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Do You Know More About Climate Change Than The Average American?

When researchers at Yale University put these questions to U.S. adults, most failed miserably. Can you do better?

Posted on November 28, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. ET

The world's nations are about to gather in Paris to agree a new treaty to limit global warming. So now is a good time to test your knowledge of climate change.

  1. 1. What does the “greenhouse effect” refer to?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Greenhouse gases trap heat from the sun, reflected back from the Earth’s surface.

  2. 2. The average temperature of the earth’s surface is currently about 58 degrees Fahrenheit (14.4 degrees Celsius). What was the average 150 years ago?

    Flickr: trekkyandy
    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Since 1850, the Earth has warmed on average by almost 2 degrees F (about 1 degree C). Scientists know how much the Earth has warmed since the industrial revolution from measurements taken at weather stations over many decades. Estimating the current global average temperature is hard because fewer measurements are made over the oceans and near the poles. The value of 58 degrees F selected by Yale for its survey is at the upper end of current estimates.

  3. 3. And what was the average temperature during the last ice age, which peaked around 21,000 years ago?

    Cosmos Studios
    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    During the last ice age, huge ice sheets extended much farther from the poles than they do today. But the Earth’s average temperature was still comfortably above freezing.

  4. 4. Which gas is good at trapping heat from the Earth’s surface?

    thinkstockphotos.com
    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    All three are greenhouse gases. Another is nitrous oxide, which is emitted when farmers add nitrogen to the soil by using synthetic fertilizers.

  5. 5. Which gas is produced by burning fossil fuels?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    When fossil fuels burn, much of the carbon they contain combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide.

  6. 6. Which is a fossil fuel?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Natural gas forms when the remains of dead plants and animals are exposed to intense heat and pressure over thousands of years.

  7. 7. Where did the energy in fossil fuels originally come from?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Fossil fuels formed from the remains of dead plants and animals. The energy they contain came from sunlight, captured by photosynthesizing plants.

  8. 8. Roughly how much carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere in 1850?

    ThinkStock
    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    That’s just under 0.03% of the air, by volume.

  9. 9. Roughly how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere today?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    There is about 38% more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than there was in 1850.

  10. 10. How much do scientists estimate that global sea levels rose from 1900 to 2000?

    Flickr: knmurphy
    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Scientists have measured sea level rise with tide gauges, and more recently, from satellites.

  11. 11. Which of these countries emits the most carbon dioxide?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    China’s carbon dioxide emissions overtook those of the U.S. in 2007.

  12. 12. Which of these countries emits the most carbon dioxide per person?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    On average, each American is responsible for more than twice the carbon dioxide emissions of the average Chinese citizen.

Check out the full results of the Yale survey here.

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