Climate change has been rigorously studied and the scientific consensus is strikingly clear. The fact that humans have driven climate change is well-documented and widely agreed upon. Yet misinformation or misleading claims about climate change still continue.
Here are 10 common climate change myths and how to debunk them:
1. “The Earth’s climate is always changing.”
During Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history, the climate has continuously changed with gradual increases and decreases in temperature. But the current rapid warming is unprecedented and is not part of a natural cycle of warming and cooling.
Most models predict that Earth will warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius in the next century which is 20 times faster than previous warming cycles.
And no, it’s not just the sun — the sun is actually at its lowest energy output in hundreds of years according to NASA. Since 1750, the warming driven by humans burning of fossil fuels is over 50 times greater than any warming effect from the sun itself over that same time interval.
“Our best estimate is that 100 percent of the warming the world has experienced is due to human activities. Natural factors — changes in solar output and volcanoes — would have led to slight cooling over the past 50 years,” said climate scientist and data analyst Dr. Zeke Hausfather.
2. “Global warming isn’t happening; it’s cold outside.”
For years, politicians have talked about how cold temperatures prove that climate change isn’t happening. While President, Trump repeatedly tweeted using winter weather events as (false) evidence that global warming isn’t happening.
However, one week of cold weather has nothing to do with the long-term trend of increasing global temperatures across the Earth’s surface.
As Time Magazine outlined, Trump and other climate change deniers fail to understand the difference between weather and climate.
Weather refers to the day-to-day atmospheric conditions in a particular place. Climate refers to long-term atmospheric patterns.
Climate change includes global warming – the broad temperature increases across the Earth’s surface – as well as other climate phenomenon resulting from excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Worsening snowstorms have even been linked to climate change.
In fact, in its first seven months, 2020 was already named the second-warmest year on the books according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration whose records go back 141 years.
3. “A few degrees warmer won’t affect us.”
Small fluctuations in the Earth’s temperature can lead to large climatic change. Shifts in regional precipitation, increases in extreme climate disasters, ocean acidification, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels are the result of just a few degrees of warming.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a 2 degrees Celsius increase would make land two to three times warmer than the global average and cause the Arctic to be four times warmer at 8 degrees Celsius.
Increases of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius may cause 10 million more people to be at risk from rising sea levels, several hundred million more people to fall into poverty, and a 50-percent increase in the population facing water stress, the EDF reported.
4. “Animals and plants can adapt.”
For most animals and plants, climate change is occurring too quickly for them to adapt to the changing environment. They are losing food and water sources and shelter as temperatures rise and extreme climate disasters wreaked havoc on their habitats. And they have already lost significant amounts of habitat from deforestation and humans building roads, highways, and infrastructure on natural lands.
5. “Carbon dioxide makes up a small portion of the atmosphere so carbon emissions don’t matter.”
Although carbon dioxide (CO2) only makes up a small fraction of the atmosphere, it can still have a significant impact on the Earth’s temperatures.
According to NASA, CO2 accounts for about 20 percent of the greenhouse effect where greenhouse gases trap infrared radiation which warms the Earth’s surface.
While CO2 can move between land plants and the ocean, as much as 20 percent may remain in the atmosphere for many thousands of years. Excess carbon in the atmosphere will increase Earth’s temperature while excess carbon in the ocean makes the waters more acidic, threatening marine life.
6. “Climate change is China’s fault.”
Even before Donald Trump was president, he often tweeted that climate change was a Chinese hoax. During his time in office, President Trump continued the rhetoric that China is to blame for the changing climate. Trump’s climate denial is no surprise and his comments have popularized the myth that China caused climate change.
As Trump pulled the U.S. away from being a global climate action leader, China has stepped up. The country has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2060 and become the largest investor, producer, and consumer of renewable energy in the world.
While all countries have contributed to the global issue of climate change, its’ time for countries with more economic capital to be true leaders in the fight against climate change rather than pointing fingers at other nations.
7. “Climate models are inaccurate.”
A 2019 study evaluated 17 climate model projections published between 1970 and 2007, with forecasts ending on or before 2017. It found 14 of the 17 model projections were consistent with observed real-world surface temperatures, even when factoring in the actual rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
Overall, models are able to accurately depict mainly general trends, such as warming global temperatures, increased overall rainfall, or more intense hurricanes.
8. “Climate change is a problem for future generations.”
The effects of climate change are already here: global food insecurity, climate refugees, and more frequent infectious disease outbreaks. And these phenomenons are occurring in both developing and developed nations.
Just in recent months, the U.S. has been wrecked by stronger hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and other climate-related disasters. Surveys find that around three-quarters of Americans have seen the effects of climate change firsthand.
9. “It’s all up to individuals.”
The idea of a carbon footprint is a great way to measure greenhouse gas contributions from certain activities. But the fossil fuel industry has used the concept of individual carbon footprints to blame the climate crisis on day-to-day personal choices.
While avoiding air travel or switching to plant-based diets can significantly reduce emissions, and are meaningful when done in the long-term, the onus of climate action falls on large companies who mercilessly pollute the environment but point the finger at the powerless individual for using a plastic straw.
Just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions, The Guardian reported. Mass climate action on the micro-level can help but the heavy lifting must come from systemic changes in the fossil fuel industry.
10. “It’s too late, we can’t do anything.”
Unfortunately, climate change is already here – rising sea levels, irreversible habitat loss, species extinction, and many other catastrophic effects that have already happened and are currently happening.
However, actions taken now can stop things from getting much worse during this century and in future generations.
Luckily, climate and energy experts have outlined what needs to be done by focusing on scaling up the proven solutions, in the biggest emitting countries, through effective policy measures. Scientists know what needs to happen including 100 percent clean electricity; more energy-efficient vehicles, buildings, and factories; and stronger controls of global warming super-pollutants.
Companies must be held accountable for their emissions targets or climate pledges. And individuals must commit to long-term meaningful changes to help the environment. Individuals can do a lot when they join together to hold companies and countries accountable and push for climate policies on all levels of governance.
Read more articles on the effects of climate change happening right now:
- Animal Populations Have Declined By Almost 70% In Past 50 Years Due to Human Activity
- How the Climate Crisis will Displace Billions of People Around the World
- Climate Change is Driving More Powerful and Frequent Catastrophes like California Wildfires & Atlantic Hurricanes
- How Deforestation Leads to the Spread of Deadly Viruses from Animals to Humans
- The Climate Crisis is Aging Fish, Amphibian and Reptile Populations
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