Claims that human activities have little effect on climate change are false

By: Toibah Kirmani
August 8 2023

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Claims that human activities have little effect on climate change are false


The Verdict False

Scientific evidence shows that human activities are the main cause of global warming.

Claim ID 3cd9ae00


A clip of American physicist Professor Richard Lindzen is being shared on social media with the claim that he said that “there's little evidence of man-made climate change.” In the video clip, he says that the climate has always been shifting and that there has not been an "alarming change." He also says that humans can adapt to climate change and argues there is no evidence that the rise in sea levels is different now than it has been in the last few thousand years. 

The 5-minute 12-second video was shared by Twitter user @illuminatibot with the caption, “Professor of Meteorology at MIT says there's little evidence of man-made climate change.” The tweet has 1.2 million views and has been retweeted by more than 13,000 times. This video was also shared with a similar claim on other social media platforms.

(Courtesy: Screenshots from Facebook, Twitter, Rumble/Altered by Logically Facts)

In fact

The video going viral was posted by The Boston Globe 13 years ago, titled, “Global warming: why you should not worry.” Lindzen makes two broad claims in this interview: That the climate has always been changing, but this is not cause for concern, and that the rise of sea levels has not been abnormally high but relatively the same over the past thousand years. 

Natural processes, such as changes in the sun's energy and volcanic eruptions, do affect the earth's climate. However, they do not explain the warming that we have observed over the last century. Substantial evidence and scientific research show that human activity is changing the climate. Logically Facts recently debunked a claim that attributed the current climate change rate to the sun's movement. The ongoing climate crisis has a proven human factor. Read our fact check here.

We reached out to David J. Helfand, Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University, for more information about this. He explained that while the Earth's climate has always been changing and most of the time, humans played no role in those changes, this scenario has shifted in recent times.

“There is unequivocal evidence that over 80 percent of the rising CO2 and methane in the atmosphere is a consequence of fossil fuel burning (and much of the rest is from human-induced changes in land use such as deforestation). The isotope ratios of carbon make this indisputable. Straightforward, well-established physics says greenhouse gases trap energy,” Prof. Helfand said. 

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, changing the earth’s climate. According to the World Weather Attribution Network (WWA) as reported by BBC, the intense heatwaves that hit southern Europe, the southern U.S., and Mexico in July 2023 would have been "virtually impossible" without human-caused climate change.

Have sea levels remained unchanged over the past thousand years?

Coming to Lindzen's second claim about sea levels being the same as in the past few thousand years, it is inaccurate. NASA states that global temperatures have risen about 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) in the past 100 years, leading to a sea-level rise of about 160 to 210 mm (with about half of that amount occurring since 1993). The current rate of sea-level rise is unprecedented over the past several millennia, posing a serious threat to coastal life worldwide.

Professor Richard Lindzen has held professorships at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and MIT and has more than 200 scientific papers and books under his name. He, however, has been known as a climate change denier, as reported by The New York Times and The Guardian, among many others. 

“I have been aware of Prof. Lindzen's views on climate for at least twenty years; the fact they have not changed in light of the changing evidence is a sign of ideological conviction rather than sound science,” Prof. David J. Helfand told LF. 

The verdict

Extensive scientific evidence confirms that human actions, particularly the burning of fossil fuels and land use changes, are the primary drivers of global warming and its consequences, including rising sea levels. Therefore, the claim that human activities have little impact on climate change, as suggested in a video featuring Richard Lindzen, is false.

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