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Facebook claims climate change models are inaccurate.

Facebook claims climate change models are inaccurate.

Checking a claim that Facebook oversells the accuracy of climate change models

People from all political parties are critical of Facebook’s influence over information flow. Now, a blog that’s skeptical of humans’ impact on the climate says Facebook is putting a spin on the facts it puts in front of users.

Watts Up With That, a blog, stated in a recent post, “Facebook is spamming every climate article by misleading readers about temperatures.”

This complaint is aimed at Facebook’s practice of placing a link to its Climate Science Centerinformation page on posts that could deal with climate changes Here’s how the link shows up:

This page contains links to scientific information, charts, and facts about climate change science. It says that these facts are from climate researchers and correct common misconceptions about global heating and its impact. It covers a number of points, among them, the use of climate change models that scientists use to project changes in temperature and analyze other patterns.

The Jan. 31 post on Watts Up With That takes issue with Facebook’s assertion that these models are reliable. It argues that Facebook leaves out information that would show you can’t really count on the models. 

Facebook lies to the public about the accuracy and reliability of climate models. We took a look. (PolitiFact partners Facebookit allows you to evaluate statements that have been posted on its platform, and you will be paid for your work.

Facebook’s climate change models: What does it say?

These models are computer modelsScientists can use these models to simulate weather patterns over time. They also help them predict how the overall environment will change as more greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere. They apply the basic rules and principles of physics to factors such air temperature, pressure, wind patterns, and more. 

Each run of a modeling program produces results from calculations to estimate global changes in temperature, rainfall and ice cover.

“The accuracy of scientists’ predictions about climate changes has been proven reliable.” Facebook’s climate sciencePage says in a summary which cites NASAAs a source. 

It cites successes in predicting global temperatures increases, the course Arctic warming, and the divergence in temperatures in the upper and lower atmospheres. 

Eric Porterfield, a spokesperson for Meta, the company behind Facebook, stated that the center’s goal is to cite “organizations which are coming to independent conclusions, and are not politically influenced.” In addition to NASA, the center links to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The page also addresses the skeptical side of the models. It states that the myth that climate models aren’t reliable is based on assumptions and guesses. “In fact, they’re based on the laws of physics and have proven records of accuracy.”

The Watts Up critique

Watts Up claims that Facebook is not providing complete information in its blog post. The social media platform “conceals” warning words from climate experts regarding climate forecasting. 

It cites an example from the 2013 IPCCReport that states: “The scenarios should considered plausible and illustrative. They do not have probabilities attached.” This is described as saying that the models are “speculative.”

The post continues to state that climate models grossly underestimate global climate temperature anomaly impact. It provides a 2016 chart from a University of Alabama climatologist that shows the results of models for how rising greenhouse gas levels would affect temperatures in the tropical mid-troposphere, at least a mile above the Earth’s surface. The models predicted average temperatures that were higher then actual observations from satellites, weather balloons, and meteorites.

Both examples are misleading.

The 2013 report on “illustrative situations” focused on human factors that are hard to predict. This included whether future governments would reduce greenhouse gas emissions or the rate of economic growth. Both would have an impact on atmospheric carbon levels, but they have nothing in common with how the models were built.

As for the chart — versions of which appeared in a 2017House hearing and widely circulate Online — climate researchers have It should be notedThere are many flaws in this system. There are limitationsIt. The mid-troposphere, which is where temperatures are difficultly measure, is high on the list.

Although models for that portion of the atmosphere did exceed the actual temperatures, it was not as much as the chart shows. Zeke Hausfather, a data scientist at the University of California Berkeley Energy and Resources Group, downplayed the chart’s significance.

Hausfather stated that although models are imperfect, it makes more sense to assess their performance on surface temperatures for the planet where we live, rather than picking one layer of the atmosphere up.

It’s much easier to measure temperatures at the surface, which means the data about surface temperatures is more accurate, and there are many more readings to draw on, compared with using satellites and balloons. Better data makes for better model performance.

Hausfather co-wrote a StudyNASA scientists compared the results of 17 climate model predictions of global average temperatures to actual readings. They found that 10 models were correct, and four more would have been if they had known how much carbon dioxide pollution would be produced by the global economy.

NASA’s page on climate models features this work. It also cites older research by researchers who evaluated the accuracy of the 2004 models. They looked back (called a hindcast) to see how well the models’ results matched the past, and looked forward, to see how well they matched what actually happened after the model was run.

The chart below shows the comparison. This is for average surface temperatures around the world. The red line represents observed temperatures. The black line represents the average of the model results. The accuracy was generally good. 

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Source: NASA

The IPCC has Program ongoingTo assess the accuracy and reliability of climate change models. 

IPCC researchers wrote in their 2021 latest report that “climate models have improved” and that they will continue to improve.

Although some models are better than others, there is no general pattern of overestimating or underestimating temperatures.

“Both the current generation and the previous generations of models demonstrate that increases in greenhouse gasses cause global warming,” they stated.

We tried to reach out to Watts Up, but were not able to get a response.

Our ruling

Watts Up With That blog stated, “Facebook is spamming climate articles by misleading readers about the accuracy of climate model predictions.”

The article misrepresented the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s cautionary words regarding climate change models. It shared a chart that relies heavily on cherry-picked data to undermine models’ reliability.

Globally, the vast majority of climate researchers have data that shows that models are doing an increasing good job of capturing temperature variations at the surface.

These links on Facebook are not misleading.

This claim is rated False by us.

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