Let’s be real – you and I know that climate change is happening, and it’s pretty damn worrying.
But if you’re anything like me, occasionally you’ll meet someone (let’s call them Alan), who will downplay climate change, or – horror – actually deny it.
In the past when I’ve heard an ‘Alan’ pipe up, maybe at the pub, I’ve known they’re wrong. But I haven’t had enough facts to actually correct them with science. I have just quietly seethed into my drink and muttered ‘well, I think you’re wrong’. Surprisingly, this did not change Alan’s mind.
So if this sounds familiar, this article is for you. Now you know the myths and the truths, you can start working on your comebacks.
In your face, Alan.
Myth 1: If it's freezing in winter, global warming can't be a thing
We’ve all heard people say, on a cold winter’s day: ‘so much for climate change, amiright?’. Well no, they’re not.
There’s a big difference between weather and climate. Weather is local, it changes all the time. But climate change is a bigger temperature shift across the planet’s surface, over years, decades and even longer.
Climate change is causing the Earth’s average surface temperature to go up – that’s just a fact. Global temperatures are now at their highest since records began – 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have all taken place since 2001 (according to NASA, and they seem like they know their stuff).
But, here’s the important bit – that changes the world’s natural patterns, and makes unusual weather more likely. Yes, even extreme cold weather. Think of it like one of those spinning tops you had as a kid, happily spinning away until it’s sent just a bit off balance – it suddenly becomes unpredictable. So we now get more extreme heatwaves, droughts, forest fires and floods, to name but a few (you can name more here if you want to).
You want to know the worst of it for us Brits? Because of our geography, the Met Office says that the UK & Ireland will probably get more rain and wind as a result of climate change, than anything else. If that’s not enough to make you want to make a difference, I don’t know what is.
Myth 2: Climate change is just part of a natural cycle
The Earth is old – actually 4.5-billion years old. If you listened at school, you probably know that the climate has changed a lot in that time. From a fiery ball of lava (the stuff of sci-fi dreams), through several wooly-mammoth spotted ice ages, the Earth has seen it all. So it does change, that much is right.
But, right now the Earth is warming on hyper-drive, faster than anything ever seen before. It just can’t be explained by the natural cycles of the planet. The kind of changes we’re seeing would normally happen over hundreds of thousands of years – but they’re now happening in a single lifetime. And if you don’t believe me, David Attenborough uses his own life as an example, in the brilliant ‘A Life on Our Planet’ – well worth a watch.
You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to find the culprit for change. The faster warming is linked to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to Nasa, it’s been speeding up since the industrial revolution, which is no coincidence. This type of climate change is not a cycle, it’s because of what people do – burning coal, oil and gas, and also at the same time cutting down trees. There’s nowt natural about it.
Myth 3: People and animals will adapt to climate change
If you believe in evolution (don’t even get me started if you don’t!), you’ll know that plants and animals can adapt to their environment. So far, so good. But here’s the rub: natural adaptation takes place over much, much longer than we’ve actually got.
Because of the speed of climate change, plants and animals just can’t keep up. Like the proverbial tortoise, they’re falling behind the pace. If you’re an animal who suddenly can’t find enough food to eat, or places to build a den for little ones, there isn’t a lot that long-term adaptation can do for you. The quick solution to change is to physically move, but with an over-populated Earth, we’re all running out of room.
The image of a lonely polar bear on every-shrinking ice, is the sad poster child of this change. It’s clear we need to change climate change, not just adapt to it.
Myth 4: It’s too late to do anything
It might sound really bad, but chin up – we can definitely still fix this.
In 2019, the world’s leading climate scientists at the IPCC gave a pretty serious deadline – we had just 12 years to limit global warming to under 1.5C, to avoid climate breakdown. That was then upgraded (not in a good way) to say that 2020 had to be the peak of carbon emissions. So, we’ve pretty much got to start some serious graft, right now.
The good news is that unlike Alan, many countries are finally taking this seriously. The European Union, Japan and the Republic of Korea, together with more than 110 other countries, have pledged to be Net Zero by 2050. In other words, they’ll offset as much carbon and dangerous gases, as they produce.
The Climate Change Committee have crunched the numbers on Net Zero and found that 59% of that goal has to come from some kind of individual behaviour change. In short, we all need to up our game and start making a difference to become more climate positive. Even Alan. There are tons of ways we can do that – try having a read of our other articles for tips and tricks.
And let me know in the comments if this has helped you to bust any myths. Or if you’ve heard any other golden nuggets of climate change denial – we’d love to help you bust them.