A snapshot of our science

While the majority of Americans across party lines recognize climate change is happening, many do not understand how it will impact them directly and why there is urgency to address it. To help all of us understand why this is such an important issue, our non-partisan program provides scientifically grounded answers to the five questions many of us have about climate change. Here’s a preview of the science section of our Climate Primer and those questions!

How do we know climate change is real?

NASA Temperature Trend

Temperature trends mapped by NASA show how the temperature has changed from the industrial period to today. Looking at ten-year averages, we are not just breaking records, we are shattering them.

Indicators: Glaciers Melting and Retreating

These two pictures are of the Muir Glacier in Alaska, taken from the exact same place, same time of year—but about 60 years apart. The Muir glacier moved back about 7 miles and its thickness decreased by about ½ a mile.

Unlocking the Past

Using the discipline of paleo-climatology, Scientists can pull up ice cores that are over 800,000 years old, and in those ice cores are little air pockets trapped by frozen snow. Scientists can analyze them for carbon levels, which also gives them a sense of temperature. We are in uncharted territory and that we are at the highest levels of carbon dioxide in our air in 800,000 years.

How do we know climate change is caused by humans?

Increase in CO₂ in the Atmosphere since Industrial Revolution
47 %
Increase in Ocean Acidity since the Industrial Revolution
30 %
Sea Level Rise since the Industrial Revolution
8 "
Per Year Increase Use of Fossil Fuels since WWII
5 %

Scientists have a discipline called atmospheric chemistry, which allows them to analyze the different carbon dioxide molecules to see which ones were put into the atmosphere by man’s activities and which ones were put there through natural occurrences. Molecules produced by burning fossil fuels have a different ratio of carbon isotopes, a different atomic fingerprint, that can be measured.

What is the Scientific Consensus?

Trusted experts

What are the dangers?

The 3 things Americans say are most important when they vote are: jobs and the economy, health and personal security, and geopolitical stability as experienced by refugee crisis, civil chaos, and terrorism. See the effect Climate Change could cause.

Wildfire Season is 105 Days More than it was in 1970 Summer-like conditions stretch longer through the year and scientists say the longer season and increasing temperatures means the fires burn more quickly and cause more damage. The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
-NASA
Sea Levels are projected to rise 1 to 8 feet by 2100 This is the result of added water from melting land ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms.
-NASA
The acidity levels of ocean waters has increased by 30% since the beginning of the industrial revolution. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the ocean.
-NASA
Increase in Extreme Weather Events Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change.
-EPA

Is there hope?

Yes! Here are a few reasons why:

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The economic equation has changed. The difficulty and cost of transitioning to cleaner technologies have come down from what they were ten years ago, so we can look at the economic equation very differently. Studies show the U.S. could reach net-zero by 2050 with no significant increase in costs.

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Financial institutions and businesses are demanding and driving climate action. The Federal Reserve called climate change a threat to the stability of our financial system.  Leading investor Larry Fink said, “climate risk is investment risk” and is pressuring companies to take climate action.

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There is great power in nature to regenerate. Large-scale protection, restoration, and better land management practices can help stabilize climate change, pulling almost a third of excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. 

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Other countries are leading. It’s not just the U.S. by itself. Today more than 110 countries plus many states and cities have all pledged to be carbon neutral by mid-century. Together, they represent more than 70% of global GDP. 

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New technology is on the horizon. New technologies that reduce, capture, or repurpose greenhouse gas emissions or replace fossil fuel energy will cause a greater tech revolution than telecom in the 90s.

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The U.S. is less divided on this issue than we think. Americans as a whole are no longer divided on this issue, with policymakers from both sides of the aisle finding the political will to find common ground.

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