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Climate crisis is real and stems from human activity

July 16, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: CO2 is not a problem. The Earth has more than enough land and ocean plant life to metabolize it. Global warming is a myth. Climate change is not man made. It is a natural, expected, unstoppable process.

AP ASSESSMENT: False. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows global warming and climate change are real and caused by human behavior, including human-caused carbon dioxide emissions.

THE FACTS: Despite record high temperatures throughout the United States in June, social media users took to Facebook on Thursday to spread misinformation about the planet’s warming temperatures and human beings’ role in climate change.

“CO2 is not a problem. The Earth has more than enough land and ocean plant life to metabolize it,” a popular Facebook post said, adding, “Global warming is a myth. Climate change is not manmade. It is a natural, expected, unstoppable process.”

But atmospheric scientists The Associated Press spoke with said these statements are false.

“These are boilerplate myths and talking points that have been debunked time again,” said Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology and director of the Earth System Science Center (ESSC) at Penn State University. “The impacts of climate change are no longer merely theoretical. We are watching them play out in real time in the form of unprecedented weather disasters.”

Last month’s record shattering temperatures in the northwestern United States could not have occurred without climate change and U.S. average summer temperatures have risen significantly between 1990 and 2020, according to AP reporting. The vast majority of scientists agree that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases released through human activity -- also known as anthropogenic emissions -- are to blame for the changing climate.

“Most and perhaps all of the well-observed warming of our planet over the last 50 years is unequivocally owing to excess greenhouse gases of anthropogenic origin.” said Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This is the conclusion of over 97% of scientists who spend their careers studying the climate system.”

Emanuel added that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing and that scientists know it’s the result of human activity based on the chemical composition of the CO2.

Contrary to the post’s claim that nature will “metabolize” the excess CO2, experts say the pace and volume of emissions outstrip biological processes that absorb these gases.

“Although plants do absorb CO2 while they are growing, most of the carbon is returned to the atmosphere when the plants decay.” Emanuel added. “If we stop emitting CO2, plant life and other processes will eventually absorb the excess CO2, but that will take many thousands of years.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536