“Global warming is a hoax,” the claim says. “NASA admits that climate change occurs because of changes in Earth’s solar orbit, and NOT because of SUVs and fossil fuels.”
It was flagged by users as potentially false by Facebook’s fact-checking system, triggering an alert to us to look into the post (For more on our fact-checking work on Facebook, read here.)
Did the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the USA actually say that climate change is not human-made, but a natural phenomenon?
Climate changes in past 650,000 years
In fact the opposite is true. On a website dedicated to the subject, NASA provides evidence for climate change.
Under the headline “Climate Change: How Do We Know?” NASA makes a general statement about historic changes in Earth’s climate over the past 650,000 years.
Referring to climate changes for most of that history, NASA says: “Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.”
But the very next sentence makes it clear that current trends are very unusual, and almost certainly because of “human activity”:
“The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.”
Climate change since mid-20th century
It is scientifically supported that recent climate changes result from human activity.
“Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities,” a statement about scientific consensus on NASA’s website reads.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 18th century, humans have increased the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere by more than a third.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a naturally occurring gas and a by-product of burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. It is one of the gases contributing to the greenhouse effect.
(Note: Read Africa Check’s guide to the carbon tax in South Africa for more information on carbon emissions.)
NASA did not “admit” that climate change is not human-made. They emphasise that historic changes in climate were caused by small shifts in the earth’s orbit.
But NASA makes very clear that since the mid-20th century, climate change has been the result of human activity, especially carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. – Eileen Jahn
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