide any sourcing for the alleged announcement, nor did Reuters find that any such announcement has been made by NASA.

A spokesperson for NASA similarly told Reuters that the scientists are “confident Earth’s recent warming is primarily due to human activities — specifically, the direct input of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere from burning fossil fuels or other anthropogenic activities.”

The spokesperson said that collectively, the past eight years have been the warmest since modern records began in 1880. Per NASA’s temperature record, Earth recorded a global average temperature of about 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the late 19th century average, the start of the industrial revolution (here).

Different drivers of climate change leave different “fingerprints” on the climate, and the fingerprints of increased greenhouse warming are clearly evident in observations of the Earth system, they said (svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4908).

Some of the aforementioned blogs and posts cite NASA’s webpages where the Agency details the Milankovitch Cycles theory on the Earth’s position in relation to the sun and its effect on Earth’s climate over geological time, as proof (here)

The Milankovitch Cycles are changes in the Earth’s orbit and tilt that occur over long time periods, John Cook, research fellow at the Climate Change Communication Research Hub at Monash University, told Reuters.

“They change the way sunlight hits the Earth at different times of the year, which over long time periods gradually influence the Earth’s climate,” Prof Cook said, pulling the Earth in and out of ice ages, with ice sheets growing and retreating (here).

The theory centers around the Earth’s cyclic variations in position in three categories that stretch from cycles of 10,000 years to over 100,000 years (here), (here).

“But these natural climate changes happen over geological time scales. The global warming that we’ve seen over the past century has been breathtakingly rapid, geologically speaking,” he added (here).

The NASA spokesperson similarly told Reuters that the Cycles are “not responsible for the current period of rapid warming Earth has experienced since the pre-Industrial period (the period between 1850 and 1900), and particularly since the mid-20th century.”

Per data released by Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, the global temperature average for June 2022 was about 0.31ºC higher than the 1991-2020 average which makes it the third warmest June on record, while Europe recorded its second warmest June on record at about 1.6ºC above average (here).

Reuters previously addressed this claim when similar posts circulated in 2021 in an article viewable (here).

VERDICT

False. NASA did not make an announcement in June that climate change is only due to Earth’s movements in geological time relative to the sun. The Milankovitch Cycles theory details changes to the Earth’s position that occur over tens of thousands of years. The theory does not disprove anthropogenic climate change, where rapid changes to the Earth’s climate have been and are continuing to be recorded.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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