Fact, Not Opinion: Climate Change Is Happening and Is Caused by Human Activities


If planet Earth went to see a doctor because of its persistent and growing fever, the results would likely be: (i) the symptoms are clear: the planet’s temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide are increasing; (ii) the diagnosis would be that these two things are linked and human activities are causal; (iii) the prognosis would be an outlook for more warming at rates that can be disruptive and will cause strife; and (iv) the treatment is “mitigation” which means reducing fossil fuel use to lower carbon dioxide emissions, and “adaptation” which means planning for the consequences.

Patrick Daniel Moynihan once famously said “You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.” In reality we have many facts and physical understanding with regard to the changing climate. The interpretation of the available information relies on well-established physical principles. The data are of mixed quality and length but together they tell a compelling story leaving no doubt whatsoever about the human role in climate change.

Yet a recent report that examined sixth grade textbooks in the U.S. found that climate change was addressed as if it were opinion, not fact. Rather that showing the clear evidence that climate change is not only really happening, and that humans use of fossil fuels are the dominant cause, the textbooks make widespread use of wimpy words like “could,” “may” or “might” that emphasize the uncertainties behind climate change, while definitive words such as “find,” “determine,” “measure” and “obtain” are less frequently used. The most frequently used word associated with scientists is “think.” The message communicated in the textbooks is that climate change is possibly happening, that humans may or may not be causing it, and that it is unclear if we need to take immediate mitigating action, the researchers found. Far too —> Read More