In view of the urgency of tackling climate change and reaping the benefits of the green economy, it is important that people are provided with scientifically sound information rather than myths and misleading arguments
Here are some of the arguments put forward by those doubting climate change:
1. CO2 is natural in the atmosphere, it is needed for plants to grow and the levels of it in the atmosphere are too small to matter.
Yes, plants need carbon dioxide (CO2) for photosynthesis just as humans need oxygen for respiration. In fact, the world’s forests store and cycle huge amounts of carbon. However, there’s a limit to the amount that they can be stored in any given woodland area, and with deforestation increasing this limit is getting lower. CO2 itself does not cause problems; it is part of the natural global ecosystem. The problem is caused by the quantity being released by human activity: there hasn’t been this level of CO2 in the atmosphere for 800,000 years.
Our carbon emissions are contributing to the greenhouse effect – trapping heat and making the Earth warmer.
Natural greenhouse gases, such as water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, keep the Earth 30C warmer than it would otherwise be even though they make up less than one per cent of the atmosphere. Concentrations of carbon dioxide, which are just 0.03 per cent of the atmosphere, have increased from 280 ppm (parts per million) before industrialisation to 388 ppm today  and have been the main driver of man-made climate change. Carbon dioxide only makes up a small part of the atmosphere, but even in tiny concentrations it has a large influence over our climate”
2. The climate is changing but it is a natural not a man-made process. Its been happening for millions of years. Our Earth has gone through cold and warm cycles many times in the past. The middle ages (in the UK) was much warmer than it is now.
In its basic sense, this statement is true – The Earth’s climate does go through natural cycles of warming and cooling. Our current warming being experienced is completely out of sync with previous cycles – it is so much higher! (We should actually be in the middle of an ice age right now…)
However – and it’s a big, however – when people talk about climate change today they mean man-made climate change, this is how the Earth’s average temperature is warming because of human activities such as burning coal, oil and gas for energy and cutting down trees to make way for agriculture. Climate change is currently happening to an extent that cannot be explained by natural factors alone. Global temperatures have been rising for over a century, accelerating in the past 30 years, and are now the highest since records began.
The global scientific community widely agrees that the warming we are experiencing is man-made… The evidence – from the basic physics to the observations of the climate system – is very strong that human activities, mainly the emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, is the main cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
Climatic changes have occurred throughout history as a result of natural factors, such as variations in the Earth‟s tilt and orbit around the Sun. The temperature rise and other changes over the last century, however, are larger than can be accounted for by these influences alone. According to the biggest science review of climate change ever, the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report , there is at least a ninety per cent chance that most of this warming is the result of human activity. This analysis is supported by the National Academies of Science of the world‟s leading nations . The vast majority of climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening. If nine out of ten pilots said they thought that a plane was likely to crash no-one would be foolish enough to fly in it.
3 “The world is cooling not warming”
Despite the recent cold winter experienced by many parts of the world, the planet is getting warmer. Average global temperatures have increased by about 0.74C over the last century. In the 160-year record of global surface temperature, ten of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1997 and the „noughties‟ (2000 to 2009) has been the warmest decade. While some areas shivered this winter, other parts of the world experienced abnormally warm temperatures.
4. “A few degrees don’t matter. – The differences in temperature between night and day and between summer and winter are much larger, and we cope with them now.
During the last ice age, which ended 12,000 years ago, the world’s average temperature was only 4-5°C cooler than it is today. Yet those few degrees have made a drastic difference: parts of Britain were under a mile of ice, and sea levels were about 100 metres lower than they currently are.
Just a few degrees can have very dramatic effects, and what’s happening now is at a far greater rate than we’ve ever seen. More importantly, we know that it’s largely caused by human activity.
Climate-related impacts that matter for people, infrastructure and ecosystems are often related to extreme events and not to average climate. Relatively small changes in average climate parameters lead to surprisingly large changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme climate-related events.
We’ve seen just over 1°C over the last century and we’re seeing real effects and impacts of climate change on nature and people all over the world – most recently, in the UK, in extreme weather, both very cold and very hot. To avoid the worst impacts, we need to keep the already unavoidable rise to 1.5°C. We can do that by cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the energy we produce, the buildings we live in, the way we travel, the products we manufacture and the food we eat.
5. “Wind farms and solar are expensive and inefficient. Nuclear, coal and oil are the only realistic way to provide for our energy needs.”
It’s a commonly-held belief that renewable energy is expensive, but solar power has been the cheapest form of energy generation (per unit of energy generated) for a long time, onshore wind costs about the same as gas, and offshore wind is now cheaper than nuclear and close to challenging gas too. The costs of renewables have fallen faster than anyone (including our optimistic climate team!) could have predicted.
There are many misconceptions surrounding this issue; a recent survey found that many people think nuclear power is a cheap source of energy, when in fact it’s the most expensive of the currently available forms. Onshore wind is actually the UK’s cheapest power source.
6. “ I quite like the idea of England becoming like Spain ...”
Global warming will mean nicer weather in the UK, more Indian summers and less of our British drizzle… right?
You might be forgiven for believing so, with this still being a very common myth about climate change. The truth is far more complicated than that – and it bodes less well for your holiday plans. The rise in global temperatures that we’re experiencing is caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions and affects weather patterns and ecosystems in complex ways, making storms, floods, droughts and other extreme events more likely.
Global warming means more extreme, erratic, unpredictable weather.
For the UK, we could see less seasonal weather, with colder winters, more intense heat waves that last longer and wetter more intense summers. Met Office data shows that climate change makes disasters like Storm Desmond seven times more likely in the UK. We’ve seen evidence in 2018 with temperature records being broken all over the place both in winter and summer.
7. “Everything is affected by climate change, but things adapt!”
This one isn’t a myth, Darwin got the adaptation part right. But let’s clarify the wording: everything is affected by climate change, and some things adapt.
To survive, plants, animals and birds confronted with climate change have two options: move or adapt. There are several examples of species that have begun to adapt to climate change already.
But increasingly it’s a different story for many. With the speed of climate change we are experiencing already, it’s becoming impossible for many species to adapt quickly enough to keep up with their changing environment. And, as habitats are destroyed by roads, cities and dams, moving becomes increasingly difficult. If you can’t adapt quickly enough, and you can’t move – then you die.
8. “Global warming was made up as a way to make money and is just an excuse for stealth taxes”.”Climate change has been verified by almost every nation-state today in some form; if it was a conspiracy by one group, then why is everyone standing behind it? Because the science is easily attainable and verified – and supported by 97% of climate scientists, with the rest having no single, coherent and verified alternative theory.
It is true that taxes have increased over the last decade. Spending has also increased on, for example, education and the health service. Green taxes, however, make up a smaller proportion of taxes than when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed in 1997. Taxes will help our economy become more energy efficient and survive the likely massive oil price increases in the future. The International Energy Agency has detailed how major cuts in carbon dioxide emissions could be achieved by changing global energy use and that this would require an investment of just one per cent of global GDP per year between now and 2050. At the same time, savings would be made from reduced fossil fuel use and energy security would improve.
9.“Climate scientists have a vested interest in claiming climate change”
Climate change science has been built-up over many years by scientists with no obvious vested interest in claiming climate change is happening. Even many of the big oil companies, who have most to lose over a switch from fossil fuels, say that climate change is happening and is man-made. There is some evidence however that Exxon-Mobil has adopted the tactics of the tobacco industry in its efforts to slow down action on climate change. There is also evidence of links between the fossil fuel and energy companies, especially in North America, and those who oppose the science of climate change.
10. “There’s no consensus on climate change”
Evidence that human activity is causing climate change is accepted by the world‟s leading scientists, as represented by Academies of Science – virtually all the world‟s government‟s, leading health experts (such as the BMA), military experts (such as the MoD) leading economists (such as Lord Stern), and leading business organisations, (such as the CBI).
The consensus on climate change is well documented.
11.“Climate change risks are over-stated”
Rather than being „alarmist‟, the IPCC has been described as being excessively cautious. Its Fourth report (2007) was criticised, for instance, in an article in the New Scientist for omitting recent and more worrying research. The rigorous and cautious nature of the IPCC process has been well-described by a former chairman of its Science Working Group, Sir John Houghton, in the Times on 15th March 2010. Three of the UK‟s leading scientific bodies, the Royal Society, the Met Office and the Natural Environment Research Council, have warned that “the scientific evidence for dangerous,long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened significantly” since the publication of the 2007 IPCC report.
12.“Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports are full of mistakes”
Over the course of 22 years, the IPCC has drawn upon the expertise of thousands of the best scientific minds in order to create a better understanding of the complexity of climate change.
Media reports have alleged that its Fourth Assessment Report (2007) contains errors. It did state incorrectly, in the section on Impacts, that 80 per cent of Himalayan glaciers would very likely disappear by 2035.
Although this mistake was not made in the climate science section of the report or in the summary, it should have been spotted and corrected.
Other allegations of inaccuracies by the IPCC have been shown to be largely unfounded, as this Real Climate article, “IPCC Errors: Facts and Spin‟, shows. One mistake in an almost 3000 page report does not negate the rest of it. The IPCC report still represents the most authoritative account of the current state of knowledge of climate change.
13.“Leaked e-mails show scientists can’t be trusted”
The e-mails stolen from the University of East Anglia were used by climate sceptics to suggest that claims that the planet has warmed were skewed. There are two important points here. Firstly, there is no evidence that this is the case. Two inquiries, one by the Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology and the other by a panel of international experts led by Lord Oxburgh, have cleared the scientists of any scientific dishonesty. Secondly, the evidence on whether the world has warmed was based on three separate sets of data –by NASA and the National Climate Data Centre in the USA and by the Met Office in collaboration with the University of East Anglia in the UK –all of which agree with each other.
14. “It’s just the sun”
Energy received from the Sun and variations in the Earth‟s orbitare two of the many factors that influence the climate but cannot account for all the changes in average global temperature since the 19th Century. While there is evidence that, during the first part of the 20th Century, energy from the Suncontributed to some of the warming, overthe last 30 years or so,the Earth has warmed significantly even though there has been a slight decline in solar energy received. Studies indicate that the recent warming is due to man-made greenhouse gases.
15. “Ok, so if Climate change is happening why do we need to bother doing anything when some countries, like China and India, produce a huge amount of greenhouse gas”
This is the critical decade for taking effective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We can’t sit back and do nothing just because someone else is doing something different to us. We ALL need to do as much as we can NOW. Don’t look for excuses. We all need to make changes to our lifestyle…