Did you know 4 out of 10 Americans and one third of Congress don’t believe in climate change? If you are also in doubt, have no fear, Frontier is here to debunk the myths.
1. The Planet is Warming!
Photo Credit: Flickr | Lady May Pamintuan
Yes and No. Scientists are now pushing for more use of the phrase ‘Climate Change’ rather than ‘Global Warming’ as the phrase creates a misconception about how the planet will change. Some areas will become hotter in parts of the year, for example, Ethopia is having more persistent droughts and Artic cities in Russia and Siberia are expierencing melting permafrost which is sinking buildings. Melting ice in the artic causes other parts of the planet to become colder in winter (e.g. Britain and Europe) due to a reduction in ocean jet stream speed, which determines many weather conditions.
Then why is the average global temperature increasing always mentioned, I hear you ask? Well, the Earth’s surface temperature is constantly changing in one small area of land (e.g. the size of a town), let alone if you think about the planet as a whole. The average temperature is all the different surface and ocean temperatures calculated into an overall average, over the period of a year. Scientists have estimated that the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by 2 Degrees Celsius within 100 years.
2. Scientists Disagree Climate Change is happening
Photo Credit: Flickr | Craig Anderso
Many politicians and deniers will say there is disagreement amongst the scientific community on whether climate change is occurring to confuse the public. Scientists will never always agree on a theory or hypothesis, this is the beauty of science, to question everything around us and why it happens. In fact, Climate Change is one of the only things, along with the Theory of Evolution, that most scientists do agree on! In a 2013 paper analysing over 11,900 scientific papers with global warming or climate change in the abstract, it was found 97% of those papers acknowledge climate change is real and the cause is human activities.
3. But we are heading into an ice age?
Photo Credit: Flickr | Jakob Breivik Grimstveit
Justifying causing climatic suicide because the planet will get cooler isn’t the best excuse to deny climate change, especially when the predicted ice age will occur in 10,000 years. It is true the planet will undergo an ice age due to a natural cycle of planetary warming and cooling, however, this occurs over very long periods of time. The Earth's last ice age was 2.6 million years ago and we have been happily living within The Holocene (the inter-glacial period) between the last ice age and the next one without dramatic climate change. In fact, Some scientists have predicted the increase of 2Degrees Celcius Global Average temperature will delay the next ice age by 50,000 to 100,000 years, demonstrating the long-term impacts of our current changing climate.
A simple increase of temperature by 1 degrees celcius more will cause crop yields to fall by 5% and coastlines will start sinking into the ever rising sea levels, warns the UN.
4. Our Climate Models are not reliable
In every scientific model, there are reliability levels created statistically to predict the chance of the outcome of the model being wrong. Knowing the climate since records began provides very reliable data but predicting climate before that has more room for error. Climate change deniers often focus on the high levels of scope in climate graphs but even the lowest predicted records still show human cause of climate change, as you can see in the graph below. What deniers also don’t mention is that we have come a long way since the first models produced.
Photo Credit: US Environmental Protection Agency
Climatic scientists can now use ancient ice core and tree rings to predict previous global atmospheric gas concentrations, temperature and even cloud cover! There are obvious limitations to these methods but using them in conjunction with each other, and other sources of data, gives us a good idea of the climate up to 800,000 years ago. Scientists have used ice cores to show that current atmospheric CO2 levels are the highest they have been for nearly 1 million years, before humans even existed.
Photo Credit: South West Cliamte Change
Models don’t just map our previous climate, they also use all the data and knowledge we have on the Earth’s climate and how it works to predict how it would change under certain circumstances (e.g. if fossil fuels are continued to be use at their current level, if temperatures rise further, if CO2 levels decrease etc). The accuracy of climate models are increasing every year and they are important for politicians to understand as they predict how the climate change policies they set will affect the planet and humans in the future.
5. The Sun is causing warming
Photo Credit: Flickr | Lima Andruška
Deniers may have an argument here if the evidence backed their statement up. The solar intensity has decreased over the last 35 years, exactly the opposite to average temperatures. The second bit of evidence debunking this theory is the increase in temperature in the atmosphere. If the Sun was heating the atmosphere there would be a clear increase in temperature throughout the atmosphere. The opposite is shown, only the lower levels of the atmosphere, those with increased greenhouse gas levels, have been heating. Human caused increase of greenhouse gases adds to the greenhouse effect, which traps radiation from the sun in the lower atmosphere. Thirdly, there was a prolonged period of lulled sun activity from 2005 to 2010 in which the Earth still continued to warm.
Watch this video regarding the psychology of misunderstanding of climate change:
Video Credit: YouTube | It's Okay To Be Smart