A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the real facts:
CLAIM: So-called “climate change” is mostly driven by factors unrelated to human activity, NASA scientists say.
THE FACTS: Articles circulating online in early October wrongly suggest that NASA has rejected human responsibility for climate change and, instead, attributed the phenomenon to variations in Earth’s axis and tilt. “Oh for heaven’s sake,” Kate Marvel, a research scientist for NASA, said in an email response to the claim. She told The Associated Press that scientists at the federal agency believe as much as 100 percent of current warming could be caused by greenhouse gas emissions, which humans have “emitted a lot of.” The articles circulating on social media follow worldwide demonstrations in September to call attention to climate change. The articles attempt to make their case citing Milankovitch cycles, orbital shifts that impact the Earth’s climate over a long period of time. The theory is posted on NASA’s website along with a range of factors related to climate change. Orbital shifts have not played a major role in climate change over the last 150 years, NASA chief climate scientist Gavin Schmidt told The Associated Press in an email. NASA has a webpage dedicated to explaining global climate change, which says, in part, that a rise in global temperatures is “extremely likely to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century.”
AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this story.
CLAIM: The Church of Sweden has declared 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg the successor to Jesus Christ.
THE FACTS: “No — Church of Sweden has (obviously) not proclaimed Greta Thunberg as successor of Jesus Christ,” Martin Larsson, a spokesman with the Church of Sweden, told the AP in an email. However, in 2018, one of its parishes did, tweeting in Swedish: “Announcement! Jesus of Nazareth has now assigned one of his successors, namely Greta Thunberg.” The claim circulated on social media after Thunberg, who is Swedish, led worldwide demonstrations to highlight climate change and addressed the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations. Larsson said the tweet originated in December 2018 on the account of Limhamn parish in the city Malmö, in southern Sweden. Larsson said the tweet by @Limhamnskyrka was widely debated and criticized at the time. The parish posted an apology regarding the tweet and said they would be leaving Twitter. The @Limhamnskyrka account has not tweeted since 2018. Posts about the tweet, which received thousands of shares on Facebook and Twitter, made it seem as though the Church of Sweden had recently made the declaration. Thunberg faced a barrage of false and misleading claims on social media after visiting New York City where she addressed the U.N. climate conference, chiding world leaders for their inaction. Thunberg began her climate campaign in 2018, skipping classes once a week to protest climate change outside Sweden’s parliament
CLAIM: Photo shows protesters burning an Iranian flag in Baghdad today as Iraqis held anti-government protests around the country.
THE FACTS: The photo was taken by the AP Sept. 7, 2018, and does not show recent unrest in Baghdad. According to the AP photo caption, protesters were burning an Iranian flag after storming and setting fire to the Iranian consulate in Basra, Iraq, amid violent protests surrounding who should be the country’s next prime minister. The falsely captioned photo began circulating on social media as protests escalated in Iraq this week. The AP reported that spontaneous demonstrations have been spurred mostly by youths wanting jobs, improved services such as electricity and water, and an end to endemic corruption in the oil-rich country. On Friday, security forces opened fire on hundreds of anti-government demonstrators in central Baghdad, killing one protester, hours after Iraq’s top Shiite cleric warned both sides to end four days of deadly violence “before it’s too late,” the AP reported. At least 43 people have died in clashes during the continuing protests.
CLAIM: Video shows Nigerians vandalizing their embassy in Sierra Leone.
THE FACTS: The video shows men rampaging through the Nigerian embassy in Dakar, Senegal, in 2013. Several posts circulated on Facebook identifying the video as showing an attack this week on an embassy in Sierra Leone. In the video, dozens of men storm through a courtyard, tearing down tree branches. They then move through the building kicking in doors, breaking windows and tearing out plants. At one point they tear down the Nigerian flag and vandalize parked cars. The AP used a geolocation search to confirm the video was taken at the Nigerian embassy in Dakar. According to a 2013 report by the Nigeria-based Premium Times newspaper, the men stormed the embassy because they could not retrieve the body of a deceased Nigerian. Videos posted on YouTube and tweets about the incident at the time carried similar information. The AP reached out to the Nigerian embassy in Dakar and the Nigerian government, but did not receive a response. The video has circulated previously on social media falsely identified.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.