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Fishy Climate Facts

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  • Bias: a feeling that favors one opinion without considering all the facts.
  • Data: the results (values) obtained in a scientific experiment, or investigation. Note "data" is the plural form of the word "datum." Example- the data are shown in this graph... more
  • Hypothesis: a possible reason or explanation for an observation.
  • Intergovernmental panel on climate change: an organization dedicated to providing information about the scientific basis for climate change.
  • Primary research: the research process where scientists collect data to test a specific hypothesis.

People like to share information about climate change. You have probably heard it on TV, read about it on internet blogs and websites, or maybe even learned about it in school. But where does all this information come from and how do we know what’s true and what’s false?

Arctic ice decreasingThe true, factual information about climate change comes from scientists doing primary research. When a scientist does primary research they collect data to test specific hypotheses. After the research is finished, scientists write a report and turn it in for publication. This lets others learn about what they did and how they did it.

The best type of information will be published in a good peer-reviewed journal. This means that it has been checked by other scientists for mistakes and the experiments and results have been reviewed to be sure they did not miss any errors.

Test It Again, To Be Sure

When something is published in a scientific journal, however, it doesn't mean everyone agrees or that there are no errors. In fact, scientists will test hypotheses over and over again using different methods and data to see if they get the same result. Each time they test the hypothesis they will publish their findings. Over time these different studies add up and either support or reject a hypothesis.

Smog in Mexico CityThere are a lot of scientists doing primary research on climate change because climate is so important to how we live. A great deal of this research supports the hypothesis that today’s climate is changing because of human actions. Still, there are other opinions. But be careful in finding valid information.

Opinions are not facts. Opinions may not be based on primary research or could be biased. Bias means that someone’s opinion is based only on a few studies or on information they pick, instead of all the primary research taken together as a whole.

Finding out if you can trust a claim about climate change is hard. In deciding what to believe, asking questions about the source of information can be helpful. Did it come from a trustworthy source? If it didn't, see if you can find any primary research about the claim. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already pulled together a lot of primary research and might be a good place to see which hypotheses have the most support.


Visit our links page to find more resources on climate change.

Glacial lakes

Satellite images are one type of data researchers use to learn how climate is changing over time.

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Glacial lakes

Satellite images are one type of data researchers use to learn how climate is changing over time.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.