Tweet calling global warming a 'hoax' is misleading; data from selected years shared to highlight 'global cooling' trend falsely

NewsDrum Desk
31 Jan 2023

New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) Citing land-ocean temperature trend data by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a Twitter user claimed that the Earth has been cooling, not warming, over the years and that global warming from carbon emissions was a hoax. However, a PTI fact check found that cherry-picked data was taken out of context to highlight the "global cooling" trend falsely.

The PTI Fact Check team reached out to NOAA officials and two environmental science experts who vehemently refuted the claim in the social media post.

Based on the NOAA graph displaying land and ocean temperatures over the last eight years, from 2015 to 2022, the tweet claimed that Earth's temperature reduced, not increased, at a rate of 0.11 degree Celsius per decade. The tweet, posted on January 13 this year, further said that the topic of global warming due to CO2 emissions was a "hoax." "NOAA makes it official. Last eight 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," read the tweet, which garnered over 13 million views, 18,000 likes, and 8,500 retweets.

To investigate the claim's authenticity, the PTI Fact Check team did a Google Reverse Image Search and subsequent customised Google keyword search on the graph led the team to NOAA's official website, which displayed a comprehensive infographic covering over 142 years, from 1880 to 2022. The data clearly showed a consistent rise in global average temperatures.

By carefully studying the graphics, the team noticed the Twitter user had used the same data but in a selective duration to declare global warming a "hoax" in his tweet.

The team then closely monitored NOAA's Climate at a Glance time series tool and found that it allowed users to generate global temperature charts based on parameters like date and location.

For instance, the user who claimed on Twitter selected a time frame of January 2015 to January 2022, which showed a cooling trend of 0.09 degree Celsius per decade; however, if we choose the period between January 2010 and January 2016, the tool shows a warming trend of nearly 0.5 degree Celsius per decade.

Another report by NOAA contradicted the claim made by the Twitter user. The report, published on Jan 13, 2022, stated, "2021 ranked sixth on the list of warmest years on record, dating back to 1880." "Earth's average land and ocean surface temperature in 2021 was 1.51 degrees F (0.84 of a degree C) above the 20th-century average. It also marked the 45th consecutive year (since 1977) with global temperatures rising above the 20th-century average. The years 2013-2021 all rank among the 10 warmest years on record," the report added.

The team then went through a report by the United Nations, which explained its 'Climate Action' goal as part of its Sustainable Development Goals. It stated that the global temperature has already risen 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

When PTI contacted NOOA, the organisation's climate scientist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo said: "Although the climate is changing to a warmer climate, it is also subject to natural variabilities such as El Niños (hot temperatures across the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean) and La Niñas (unusually cool temperatures across the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean). El Niños and La Niñas not only affect global weather patterns, but they can also affect global temperatures. During El Niños, global temperatures tend to be warmer than in years when ENSO neutral or La Niñas were present. In contrast, global temperatures are slightly cooler (but above average) during La Niñas." Ahira added that 2016 started with a strong El Niño, which helped boost global temperatures to record highs. "And since then, we have had Rs 3 La Niñas, which help slightly cool global temperatures. The selected timeframe from 2016-2022 can create the appearance of a cooling trend".

"Similarly, if you select 2012-2016, you get a warming trend of 0.97 degree Celsius per decade! This is why we use timescales of at least ten years when computing trends," the NOAA scientist concluded.

Dr. Aniket Kumar, Assistant Professor in Department of Environmental Sciences, Dyal Singh College, University of Delhi told PTI that the Twitter user cherry-picked the 2016-2022 data to make his point, which was not the case otherwise.

"When we talk about climate change, we talk about long-term data, i.e., at least 30 years. Due to global warming, we are seeing erratic changes in temperature in various parts of the world. So, some years are sweltering, and some years are less hot," said Dr. Kumar.

"This gentleman (The Twitter user) has taken selective data from 2015-16 till 2022, claiming cooling is happening. Now 2015 -16 were known to be sweltering years, so compared to that particular year, other years were not that hot, so the graph shows us the cooling in the decade," he added.

On the user's claim that global warming due to CO2 emissions was a hoax, Kumar said: "Global warming is real, and it is true we are going to see a more erratic pattern in average temperature in coming years." The Fact Check Team reached out to Dr. Rajeev Singh, an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science of Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi for his comment. Dr. Singh echoed similar sentiments on the claim made by the Twitter user in his post.

"I could not relate to this eight-year temperature data as there is no evidence of decreasing CO2 emission in these years. Also, there have been reports of increasing CO2 emissions, heat, and temperature in recent years. So, saying that CO2 warming is a hoax is not relevant. The tweet graph shows a single parameter without much details and correlation," Dr. Singh told PTI.

Subsequently, the team concluded that cherry-picked data from NOAA's land-ocean temperature trends were taken out of context by the Twitter user to claim that the Earth was cooling, not warming and that the global warming from carbon emissions was a "hoax".

Readers can contact the PTI Fact Check on WhatsApp Number +91-8130503759 to share a claim or social media post they think needs to be fact checked.

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