Climate change can be a hard thing to wrap your head around. It’s really scary! The Earth is really complicated! There are a lot of numbers!
But if you want to know whether global warming is real, there’s really only one thing you need to know: Does carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere? Scientists have known the answer (yes) since at least 1895, when the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius did the first research on what came to be know as greenhouse gases. Some climate change questions are hard, like how to predict the movement of clouds in computer models. But the basic existence of the greenhouse effect is very straightforward and noncontroversial. Among scientists, that is. Donald Trump and some other prominent Republican politicians are still struggling.
In fact, the greenhouse effect is so basic that you can even prove its existence with a simple DIY experiment. We got the idea from the great science communicator Bill Nye, who talked about it when he appeared on a recent episode of our Inquiring Minds podcast. We decided to give it a try, and it worked…barely. We’re not scientists, okay?