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No, climate change isn’t driven by solar activity and lunar phases
If Your Time is short
- The sun and moon do influence the Earth’s climate, but that impact is small and not enough to cause the rapid climate changes the planet started to experience in the 1970s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- About 200 scientific organizations have concluded that fossil fuels burned through human activity have contributed significantly to climate change.
The consensus within the scientific community is that human activity fuels global climate change, but a video clip shared on Instagram on Nov. 13 featuring a known climate skeptic claims people aren’t to blame.
In the video, Piers Corbyn, an astrophysicist, said heat waves are caused by "certain circulation patterns" from solar activity and phases of the moon.
"These things are dictated by solar activity and the moon," Corbyn said in the video, an excerpt from his 2010 appearance on Russia Today, a Russian state-funded news channel. "They have nothing to do with mankind."
He accused people who say human activity contributes to climate change of "just trying to make money."
The Instagram post’s caption says, "this guy gets it, pay attention," and includes hashtags such as #globalwarminghoax and #climatechangehoax.
The Instagram post was flagged as part of Instagram’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
Climate scientists have said the sun and moon influence the Earth’s climate, but not enough to contribute to the large-scale climate changes of the last several decades.
PolitiFact has rated False similar statements that minimize human activity’s role in climate change.
NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency determined that humans began to significantly impact the Earth’s climate during the Industrial Revolution, when manufacturing and burning fossil fuels led to the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
About 200 scientific organizations have concluded that human activity drives climate change.
Corbyn, brother of British politician Jeremy Corbyn, received a degree in astrophysics in 1981. He launched a weather forecasting company in 1995 called WeatherAction, which he has used to label climate change as "propaganda" and promote anti-vaccination conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021 he compared the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United Kingdom to the Holocaust.
If the sun were partially responsible for climate change, there would have been a measurable increase in solar radiation starting in the late 1970s when scientists began to notice a rapid rise in global temperatures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
However, according to NASA, scientists found no noticeable increase in solar radiation since 1978, when they began using satellites to measure the amount of solar energy Earth receives. A 2008 study conducted in the United Kingdom found solar activity had been declining for 20 years but led to no drops in global temperatures.
If the sun played an outsized role in climate change, every layer of the Earth’s atmosphere would experience warming. NOAA and NASA reported that there is warming in the lower atmosphere but cooling in the upper stratosphere, which is consistent with climate change caused by a greenhouse gas buildup in Earth’s lower atmosphere, which traps in heat.
That doesn’t mean the sun doesn’t affect Earth’s climate, but its effect is significantly smaller than Corbyn claims.
The video’s reference to "certain circulation patterns" is about how air moves across the Earth through atmospheric circulation. Because the sun’s heat is more focused along the equator, warm air flows away from that area toward the north and south poles.
As the air travels through the poles, it cools, then drops back to the equator to be rewarmed, repeating the pattern, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. This air movement influences specific areas’ daily weather and the regional climate, but not global climate change.
Researchers at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom have studied the moon’s potential impact on climate change. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, found that shifts in the moon’s orbit can increase or decrease the Earth’s climate by about 0.04 degrees Celsius depending on the lunar cycle.
Ed Hawkins, the study’s lead author, told the New Scientist, a British magazine, that the moon has a "small effect" on the climate and doesn’t explain any of the long-term trends that have been observed with rising global temperatures.
An Instagram post says climate change is "dictated by solar activity and the moon" and has "nothing to do with mankind."
Scientists found that the sun and moon do affect Earth’s climate, but their influence is small and does not account for the rapid planetary climate changes of the last several decades.
An overwhelming number of scientists and scientific organizations agree that human activity significantly affects climate change.
We rate this claim False.
Instagram post (archive), Nov. 13, 2022
Agence France-Presse, "British meteorologist falsely blames climate change on sun, moon," Sept. 27, 2022
U.S. Department of State, Report: RT and Sputnik’s Role in Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem, Jan. 20, 2022
NASA, The Causes of Climate Change, accessed Nov. 29, 2022
EPA, Causes of Climate Change, Aug. 19, 2022
California Governor's Office of Planning and Research, List of Worldwide Scientific Organizations, accessed Nov. 29, 2022
Quad, "Whether the weather be," Spring 2007
BBC, "Piers Corbyn arrested over vaccine 'Auschwitz leaflet,'" Feb. 4, 2021
BBC, "'No Sun link' to climate change," April 3, 2008
NOAA Climate, "Couldn't the Sun be the cause of global warming," Oct. 29, 2020
NASA, "Is the Sun causing global warming," accessed Nov. 23, 2022
UCAR, "A Global Look at Moving Air: Atmospheric Circulation," accessed Nov. 23, 2022
EGUsphere, "The modeled climatic response to the 18.6-year lunar nodal cycle and its role in decadal temperature trends," April 26, 2022
New Scientist, "The moon has a small but noticeable effect on climate change," April 29, 2022
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