Top 6 Climate Myths

Top 6 Climate Myths

Solar flares. Photo by NASAGSFCSDO

The “debate” about climate change has ended. AR5, one of the largest scientific reports ever undertaken, analyzed over 20,000 peer-reviewed research papers submitted by scientists from nearly every country on Earth. The overwhelming evidence now proves that our planet is heating up, the seas are becoming more acidic, and the polar ice is melting — all at rates faster than originally predicted — and this is due primarily to the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas). We must stay below the dangerous threshold of a 2°C temperature rise to avoid worsening impacts of climate change.

Despite this reality there are many professional “climate deniers” whose life work is to sow the seeds of confusion in order to delay action regulatory reform and other government action that while solving the climate crisis, would hurt the bottom line of many rich and powerful fossil fuel interests. Here are the top 5 most often perpetuated myths about climate change, and a concise rebuttal for each.

Myth 1: Scientists don't agree on climate change

Unequivocally yes, they do. The most extensive study on this topic was the 2013 report by Cook et al, Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature. The study looked at all peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate change published between 1991-2011 and found that of the 4,013 papers which stated a position on human-caused (or anthropogenic) global warming (AGW) only 83 papers (2%) rejected the notion. In contrast 3,894 papers (97%) found clear evidence of human-caused warming, such as the burning of fossil fuels. Amongst individual scientists, 99% agree with the consensus. It’s important to note that this is far greater agreement than existed amongst medical doctors about the cancer-causing effects of smoking, when the first U.S. smoking laws first went into effect. Read More »

Myth 2: C02 is not the cause

Yes of course the climate has gone through periods of warming before, but in every case the reason was the same — excess greenhouse gases (like CO2, methane, and sulfur dioxide) in the atmosphere. Though there were periods of abundant life like the Eocene with very high CO2 levels in the atmosphere, these landscapes emerged after millions of years of evolution in which oceans and forests developed the capacity to absorb all those gases, keeping the planet in equilibrium. But whenever there was a sudden change in CO2 levels from volcanic or glacial activity, devastation ensued. The end-Permian event 250 million years ago, which wiped out more than 90% of known species, saw a trend of warming resulting in increased temperatures and ocean acidity remarkably similar to what we are seeing today. This time the CO2 change is from human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels. Read More »

Myth 3: Solar flares are the cause

Solar activity is definitely not cause of climate change. The activity of the sun has been accurately measured using both ground and space-based systems for decades, and no significant change in solar output has been detected that could be responsible for the dramatic warming now occurring on the Earth. Several other indicators confirm this observation. First, the planet is warming more, not less, during the winterand it is also warming faster at the poles, not at the equator — the opposite of what would be expected if solar activity was driving global warming. Most important, as shown in the Earth’s temperature readings, the top of the stratosphere (the upper level of the atmosphere) is cooling, while the lower atmosphere is warming. If the sun were the culprit, we would see hot spots of heat on the top of the atmosphere. Read More »

Myth 4: We are actually in a period of global cooling

The truth is we should be in a period of global cooling, but we are not. Many people think that because winters are still very cold in some regions, this indicates that global warming is not occurring. Climate science looks at overall, long-term trends not local, short-term events. The reality is that every day, there are hundreds of record high and record low temperatures being set. If our climate were in balance, we would expect to see a roughly 1-to-1 ratio: the same number of record highs as record lows over the course of a year. Instead we have seen a shift towards record highs. In the 2000’s in the United States that ratio was 2-to-1: for every one record low there were two record highs (measured across 1800 weather stations). In 2012, that jumped to an unprecedented 5-to-1 ratio. 2013, 2014, and 2015 and all broke temperature records for heat and 2016 is now on record as the hottest year since record-keeping began. Read More »

Myth 5: Climate Change Isn't Harmful

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Wrong. Climate change has already wreaked havoc around the world, affecting the lives of millions of people. A recent report estimates that in 2012 alone, more than 32 million peoplewere forced to flee their homes due to natural disasters, many of which can be attributed in part to global warming trends. In some poverty stricken regions of the world, people could become permanent “climate refugees” who search for shelter in neighboring lands, sometimes triggering regional conflicts. Scientists generally like to keep their opinions to themselves, but recently more than a thousand scientists and climate experts worldwide, including two Nobel laureates and dozens of members of the world’s most prestigious scientific organizations, signed an urgent plea to world leaders to take action to address this growing climate crisis. The Consensus for Action, developed out of Stanford University and UC Berkeley, is an important document that describes just how concerned the experts are becoming about climate change. Read More »

Myth 6: There's Nothing We Can Do Anyway

One of the most dangerous myths out there is that there is nothing we can do about climate change. As more and more people realize the severity of the crisis, they are jumping to the conclusion that it is just such a big problem we don’t have a way to fix it. That is simply not true. Research at Standford and other major universities is showing that we can in fact quickly transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2050 making fossil fuels obsolete. When we stop burning fossil fuels the climate will gradually cool off again. It may take a bit of time to get back to a stable climate, but if we act now we can do it. Read More »