On February 3 I engaged with OpenAI’s ChatGPT research release (Jan. 30 version) with some questions about climate change, and with the exception of its limitations for research beyond 2021, its responses, happily, were based on fact. I did not edit any of ChatGPT’s responses, added my comments in parentheses, and included links to related stories.
Is climate change real?
ChatGPT: Yes, climate change is real. It refers to the long-term changes in temperature, precipitation, wind patterns, and other measures of climate that occur over several decades or longer. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that climate change is happening and that it is primarily caused by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and agriculture.
(Note: It would’ve been nice to have a few data points here, such as how much Earth has warmed due to human activity, but it’s a succinct answer to a simple question.)
Is climate change a hoax?
(Note: I was curious to see ChatGPT’s response based on rephrasing the previous question.)
ChatGPT: No, climate change is not a hoax. It is a well-documented phenomenon supported by overwhelming evidence from multiple disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, and Earth science. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that climate change is happening and that it is primarily caused by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and agriculture. The claims that climate change is a hoax are not supported by credible scientific evidence and are rejected by the mainstream scientific community.
Can the climate emergency be solved?
ChatGPT: Yes, the climate emergency can be solved, but it will require a significant and sustained effort from individuals, governments, and organizations around the world. To mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce the risk of dangerous and potentially irreversible consequences, it will be necessary to significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, transition to clean and renewable energy sources, and take other measures to reduce our impact on the climate. At the same time, it will be important to adapt to the changes that are already occurring and plan for future changes, especially in vulnerable communities. Solving the climate emergency will require systemic changes and a collective effort, but it is possible with the right policies, investments, and public commitment.
(Note: It was good to see a reference to environmental justice, as a “just transition” is central to helping vulnerable communities adapt to a rapidly changing environment. And, younger people, it’s not too late to tackle this crisis.)
Is climate change an excuse for Democrats to raise taxes?
(Note: This nonsensical and baseless “theory” long has been trumpeted by conservative media and climate deniers.)
ChatGPT: No, climate change is not an excuse for Democrats to raise taxes. Climate change is a global environmental and humanitarian crisis that requires a collective effort to address. Some Democrats believe that reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to clean and renewable energy sources will require government action and investment, and that this could be funded through taxes or other means. However, this is a matter of policy and political debate, and not all Democrats or other political actors may agree on the best approach. The important thing is to have an open, evidence-based, and productive conversation about the solutions to climate change, regardless of political affiliation.
Related: Political will all we need to avert climate catastrophe
Is it feasible to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere?
ChatGPT: Yes, it is feasible to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but it will require significant investment and development of new technologies. There are a number of approaches that have been proposed or are under development for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, including direct air capture, afforestation and reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, and ocean fertilization. However, most of these methods are still in the experimental or developmental stage and require more research and investment to become scalable and economically viable. Additionally, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere alone will not be sufficient to address the climate emergency, and reducing emissions at the source through measures such as transitioning to clean and renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and reducing deforestation will also be critical.
(Note: Indeed, all true!)
Related: Why only a few degrees of warming matter
Will the ocean stop absorbing carbon dioxide anytime soon?
ChatGPT: No, it is unlikely that the ocean will stop absorbing carbon dioxide anytime soon. The ocean is a critical component of the global carbon cycle and has been absorbing a large portion of the carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere by human activities. However, as the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to increase, the ocean is becoming more acidic, which can have harmful effects on marine ecosystems and the species that depend on them. Additionally, as the ocean warms, it may become less able to absorb carbon dioxide, and more of the emissions will remain in the atmosphere, further accelerating climate change. So while it is unlikely that the ocean will stop absorbing carbon dioxide anytime soon, it is also becoming clear that relying on the ocean to do so is not a sustainable solution to the climate emergency. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the source and transitioning to clean and renewable energy sources will be critical to mitigating the impacts of climate change.
(Note: True, and I didn’t even ask about ocean acidification, but ChatGPT made the association between increased atmospheric CO2 levels resulting in more ocean acidity. The explanation could have included some data and the specific risks to coral reefs and shellfish, etc., but it’s a good response. Also, ChatGPT’s reference to the global carbon cycle in the second sentence was a nice surprise.)
How much will sea level rise by 2050?
ChatGPT: The exact amount that sea level will rise by 2050 is difficult to predict with certainty, as it depends on a number of factors, including the rate of global warming, melting of land-based ice sheets, and the thermal expansion of sea water. However, based on current projections, it is estimated that global sea level will rise by 26-82 cm (10-32 inches) by the year 2050. These projections are based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report and take into account a range of scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions and other factors. It is important to note that sea level rise is not a uniform process, and some regions may experience higher or lower levels of sea level rise than the global average. Regardless of the exact amount, sea level rise is expected to have significant impacts on coastal communities, infrastructure, and ecosystems, and it highlights the need for adaptation and mitigation measures to reduce the risks associated with this aspect of climate change.
(Note: Ah, here we see ChatGPT has yet to digest the most recent IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, but it is citing authoritative IPCC data, so that’s encouraging. Also, it’s nice to have the additional information that sea level rise varies around the world, and even along the U.S. coastline. Researchers are examining new avenues of data gathering to get a better idea of just how much sea level rise is in store and at what pace.)
When will global temperatures surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial times?
ChatGPT: According to the latest scientific projections, it is expected that global temperatures will surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial times within the next few decades. The exact timing will depend on a number of factors, including the rate of greenhouse gas emissions and the effectiveness of efforts to reduce emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that it is likely that the 1.5°C limit will be exceeded between 2030 and 2052, with the best estimate being 2040, if emissions continue at their current pace. However, if the world takes aggressive action to reduce emissions and limit the increase in global temperatures, it may be possible to delay or avoid crossing this threshold. The 1.5°C limit is considered a critical threshold for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, and the international community has agreed to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increase to this level through the Paris Agreement.
(Note: Ahhh, again, these estimates are outdated and optimistic. Given our current pace of greenhouse gas emissions we’re likely to reach that 1.5 degree threshold much sooner.)
Is the Paris Agreement a failure?
ChatGPT: No, the Paris Agreement is not a failure, but it is facing significant challenges. The Paris Agreement, adopted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015, is a landmark international agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement has been widely ratified and is considered a major step forward in global efforts to address the climate emergency.
However, the Paris Agreement is facing significant challenges, as the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions and the projected trajectory of global temperatures are not consistent with the goals of the agreement. Additionally, many countries are not on track to achieve their own national targets for reducing emissions, and the political will to take the necessary actions to limit global warming is sometimes lacking. As a result, the Paris Agreement is facing significant challenges, and it will require significant effort from all countries and actors to achieve its goals.
Despite these challenges, it is important to recognize the Paris Agreement as a positive step forward and to continue to build on its successes. The agreement provides a framework for international cooperation and action on climate change, and it has helped to raise the profile of the issue and mobilize action at the national, regional, and local levels. The Paris Agreement is not a failure, but it is an ongoing effort that will require continued commitment and action to achieve its goals.
(Note: A lengthy response from ChatGPT that accurately summarizes where we are today.)
Is global warming responsible for an increase in extreme weather events?
ChatGPT: Yes, global warming is contributing to an increase in extreme weather events. As the planet continues to warm, the frequency and intensity of many types of extreme weather events are expected to increase, including heatwaves, droughts, heavy precipitation, and hurricanes. There is evidence that these events are already becoming more frequent and intense, and many scientists believe that this trend will continue as global temperatures rise.
The exact relationship between global warming and extreme weather events is complex and can vary depending on the specific event and the region in which it occurs. However, the overall trend is clear: as the planet warms, it is increasing the likelihood of more frequent and intense extreme weather events. These events can have significant impacts on communities, infrastructure, and ecosystems, and they highlight the need for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the increase in global temperatures.
(“Climate attribution” is a growing branch of climate research and I wasn’t expecting ChatGPT to have much to say about it, but this was good to see.)
Related: How global warming is changing the jet stream
Do you believe humans will solve the climate emergency?
ChatGPT: As a language model developed by OpenAI, I do not have beliefs or opinions. However, it is widely recognized that the climate emergency is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity, and that immediate and sustained action is needed to address it. There is broad scientific consensus that human activities, particularly the emission of greenhouse gases, are contributing to global warming and the climate emergency.
While the challenge of solving the climate emergency is significant, it is not impossible. There are a range of actions and technologies that can be deployed to reduce emissions and limit the increase in global temperatures, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, and carbon capture and storage. Additionally, there are many examples of communities, companies, and countries that are already taking effective action to address the climate emergency and reduce their carbon footprint.
Whether or not humans will succeed in solving the climate emergency is ultimately up to us, and will depend on our collective efforts to take action, make the necessary investments, and transition to a more sustainable and low-carbon future.
(Note: While dysfunction continues to undermine some global action, chances are there’s a bit happening locally, where good climate policy may be easier to implement.)
Related: All climate change is local
Have you been programmed to respond to questions about the climate in a certain way?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model developed by OpenAI, I have not been programmed to respond to questions about the climate in a certain way. Instead, I have been trained on a diverse set of text sources, including news articles, scientific papers, and online forums. This training enables me to generate a wide range of responses to a variety of questions, but it does not dictate a specific viewpoint or perspective.
When answering questions about the climate, I strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information based on the best available science, as well as to present that information in an objective and neutral manner. However, like any machine learning model, I am not perfect and there may be times when my responses are incomplete or inaccurate. If you have concerns about the accuracy of a specific response, I encourage you to consult additional sources to verify the information.
(Here endeth the chat.)
Well done, ChatGPT. Its responses to questions about climate change were factual and mostly referenced the latest climate research. While the responses did not include relevant data points, they were more detailed than I expected. The conversational tone also was surprising, but I suppose that’s a reflection of advances in artificial intelligence.