Facts Matter: Climate change? People caused it, NASA says

Articles making the rounds on social media this month incorrectly claim NASA scientists said climate change is largely a result of the Earth's axis and tilt and unrelated to human activity, according to the Associated Press.

Actually, NASA scientists said climate change can almost entirely be attributed to people, the AP said. The organization's web page states the rise in temperatures is “extremely likely to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century.”

NASA research scientist Kate Marvel told the AP that scientists believe global warming could be caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Humans have “emitted a lot of” the gas, she said.

The theory of Milankovitch cycles, orbital shifts that affect the Earth's climate over a long period of time, is posted on NASA's website along with other climate change factors, the AP said.

NASA chief climate scientist Gavin Schmidt told the AP that the shifts have not been a major factor in global climate change over the past 150 years.

The orbital shifts can affect the Earth's climate “over thousands of years and are not responsible for the relatively rapid changes we've witnessed,” Marvel said.

The articles began appearing following demonstrations and a United Nations summit concerning climate change, the AP said.

Schiff's whistleblower claim misleading

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat leading the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry investigating President Donald Trump, recently told MSNBC's Morning Joe, “We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower. We would like to.”

But that whistleblower previously had approached a House Intelligence Committee staff member for guidance and revealed an allegation of wrongdoing by the president, according to The Washington Post.

The whistleblower then filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, who sent a Sept. 13 letter to the committee stating the “complaint involves confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community,” the Post said.

That was four days before Schiff's Morning Joe interview and three days before he sidestepped the question on CNN. When CNN commentator Anderson Cooper asked Schiff if the committee had been contacted, Schiff said, “I don't want to get into any particulars.”

An Intelligence Committee spokesman told the Post Schiff had “intended to answer the question of whether the Committee had heard testimony from the whistleblower, which they had not.” However, the spokesman also conceded Schiff's answer “should have been more carefully phrased to make that distinction clear.”

During a Sept. 19 news conference at the Capital, Schiff said without the inspector general's notice, “we might not have even known there was a whistleblower complaint alleging an urgent concern.”

This is misleading, according to the Post. Schiff didn't reveal that the committee had heard from the whistleblower before the complaint had been filed with the inspector general.

Members of Congress can't be impeached

President Donald Trump has recently called for two Democratic members of Congress to be impeached.

In an Oct. 6 tweet, Trump said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff were guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, and they “must all be immediately impeached.” And on Oct. 8 the president tweeted, “Adam should be impeached.”

But Pelosi and Schiff won't be vacating their congressional seats any time soon, according to the Associated Press. The Constitution doesn't allow for members of the House of Representatives to be impeached.

The House can expel one of its representatives by a two-thirds vote, but there are no grounds to do so based on Trump's assertions, the AP said.

In the past, the House has expelled five members for bribery, corruption and for supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War, the AP said.

Jefferson didn't say that

“Freedom is lost gradually from uninterested, uninformed, uninvolved people.”

It's an interesting line. An internet search reveals multiple sites attributing the words to Thomas Jefferson. And a recent Facebook post, which racked up 19,000 shares in the past month, also credits the quote to the third U.S. president.

But there's no evidence — in any of Jefferson's writings or speeches — that they're his words, according to

“We have never been able to find any source that confirms that these are words written or spoken by Thomas Jefferson,” Lisa Francavilla, managing editor for the Thomas Jefferson Papers at the International Center for Jefferson Studies, told PolitiFact.

David Sewell, managing editor of Digital Initiatives at Founders Online, told PolitiFact the style and phrasing is uncharacteristic of the Founding Father.

“He very rarely used the words ‘uninterested' or ‘uninvolved,'” Sewell said. “In fact (those words) were much less common before the 20th century.”

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at

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