Commonly Asked Climate Questions and Answers
Through conversations and survey questions, we asked meteorologists to tell us which climate questions they received most frequently from their viewers. Based on those responses, we have developed a set of answers to the most common questions.
The answers to these questions have been carefully researched and reviewed by Bob Henson, Writer/Editor/Media Relations Associate at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and author of The Rough Guide to Climate Change (Penguin, 2006), and Bud Ward, Editor of the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, and Kristopher Kraus, former Earth Gauge climate research coordinator.
- Why is there so much concern over small rises in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere?
- Would life adapt to a warmer climate?
- What are ‘climate models’? What do we use them for and why?
- Isn’t it just land use changes that are causing the temperature record to appear to rise?
- Didn’t global warming stop in 1998?
- What is the difference between “climate change” and “global warming?”
- Is climate change natural or human-made?
- What are greenhouses gases? The greenhouse effect? How is the greenhouse effect different from global warming?
- Isn’t carbon dioxide a natural part of the atmosphere? If CO2 takes up such a small percentage of the atmosphere, why does it have such a big effect?
- How are weather observations used to predict climate? What else goes into observing climate? Are there errors in the observational data?
- If we can’t predict the weather a week out, why should we believe what climate models say about the next 100 years?
- If global warming is occurring, why was winter 2007-2008 so cold and snowy?
- Isn’t the climate always changing to some degree?
- Should we really attribute every extreme event (heat wave, heavy snow, hurricane, cold winter weather, etc.) to climate change?
- What role does the Sun play in climate change?
- What are some positive effects of climate change?
- Can scientists predict changes on a regional level? What will happen in my part of the country? How accurate are local predictions?
- What is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?
- How did the IPCC form a consensus that evidence of global warming is “unequivocal?”
- How can I help my audiences understand climate change issues?