Comic Shows How Humans Have Affected the Climate

Seventy percent of Americans believe that the climate is changing — but there's still widespread skepticism about the role of human activity in that change.


Even those who accept climate change are reluctant to blame humans for warming the planet, polls show. Only 27 percent of Americans "put most of the blame on human activity," while 34 percent of the country believes that "natural changes” and human activity are equally responsible for climate change and eight percent blame natural changes exclusively.

Climate scientists, meanwhile, point to the dramatic and abrupt rise in Earth's temperature post-Industrial Revolution as evidence of human influence in global warming. To drill down that point, XKCD webcomic author Randall Munroe published this comic, which could come in handy next time someone tries to sell you the "natural changes" argument.

The comic draws from recent studies published in journals including Nature, Science, and Climate of the Past, which used global climate modeling systems to estimate temperatures over Earth’s history.

The takeaway is pretty self-evident. There's no doubt that the climate has fluctuated on Earth — due to changes in the planet's orbit, natural carbon dioxide emissions, and melting ice sheets, for example — but those fluctuations were minor and gradual compared to what we've experienced since humans started burning fossil fuels, releasing an unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

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