British meteorologist falsely blames climate change on sun, moon
In a video viewed more than two million times on Twitter, British meteorologist Piers Corbyn claims lunar and solar phases -- not carbon dioxide emissions -- are driving climate change. This is false; experts told AFP that scientific consensus indicates human-caused greenhouse gases are the primary reason for global warming.
"Ooops… this interview definitely didn’t go as planned… The climate cultists are going to hate this..." says a September 9, 2022 tweet shared more than 25,000 times.
The post includes a clip of a Corbyn interview with Russia Today (RT), a media outlet which has been linked to Moscow's "disinformation and propaganda ecosystem."
"Climate has always been changing, but this has nothing to do with man," Corbyn says in the video, adding that several "very hot summers" in a row have "nothing to do with carbon dioxide."
The clip was shared on YouTube, where it was later removed, and in climate-skeptical groups and pages on Facebook. The video circulated online, including in French, following heat waves in Europe in summer 2022.
Several scientists told AFP Corbyn's claims about the cause of global warming do not make scientific sense.
"Scientists have worked very hard to rule out all other possibilities. It is not the variability of the sun. It has nothing to do with the sun or the moon," said Travis Rector, an astronomer at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. "And the only explanation that is possible is the addition of these greenhouse gases through human activity."
He obtained a degree in physics from Imperial College London in 1968, as well as a postgraduate degree in astrophysics from Queen Mary College in 1981. However, he is not a climate scientist and has very little related scientific research or peer-reviewed papers to his name, AFP found.
On his weather forecast platform WeatherAction, Corbyn presents climate change as "propaganda." And in recent years, he has shared conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic, health and safety measures, and vaccines.
In a March 2020 tweet, Corbyn falsely claimed the health crisis was a "simulation" by "mega-rich control freaks" Bill Gates and George Soros.
In February 2021, he was arrested for comparing vaccination to the Holocaust, according to The Guardian
Global warming and solar activity
During his interview on RT, Corbyn claimed "circulation patterns" related to "solar activity" and "certain stages of the moon" are primary drivers of climate change. The sun can influence Earth’s climate, but experts told AFP it is not the primary cause of global warming.
Christopher Merchant, professor of ocean and Earth observation at the University of Reading, said "circulation patterns" refer to "the way in which air moves around the planet."
"A circulation pattern is a meteorologist’s way of describing a weather or seasonal event from the point of view of the atmosphere," he said.
But the phrase "isn’t an explanation of anything" related to climate change, Merchant said.
Rector of the University of Alaska-Anchorage told AFP scientists "definitively" know the addition of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane to the atmosphere "primarily through the use of fossil fuels" is responsible for global warming.
"It is contributing to the extreme weather events, like the flooding in western Alaska and in Puerto Rico and the heat waves that have been occurring throughout Europe," he said. "And we also know that there is no other way to explain it."
More than just nature
Skeptics on social media often describe climate change as a "natural" phenomenon. But according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), human activity is causing global warming by "amplifying Earth’s natural greenhouse effect."
"Virtually all climate scientists agree that this increase in heat-trapping gases is the main reason for the 1.8°F (1.0°C) rise in global average temperature since the late nineteenth century," the agency says.
The warming observed in recent decades is too rapid to be linked to changes in Earth’s orbit and too large to be caused by solar activity, according to NOAA.
"In the industrial era, human activities have been, and are increasingly, the dominant cause of climate warming," the agency says online. "The increase in radiative forcing due to these activities has far exceeded the relatively small net increase due to natural factors, which include changes in energy from the sun and the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions."
Extreme weather events have always existed, but they are getting worse. Heat waves, for example, occur more frequently because of human-induced global warming, as seen in these graphics from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"There have been instances of extreme heat waves throughout history, but when we look at the broader trend over the past century, we can see that global average temperatures have been steadily increasing, and heat waves are becoming more frequent and more intense as the global baseline temperature goes up," said Maren Hale, a climate researcher at the University of California-San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The best estimate of human-induced warming is 1.07 degrees Celsius, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). More than 700 scientists from 90 different countries assemble the report.
Naomi Oreskes, a geologist, science historian and professor at Harvard University, was a pioneer in defining scientific consensus on climate change and human activity. In 2004, she conducted an analysis of 928 peer-reviewed abstracts published between 1993 and 2003.
"Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position," she wrote at the time.
AFP has fact-checked other false and misleading claims about climate change here.