Quiz: What You Don't Know About Climate Change Science


Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic

Every few years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases a new summary of the scientific consensus on climate change. How much do you know about the forces altering the Earth’s temperature, according to the IPCC's September 2013 report?

Quiz by Marianne Lavelle

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared with at least 90 percent certainty that humans caused most of the global warming since the mid-20th century. In IPCC's 2013 report, how great was the panel's certainty? More than:

  • 80 percent
  • 90 percent
  • 95 percent
  • 100 percent

The IPCC increased its level of certainty on human influence on climate change from "very likely" to "extremely likely"—an increase from at least 90 percent to 95 percent certainty, according to the panel's definitions.

It is extremely likely that human activity caused how much of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010?

  • One quarter
  • More than half
  • Seventy-five percent
  • All

The IPCC attributes “more than half” of the temperature change to humans, with “high confidence” this has caused large-scale changes in the oceans, ice cover, and sea level in the second half of the 20th century.

In its 2013 report, the IPCC projected warming will likely be above 2.7°F (1.5°C) What was the "floor" in the panel's previous projection in 2007?

  • 1.6°F (0.9°C)
  • 2.6°F (1.4°C)
  • 3.6°F (2°C)
  • 4.6°F (2.6°C)

In its 2013 report, the IPCC's lowest projection for likely future warming marks a rollback of its position in 2007, when it ruled out any warming less than 3.6°F (2°C).

Roughly how many scientific publications were cited in the IPCC’s 2013 Assessment Report-5 (AR-5)?

  • 92
  • 920
  • 9,200
  • 90,200

More than 9,200 scientific publications were cited in the IPCC's 2013 assessment report. More than two-thirds were published after the panel’s previous report in 2007.

What region of the world will likely warm most rapidly due to climate change?

  • The Arctic
  • The tropics
  • Antarctica
  • Australia and the South Pacific

There is very high confidence that the Arctic region will warm most rapidly, says the IPCC.

In the past two decades, how much has the rate in sea level rise accelerated, compared to the average since 1901?

  • 8 percent
  • 28 percent
  • 48 percent
  • 88 percent

The IPCC says it is very likely that the mean rate of global average sea level rise was 3.2 millimeters per year from 1993 to 2010, an increase of more than 88 percent over the mean of 1.7 millimeters per year from 1901 to 2010.

What is the only continental region for which the IPCC expressed significant doubt on human-caused warming?

  • Asia
  • Antarctica
  • Africa
  • South America

IPCC says that because of large uncertainties in the observed changes occurring in Antarctica, there’s low confidence that human influences have contributed to a surface temperature rise.

How much of the carbon emitted by human activities has been absorbed by the oceans?

  • 10 percent
  • 20 percent
  • 30 percent
  • 40 percent

The ocean has absorbed more than about 30 percent of the carbon emitted by human activities, causing acidification that is likely to continue under all of the future scenarios IPCC studied.

How does the rate of global warming in more recent years, from 1998 to 2012, compare to average warming since 1951?

  • It has been slower.
  • It has stopped.
  • It has accelerated.
  • It has doubled.

The IPCC says that the rate of warming since 1998, about 0.05°C per decade, has been less than half the rate of 0.12°C since 1951. The panel noted the influence of the strong El Niño warm ocean cycle at the start of this period.

There have been other periods in Earth's history when carbon dioxide concentrations were high. But the current level is unprecedented over at least how many years, according to IPCC?

  • 800
  • 8,000
  • 80,000
  • 800,000

Carbon dioxide concentrations are unprecedented in the last 800,000 years, according to IPCC.





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