- January 5th, 2012
The Sun is the primary driver of the climate. Roughly speaking, global temperatures rise when more energy from the Sun enters the atmosphere than returns to space through the atmosphere. The climate cools any time more energy returns to space than comes in from the Sun. While humans can influence that balance, other factors, from continental drift and changes in the shape of the Earth’s orbit to variations in the Sun’s activity and phenomena like El Niño, can all influence the climate. Considering the pace of climate change today, scientists can rule out most of those suspects: some happen too slowly to explain current climate change, while others move in small cycles, not long trends, and others only influence the climate in part of the planet. Scientists know about these factors and can account for them when assessing human-caused climate change.
- The Detection and Attribution of Climate Change, by Chris Miller, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who explains more about how we know humans are responsible for the climate change we see happening today.
- Understanding and Attributing Climate Change (PDF), a chapter from the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international organization that periodically brings together scientists to evaluate the state of climate science.
- CO2 and the Atmosphere, the annotated script PBS’s Earth: The Operators’ Manual, discussing how scientists know what causes climate change.
- The CO2 Problem in 6 Easy Steps, by climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, offers a simple explanation of how we know humans are causing climate change
- The Physics of Climate Modeling, an article in Physics Today by NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt explaining the physics used in models of the global climate.
- Solar activity and climate: Is the Sun causing global warming?, an explanation of the science which shows that climate change is not caused by solar activity, contrary to claims by some climate change deniers.