About climate change: ChatGPT vs Scientists

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot developed by OpenAI released in November 2022, which has sparked curiosity and raised many questions within the scientific community. The purpose of this type of program is to simulate human language on a wide range of topics in the future, with an already considerable and up-to-date database that extends until 2021. However, the responses provided by ChatGPT (which has the capacity to make incorrect information appear correct) can be disseminated on the internet, leading to the spread of false information. Recently, other companies such as Google and Elon Musk have also expressed their desire to create similar types of chatbot simulations, an area where we could witness significant progress by the end of this decade.

That being said, we have come up with an experiment where we will ask ChatGPT about various climate-related topics and compare/contrast its responses with those of a scientist.

What are climate changes?


Climate changes are significant long-term modifications in weather patterns that affect the global climate. These changes include alterations in the average surface temperature of the Earth, precipitation patterns, tidal levels, and the frequency of extreme weather events such as strong storms, droughts, and floods.

Climate changes are caused by human activities that produce greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. These climate changes have serious effects on the environment, economy, and human life, including loss of human lives, species extinction, changes in crop patterns and food supply, and rising sea levels, which can lead to coastal flooding and disrupt economic and social activities.

Q: How are climate changes already affecting Romania?

Climate changes have already started to affect Romania, with significant consequences for the environment and the economy. Some of these effects include:

  1. Droughts and floods: In recent years, Romania has experienced severe droughts in some areas and devastating floods in others. These extreme weather events have led to significant economic losses and the destruction of infrastructure and private property.
  1. Increased temperatures: Average temperatures in Romania have risen in recent decades, leading to changes in the vegetation season, an increase in forest fires, and an increased risk of landslides.
  1. Changes in water supply: Climate changes have affected the availability and quality of water resources in Romania. Some areas have suffered from severe droughts that have reduced water availability for irrigation and drinking water supply.
  1. Species extinction: Climate changes have affected the biodiversity in Romania, with many species losing their habitats and being at risk of extinction.

These effects of climate changes have a significant impact on the economy and daily life in Romania, highlighting the need for urgent actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the effects of climate changes.

Dr. Bogdan Antonescu:

While the answer to this question is not inherently incorrect, it is a very general response. We could replace “Romania” in the question with almost any other European country, and the answer would still be correct. What is interesting about this answer is the last paragraph (which is not directly related to the question). In this paragraph, ChatGPT draws attention to the need for urgent actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: Will the frequency of tornadoes increase in Romania?

ChatGPT: Tornadoes are generally less common in Eastern Europe and Romania compared to other parts of the world, such as the United States. However, climate changes can have an impact on the formation and frequency of tornadoes in the region.

Currently, there is not enough scientific data to conclude whether the frequency of tornadoes in Romania will increase in the near future. However, research suggests that climate changes may increase the likelihood of the region experiencing extreme weather events, such as severe storms, hail, or heavy rainfall.

It is important to understand that tornadoes are rare but powerful weather

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events that can be highly destructive and dangerous. It is crucial for people to be prepared for such events and to monitor local weather information to avoid risks and minimise damage to property and lives.

Dr. Bogdan Antonescu:

The answer is quite good. It emphasises that we do not have a large enough dataset for tornadoes in Romania to understand the impact of climate changes on the frequency of these extreme weather phenomena. Particularly interesting is the last paragraph about the importance of preparing the population for such events. This aspect is significant because tornadoes are generally considered “curiosities” and extreme phenomena in Romania that can cause damage.

Q: Can you give some examples of tornadoes that have caused significant damage in Romania? What was the most severe tornado reported in Romania?

ChatGPT: Tornadoes are relatively rare in Romania, and those that have occurred in the past have generally been less severe than those in other parts of the world. However, there have been a few cases of tornadoes causing significant damage in the country.

Here are a few examples:

  • In 2012, a tornado hit the commune of Chiajna near Bucharest, causing significant damage in the area. Several buildings were damaged, trees were uprooted, and a few people were injured.
  • In 2013, a tornado hit the city of Focșani in Vrancea County, causing significant material damage. Several houses and cars were damaged, and the roof of a school was ripped off by the wind.
  • In 2017, a tornado hit the village of Lunca Ilvei in Bistrița-Năsăud County, causing significant material damage. Several house roofs were torn off, and trees were toppled by the wind.

The most severe tornado reported in Romania occurred in 1954 when a highly intense tornado hit the city of Buzău in the southeastern part of the country. The tornado caused significant damage, with several houses and buildings destroyed or damaged, and dozens of people injured or killed. The 1954 tornado was one of the most powerful in Europe at that time and had a significant impact on the local community.

Bogdan’s response: This answer is very interesting. It starts with a correct statement that tornadoes in Romania are rarer and less intense compared to other regions of the world. However, the examples of severe tornadoes in Romania are made up. It’s odd that the Făcăeni tornado from August 12, 2002, is not included in the list provided by ChatGPT, even though it was one of the most severe tornadoes in Romania’s history. This can be explained by the fact that ChatGPT does not use the internet to search for the answer but constructs it word by word based on its training. Essentially, ChatGPT tries to “guess” the answer by making a series of assumptions. Not knowing the details of tornado climatology in Romania, the answers given by ChatGPT (which has the ability to make incorrect information seem correct) can end up on the internet. These false pieces of information can then be picked up and spread.

Then I asked ChatGPT a few more questions related to topics discussed in previous InfoClima articles:

Q: Are droughts and floods more frequent as a result of climate change in Romania?

ChatGPT: Yes, climate change can contribute to an increase in the frequency of droughts and floods in Romania. In recent years, the country has experienced severe droughts in certain areas, which have affected agricultural crops and water supply, as well as devastating floods in other areas, leading to significant economic losses and destruction of infrastructure and private property.

Climate change can lead to changes in precipitation patterns and temperatures, which can increase the risk of droughts in some areas and floods in others. For example, higher average temperatures can result in faster evaporation of water and increased risk of drought in water-limited areas. At the same time, heavy precipitation can lead to floods in areas with saturated soils or inadequate drainage systems.

It is important to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as to implement adaptation measures to drought and flood risks, such as investing in water infrastructure and drainage systems, and improving agricultural practices and water supply.

InfoClima response: Dr. Monica Ionita-Scholz explained in an InfoClima article how significant changes in drought conditions have been observed in Romania during the summer months (i.e., a significant drying trend), especially in the eastern part of the country. Almost 60% of Romania’s surface, including arable and agricultural areas, as well as forested areas, are undergoing aridification. Dobrogea is one of the most affected areas in terms of aridification in Romania. Historically, lack of precipitation has caused prolonged drought periods in intervals such as 1894-1907, 1945-1951, 1983-1994, 2000-2003, and 2018-2020.

Q: What is the status of energy transition in Romania?

ChatGPT: The energy transition in Romania is still in its early stages, but some progress has been made in recent years. Currently, Romania heavily relies on fossil fuels, particularly coal, for electricity production, which has a significant impact on the environment and human health.

The Romanian government has adopted several policies and measures to support the energy transition, including the development of renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, a national strategy on Romania’s energy transition was approved, which sets forth specific objectives and measures to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and increase the share of renewable energy in the energy mix.

In recent years, Romania has experienced significant growth in renewable energy production capacities, especially wind and solar energy. However, these capacities remain relatively low compared to the total capacity of fossil fuel energy production.

Therefore, the energy transition in Romania is still in its early stages, but there is an increasing political will to promote renewable energy development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to accelerate and strengthen these measures to meet the goals set under the Paris Agreement and to protect human health and the environment.

InfoClima response: Dr. Andreea Vornicu, Dr. Andrei Korberg, and Dr. Sorin Cebotari explained in an InfoClima article how energy transition in Romania is both an assumed obligation and an economic necessity. The authors explained that solutions exist for the variability of renewable energy and that energy transition is an achievable ambition but requires coherence, involvement, and determination at the political and socio-economic levels.

Still in its early stages but with great potential for the future

ChatGPT already has significant resources and a growing database that will exponentially increase in the coming years. While still in an early stage, the answers can be very general and not yet refined or precise. However, we are already witnessing rapid progress with the emergence of new updated versions and the possibility of new chatbots in the near future. Bogdan Antonescu warns that answers provided by ChatGPT (which has the capacity to make incorrect information seem correct) can end up on the internet, and false information can then be disseminated. When directly asked if ChatGPT can be used to learn more about climate change, the prompt answer was: “No, ChatGPT is not designed to help with learning about climate change. It is a natural language processing tool that can help generate sentences and paragraphs that sound natural based on the input data you provide. For assistance in learning about the science behind climate change, you may want to seek educational resources such as textbooks or courses.”

As a final question, when asked if the topic of climate change is discussed in Romania, ChatGPT came up with a conclusion for this piece:

Yes, the topic of climate change is frequently discussed in Romania, and there is a growing interest in this subject. In recent years, numerous events, conferences, and awareness campaigns have taken place regarding climate change and the need to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment. Climate change is an important topic of discussion in Romania, and there is an increasingly strong political and social will to address this issue and take concrete measures to protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Bogdan Antonescu

He is a physicist specialised in atmospheric physics, with an interest in history, climatology, physical processes, and the impact of extreme weather phenomena. Currently, he leads the project Extreme weather events in the future climate of Romania (ClimExRo), which aims, among other things, to bring academic research closer to the public. More details about this project can be found on the project’s webpage.

Article first published on InfoClima

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