How much of the excess heat from global warming is captured in the oceans?

  • A. 30%
  • B. 60%
  • C. 90%

Correct answer

Oceans capture nearly all excess heat. 

Burning fossil fuels has resulted in more heat being trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. Over the last 50 years, about 93% of that accumulated excess heat energy has been stored in the oceans. They are like giant sponges, absorbing most of the extra heat radiated back towards the planet from the atmosphere, which is why the average surface temperature has only risen by about a degree.

Data source: IPPC AR5, Page 42, Figure 1.2, Box 3.1,

The ignorance we found

Why do people pick the wrong answer?

MISCONCEPTION: I feel global warming outside my window

Many climate reports mostly talk about the atmosphere and the warmer weather on land, which makes it seam like global warming is all about air temperature. WRONG! When you dip your toe into the deep ocean, it sure doesn’t feel “warmer”, but if you had been dipping a thermometer instead over the decades the difference would be obvious.

Hundreds of years ago people were already measuring the temperature of ocean water. Almost everywhere we measure today, it’s warmer.

Global climate experts believe that, over the next 100 years, the average temperature will…

  • A. Get warmer
  • B. Remain the same
  • C. Get colder

Correct answer

According to the world’s leading climate experts, the average global temperature will rise over the next 100 years.

Why the Wrong Answers are VERY Wrong

B) Remain the same, and C) Get colder

Although there’s a lot of coverage in the media of both sides of the climate change argument, climate experts have consistently agreed that temperatures are rising, and will continue to do so over the next 100 years. For the most part, the people receiving coverage for disagreeing with this assessment are not qualified to draw those conclusions and can safely be ignored.

The (little) ignorance we found

Time for a celebration. Not only did our respondents outperform the chimps on this question, they did so by a huge margin!

Overall, 87% of our respondents correctly answered that global temperatures are predicted to rise over the next 100 years. Finland, Norway, and Hungary were the top performers, each with an impressive 94% correct, while Japan came in last with a still respectable 76%.

Not much to say about the wrong answers here, because happily there weren’t very many of them. 11% of respondents thought temperatures were predicted to remain the same, while a slightly confused 3% thought they would get colder.

Why do people pick the right answer?

The climate debate has received a massive amount of media attention, but rather frustratingly a lot of airtime has been given to unqualified climate change detractors.

Fortunately, it would appear that the vast majority of people in the richest countries have not been misled into believing that climate change isn’t real. Instead, almost 9/10 of our respondents were ready to side with the world’s leading climate experts.

Overall, this is a clear success story for public communication and perceptions surrounding climate control.

In 1996, tigers, giant pandas, and black rhinos were all listed as endangered. How many of these three species are more critically endangered today?

  • A. Two of them
  • B. One of them
  • C. None of them

Correct answer

According to data from the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), none of these species have become more critically endangered over the last 20 years. Quite the opposite, in fact—things are looking up for all three species.

Why the Wrong Answers are VERY Wrong

A) Two of them, and B) One of them

In recent years, the number of tigers living in the wild has increased to 3,900. They continue to face a high risk of extinction as a result of poaching, illegal logging, and forests being cleared for agriculture. However, the fact that numbers are going up rather than down means the situation is undoubtedly improving.

Giant pandas have been downgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable” thanks to an increase in numbers living in the wild. This breakthrough was achieved by politicians, conservation charities, and local communities coming together to give giant pandas the best chance to live in their natural habitat. It may not sound like a big number, but the fact that 1,800 giant pandas are now living in the wild is a real success story.

Black rhinos are still critically endangered, which means there is an extremely high risk of them becoming extinct. Sadly, the species is still threatened by poachers who want to kill them for their horns. However, the number of black rhinos in the wild has stabilized at around 5,000 thanks to efforts to fight poaching.

The ignorance we found

In one of the worst results of the entire survey, just 9% of our respondents managed to get this question right. Overall, our respondents would have been three times more likely to get this question right if they had picked an answer at random.

Interestingly, our Japanese respondents scored much higher than any other nation, with 26% correct answers—the next best was Australia, with just 12%. Of course, 26% is still substantially lower than our chimps managed, so not exactly cause for celebration. Hungary once again brought up the rear, with a terrible 3% correct answers.

Why do people pick the wrong answer?

It’s hard to point the finger of blame at charities, but in this case they may have something to answer for. Generally, the only exposure normal people in the richest countries have to information about endangered species is to tell us about how bad things are. We’ve all seen it:

“Poachers are killing species X and must be stopped.”

“Species Y is under threat from deforestation.”

What we haven’t generally seen, though, are the success stories. In most cases, charities and media outlets haven’t put quite the same level of effort into telling us about all the species that have been saved as a result of conservation fundraising and initiatives.

Add this to the misconception that the world is getting worse (it isn’t), and you have the recipe for some highly misinformed people in the richest countries.

How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last hundred years?

  • A. More than doubled
  • B. Remained more or less the same
  • C. Decreased to less than half

Correct answer

According to data from the International Disaster Database EM-DAT, the annual number of deaths from natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, droughts, storms, wildfires, extreme temperatures—including deaths resulting from mass displacement following disasters—is 75% lower than it was a century ago. 

Why the Wrong Answers are VERY Wrong

From 1907 – 1916, a little over 325,000 people died each year as a result of natural disasters. 100 years later, during the period 2007 – 2016, the average annual death toll had fallen to 80,386. Not bad, right? And it becomes even more impressive when you consider that the world’s population rose by more than 5 billion people during the same time period.

So in fact, we are now so much better at predicting, handling, and recovering from natural disasters that—despite population size and density being drastically higher—far less people die as a result of them each year.

The ignorance we found

Just 10% of our survey respondents overall managed to choose the right answer. That means around 10,800 of our 12,000 survey respondents got the answer completely wrong.

This time the best results (if you can call them that…) came from Finland, where a meagre 16% of respondents chose the correct answer—that’s slightly less than one correct answer for every six people asked. In joint last place, with just 3% correct answers, came France and Hungary.

Why do people pick the wrong answer?

We hate to keep pointing “the finger” at the media, but honestly it’s hard not to. Every death from natural disasters—from the earthquake in Haiti to Hurricane Katrina—is covered in intimate detail in every news outlet for weeks and weeks after it happens. Even years later, these events (and their death tolls) are routinely referenced by the media, charities, politicians, and educators.

And of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the coverage. It’s just that the constant stream of negative news stories that most people in the richest countries are exposed to leads them to develop the idea that “most things are getting worse over time”.

But they aren’t. In fact, most things are getting significantly better as time goes on, and that includes our ability to identify, manage, and recover from natural disasters.