Considering there is concrete scientific consensus (97%) on the issue, there are still a number of people that doubt climate change is caused by human activity. This year’s Earth Day aims to focus on environmental and climate literacy, which can help highlight a few of the prevailing misconceptions and myths utilised by climate change sceptics.
- If global warming is real, then why are record-cold winters happening? Shouldn’t the planet be getting hotter?
Yes, the world has experienced colder temperatures in some regions. The 2009-2010 winter was a particularly cold one for places like Europe. The overall sea ice around Antarctica even increased a bit.
However, it would be wrong to brand this as a sign contrary to global warming. There are various factors that influence the planet’s climate, alongside human activity.
The El Niño phenomenon is the major cause of these bizarre weather patterns. Every four years or so during the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, warmer-than-usual sea surface temperatures appear along the South American west coast, which affects trade winds around the world and can feed into large winter storms in areas like Europe.
- The Earth has cooled and heated throughout its history, making climate change a natural phenomenon. Humans weren’t responsible for it in the past, so this current warming is simply a natural fluctuation.
Yes, the planet’s climate has been altered numerous times over the course of millions of years due to natural environmental processes. However, it is terrifying that this particular warming phase, over the last 50-150 years has occurred at an alarmingly faster rate than any other period in the earth’s history.
Climate change sceptics typically argue that CO2 emissions derived from human activity alone couldn’t be enough to influence the earth’s climate to this extent. They state that CO2 emissions can come from other non-human sources like volcanoes, and that the high levels are controlled naturally by the permafrost cycle and plants.
The issue, however, is that the greenhouse gas emission created by humans disrupt the already existing balance, so much so that the planet can’t absorb and release CO2 as it normally would. This issue is exacerbated by deforestation.
- We aren’t able to accurately predict the weather forecast for tomorrow, so how can we be sure of what the climate would look like 100 years from now.
This is a misconception that climate change critics love to use. Let’s use this scenario for instance if you check the weather forecast and expect the predicted sunshine, only to be disappointed by rain and grey skies.
The difference between weather forecasts and climate models is that the weather is short-term, inspired by a host of factors and is often unpredictable. The climate, on the other hand, is, is long-term, and unpredictable weather events get balanced statistically. It is typically much easier to observe an increase in global temperatures over numerous decades than predicting weather changes on an hourly basis.
- So, what if the earth’s temperature rises by a couple of degrees. The planet is resilient, it will pull through as it has always done before.
At face value, a 2 to 3-degree rise in temperatures doesn’t seem anything to be worried about. However, on a planetary scale, even a minute change in temperature can have devastating consequences. Just a few degrees increase in the global temperature could lead to an increase in extreme weather events like droughts, storms and even wildfires. Sea levels are rising as a result of melting glaciers and this could cause many highly populated cities to find themselves increasingly underwater.