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A lonely penguin appears in Antarctica during the southern hemisphere’s summer season. (AP) A lonely penguin appears in Antarctica during the southern hemisphere’s summer season. (AP)

A lonely penguin appears in Antarctica during the southern hemisphere’s summer season. (AP)

Andy Nguyen
By Andy Nguyen April 21, 2023

This study about Antarctica doesn’t contradict climate change, as claim suggests

If Your Time is short

  • A scientific study examined how Antarctica’s high elevation and mountains help insulate the continent from climate change’s effects at a much slower rate compared with the rest of the world. 
  • The study has been used out of context to deny human-driven climate change’s existence. 
  • Recent studies have shown the continent is warming.

Scientific community consensus says greenhouse gases from human activity are the main driver behind climate change. 

Nevertheless, a blog post shared on Instagram claimed the lack of rising temperatures in Antarctica in the last 70 years, despite increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, proves that human-driven climate change is merely an "unproven hypothesis."

Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza used his Instagram account to share the blog post’s headline, "Scientists Struggle to Understand Why Antarctica Hasn’t Warmed for Over 70 Years Despite Rise in CO2."

"Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! #climatechange," D’Souza wrote in the caption.

The headline’s source, The Daily Sceptic, is a British blog known for sharing COVID-19 misinformation. The study’s co-author told PolitiFact the blog took the paper out of context; the study doesn’t dispute human-driven climate change. 

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The Daily Sceptic cites a 2020 paper published in the scientific journal Nature that explored the insulating properties of Antarctica’s high elevation and mountain ranges. The Daily Sceptic article focused on a sentence from the paper’s abstract that noted that Antarctica"has not warmed in the last seven decades" despite an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases. 

The blog then drew its own conclusion from this sentence: "The lack of warming over a significant portion of the Earth undermines the unproven hypothesis that the carbon dioxide humans add to the atmosphere is the main determinant of global climate," it said. 

But that’s not at all what the original study said. Its co-author Hansi Sing, an assistant professor at the University of Victoria’s School of Earth and Ocean Science, told PolitiFact that climate change deniers used the abstract out of context. 

Sing said the point of the paper was to show that, between 1950 and 2014, Antarctica warmed significantly less than the global average — especially when compared with the Arctic, which has warmed three times faster than the average, Singh said. 

"Nobody understands what the paper says because they’re using it for that one line because it was published in a nature journal," she said. "It just means that (Antarctica) will warm slower until the ice sheet’s elevation starts declining."

The Washington Post reported Antarctica’s average elevation is around 7,000 feet above sea level, allowing snow and ice to last longer on the continent. This leads to more sunlight reflected, reducing the amount of solar energy the continent absorbs.

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The Arctic is a flatter, thin sheet of ice that sits directly on the ocean, making it more susceptible to solar energy. 

Antarctica is also massive, spanning more than 5 million square miles. Because of the size, climate change has an uneven effect on the continent. 

Recent studies have found significant warming occurring in the continent’s western region and its peninsula within the last 30 years compared with the more mountainous eastern region. Singh says her study doesn’t rebut those findings. 

The other studies were made with more recent information, whereas Singh’s paper looked at data up to 2014. The rise in temperatures reported in the other papers corresponded with the sea ice surrounding Antarctica beginning to decline in 2016 and causing the continent’s ice sheet to melt faster than previously seen, changing our understanding of how climate change affects Antarctica, she said.

"It’s just different time scales that we’re looking at," Singh said. 

Climate change misinformation from the Daily Sceptic is not new. Fact-checkers found multiple articles from the blog about the subject as misleading or false, including the notion that changes in the Earth’s climate are natural and not caused by greenhouse gas emissions. 

PolitiFact rated False similar claims that said climate change is a natural phenomenon

Although the Earth’s climate has changed based on the amount of solar radiation the planet received throughout its history, an overwhelming number of scientists found that the changes that have occurred since the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century are too drastic to be natural. 

The increase in manufacturing and fossil fuel that began in the 1800s has led to the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which help trap heat within the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Earth’s average temperature has risen by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since modern global temperature measurements began in 1880. 

Our ruling

An image on Instagram shared a headline that read, "Scientists struggle to understand why Antarctica hasn’t warmed for over 70 years despite rise in CO2."

But the headline originated from a blog post that misleadingly characterized a study on the insulating properties of Antarctica’s high elevation and mountain ranges. 

A co-author for the study said the abstract was used out of context, and the paper doesn’t rebut the idea of human-fueled climate change or show that the continent hasn’t warmed in the last 70 years. 

We rate this claim False.

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This study about Antarctica doesn’t contradict climate change, as claim suggests

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