FACT CHECK: Does This Image Show What Scientists Have Predicted Earth ‘Will Look Like In 20 Years From Space’ As A Result Of Climate Change?

Hannah Hudnall | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows what scientists have predicted Earth “will look like in 20 years from space if we don’t reverse climate change.”



Verdict: False

The image, taken by a NASA spacecraft in 1979, shows Venus.

Fact Check:

Facebook users recently shared a picture taken from space of a planet that appears to be tan with no discernible foliage or water. Scientists have “released this image of what Earth will look like in 20 years from space if we don’t reverse climate change today,” this particular post claims.

But, contrary to what the post suggests, the picture does not depict a model of Earth that scientists put out to demonstrate climate change’s future impact. A reverse image search revealed that, according to the NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive (NSSDCA), it is actually an “ultraviolet image of Venus’ clouds as seen by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter (Feb. 26, 1979).” A spacecraft near Venus took the image in 1979, according to the NSSDCA.

The Encyclopedia Britannica website includes the same image, credited to NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, on its page about Venus. (RELATED: Does This Map Show What Scientists Say The US Will Look Like In 30 Years Due To Climate Change?)

“Venus photographed in ultraviolet light by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter (Pioneer 12) spacecraft, February 26, 1979,” reads the description on Encyclopedia Britannica. “Although Venus’s cloud cover is nearly featureless in visible light, ultraviolet imaging reveals distinctive structure and pattern, including global-scale V-shaped bands that open toward the west (left). Added colour in the image emulates Venus’s yellow-white appearance to the eye.”

While the image in question does not show the effects of climate change on Earth in 20 years, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did release a report in August that contains various scientific maps and graphics depicting aspects of climate change. Nothing matching the image taken by the Pioneer Venus orbiter appears in the report.

The claim about the Venus image appears to have been first shared in jest on Twitter. Check Your Fact previously debunked a picture allegedly showing a map representing the effects of climate change on the U.S. three decades from now, a claim that stemmed from another tweet by the Twitter user who originally posted the claim about the Venus image. In both cases, many social media users did not seem to perceive the apparent joke.

Hannah Hudnall

Fact Check Reporter