NASA did not attribute climate change to the Earth’s orbit

CLAIM: NASA admitted that climate change is due to the Earth’s orbit around the sun, not greenhouse gas emissions.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. NASA has not made such a determination, a spokesperson for the agency told The Associated Press. The agency agrees with the scientific consensus that climate change is driven by greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity.

THE FACTS: A blog post falsely claiming that NASA has acknowledged in the past that climate change is being caused by the Earth’s “solar orbit,” not human activity like consuming fossil fuels, has spread widely on social media in recent days.

The blog post, which is dated August 2019, claims that NASA has known for decades that changes to “planetary weather patterns are completely natural and normal.” The post stated that, in 1958, NASA “first observed” that changes in the “solar orbit of the earth, along with alterations to the earth’s axial tilt, are both responsible for what climate scientists today have dubbed as ‘warming’.”

The AP has previously debunked similar claims made in 2019.

The false claims from the blog post reemerged on social media this week. “NASA admits climate change occurs because of changes in Earth’s solar orbit, not because of SUVs and fossil fuels,” stated one tweet shared over 15,000 times.

NASA has reached no such conclusion, Tylar Greene, a spokesperson for the agency, confirmed.

“I am not aware of any official NASA statement or announcement making that claim or determination,” Greene wrote in an email to the AP. “The information in this post isn’t accurate.”

“Scientists are confident Earth’s recent warming is primarily due to human activities — specifically, the direct input of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere from burning fossil fuels or other anthropogenic activities,” Greene added.

The past eight years are the warmest years since modern record keeping began in 1880, he noted.

The 2019 blog post asserted that climate change is explained by a theory promoted by the Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovitch about how changes in the Earth’s solar orbit affect the planet’s climate in the long-term. But Greene wrote that Milankovitch cycles,” which include the angle of the Earth’s axis, the direction that Earth’s spin axis is pointed, and the shape of the Earth’s orbit, don’t account for climate change.

“These cycles affect the amount of sunlight and therefore, energy, that Earth absorbs from the Sun. Milankovitch cycles have played an important role in climatic changes during Earth’s history,” Greene wrote. “However, they are not responsible for the current period of rapid warming Earth has experienced since the pre-Industrial period (the period between 1850 and 1900), and particularly since the mid-20th century.”

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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