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- Social media posts cherry-pick data to falsely claim that climate change isn't real.
- NASA described short-term cooling cycles as "statistical noise compared to the long-term trend" that shows the Earth is warming.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a website devoted to helping people understand climate change, but some social media posts claim the agency’s own data dispels the notion that the planet is warming.
"NOAA makes it official," reads a screenshot of a tweet from Junkscience.com founder Steve Milloy. "Last 8 years... global cooling... at a rate of 0.11°C/decade.... despite 450+ billion tons of emissions worth 14% of total manmade CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 warming is a hoax."
Junkscience.com is a website that tries to undermine climate science.
The tweet included a bar graph of "global land and ocean January-December temperature anomalies" from 2015 to 2022.
An Instagram post sharing a screenshot of the tweet was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
But climate change isn’t a hoax, and human emissions of carbon dioxide contribute to global warming.
"Not only do CO2 and temperature correlate, but there is a causative relationship as well that is unequivocal," said Howard Diamond, climate science program manager at NOAA’s air resources laboratory.
Diamond told PolitiFact that the data cited in the social media posts was cherry-picked — in this case, eight years out of more than 140 — and ignores long-term data that shows global average temperatures increasing.
Diamond said global temperature has risen at a rate of +0.08º Celsius a decade, or +0.144º Fahrenheit a decade.
"For someone to state that the planet has been cooling for the last eight years, or even the last 80 years, simply defies the scientific data and is made up in someone’s mind," Diamond said.
Also, the annual global human emissions of carbon dioxide is now up to 38 gigatons, Diamond said. That’s relatively small compared to the 750 gigatons that move through the natural carbon cycle each year, he said, but "it adds up because the land and ocean cannot absorb all the extra human-sourced CO2 being emitted by the burning of fossil fuels."
About 40% of this additional human-emitted carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceans, Diamond said. The rest remains in the atmosphere, and "as a consequence," atmospheric carbon dioxide is at its highest level in 15 million to 20 million years, he said.
There was a brief temperature decline after 2016 — then the warmest year on record — that reflected a strong El Niño event, according to NASA. Similar periods of cooling have followed other El Niños, a climate pattern that affects the weather. In a 2019 post titled, "Nope, Earth isn’t cooling," NASA described these short-term cooling cycles as "statistical noise compared to the long-term trend."
Claims that NOAA data proves human-caused climate change is a hoax rate False.
Instagram post, Jan. 22, 2023
Tweet, Jan. 12, 2023
NASA, Nope, Earth isn't cooling, July 12, 2019
Climate.gov, Hasn't Earth warmed and cooled naturally throughout history?, Oct. 29, 2020
Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, Another Record: Ocean warming continues through 2021 despite La Niña conditions, Jan. 11, 2022
National Centers for Environmental Information, Global Time Series, visited Jan. 24, 2023
Email interview with Theo Stein, Public Affairs Officer, NOAA Communications, Jan. 23, 2023
Email interview with Howard Diamond, Climate Science Program Manager, NOAA's Air Resources Laboratory, Jan. 23, 2023
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