Despite a global scientific consensus, broad agreement among governments and demonstrable effects, climate change is still subject to a mass of misinformation and confusion. We debunk the top 10 climate change myths sent to Black Press reporters or discussed on our social media sites.
1. The climate has changed before and is a natural cycle
Researchers say in Earth’s lengthy past, when greenhouse gases like CO2 increased, the global climate got warmer, when they reduced it got colder. When the climate changed gradually over thousands or millions of years, the high levels of greenhouse gases were in balance with the carbon in the oceans and atmosphere. Life therefore adapted and flourished. When it changed abruptly, life, big and small, was disrupted and a series of mass extinctions happened. Humans today are emitting quantities of CO2 at a rate much faster than the most destructive periods in Earth’s history.
2. It’s not that bad, it’s only a few degrees
Even a few degrees can have significant impacts in a variety of areas. Some scientists believe heatwave deaths are expected to be approximately five times greater than winter deaths prevented by a warmer climate. It is also widely believed that disease-bearing insects like mosquitoes will be encouraged, as there is already evidence of this happening. Droughts and floods will affect cities and agriculture, while melting glaciers threaten millions of people’s drinking water, who rely on natural spring melt and regrowth cycles. Even modest sea level rises would lead to low-lying areas becoming uninhabitable; agriculture and rivers inundated with salt water.
3. There is no consensus
There is among the top climate experts, who have spent their professional lives and careers studying climate change and its related issues. While at the start of the debate, there were conflicting hypotheses, and some disagreement persists, a broad consensus has emerged among those considered experts in the field. Thousands of pieces of work have been built on the understanding that manmade climate change exists, further confirming the original theory and further confirming the consensus. Seven respected authors of climate consensus studies co-authored a paper that concluded, depending exactly how you measure it, the consensus being between 90 per cent and 100 per cent. Most of the studies put the figure at 97 per cent. The lowest estimation described as credible, was 80 per cent.
4. Weather forecasts and climate models have never been correct
There might be a misunderstanding here. Weather is short-term and unpredictable while climate is weather averaged out over time. Like tossing a coin, statistically you can’t predict the result of each toss, but you can fairly accurately predict the outcome of 100 tosses. Recent climate models that take CO2 into account have produced useful results. So far, the models that don’t take CO2 into account have been unable to predict recent warming and there is no general circulation model to explain the past century’s climate behaviour without CO2 warming being factored in.
5. The Arctic is losing ice but Antarctica is actually gaining ice
Antarctica is covered by ice, an accumulation of thousands of years of snowfall. Under normal conditions this is locked away from the ocean. Antarctica is surrounded by sea ice which is sea water that seasonally freezes and melts. When the land ice melts, this extra water goes into the ocean and the oceans rise. When sea ice melts, the ocean isn’t really affected as much. It is true that sea ice is growing in a patch of Antarctica. However, this is dwarfed by land ice decrease. One comprehensive study, published in Nature, says that between 1992–2017 the Antarctic ice sheet lost three trillion tonnes into the oceans. If the ice on Antarctica were to completely melt, a recent report by 80 researchers says it could raise oceans by up to 58 metres.
6. Even if it happens, why should we care?
Certain scenarios projected in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR4 report predict massive migrations of people from flooded and drought-stricken countries. Disruptions to global trade, transport, energy supplies, labour markets, finance, etc. could potentially destabilize developed and developing nations. Market volatility would pose challenges at home, while military conflicts over dwindling resources abroad, have been predicted by some experts.
7. Al Gore and liberals believe it so I don’t
Al Gore does believe it, but so does Lindsey Graham, Mitt Romney and the late John McCain did too. There are a number of Canadian conservatives leading on this issue.
8. Climategate emails show there is a conspiracy
13 years’ worth of emails were stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in 2009. Although only staffed by 16 people, some of the emails were “quote-mined” and used by climate change skeptics to characterize a global scientific conspiracy. It could be argued the scientists lost the PR war that followed and were not as open as they should have been, but they were cleared by several investigations into fraud and conspiracy, the most prominent being the Independent Climate Change Email Review by Sir Muir Russell.
9. Ocean acidification isn’t serious
Scientists around the world, including academics and government bodies in B.C. would disagree. CO2 being absorbed in the water can have severe effects on the ecosystem and some creatures themselves, leading to food-chain disruption. Extra CO2 causes the pH in the water to change - bad news for any creature with a calcium shell. Warmer oceans also cause more plants to bloom, which choke the water of oxygen potentially leading to species die offs.
10. The government is using scientists and the media to set up a world government
There is no scientific way to disprove this, but is it likely? Aside from secretive world governments being a familiar anti-Semitic trope, it is unclear how the world’s 195 countries could be influenced through false climate change initiatives.