Melting Glaciers. Hurricanes. Cyclones. Earthquakes. Heatwaves. Droughts. Rainstorms.
Snowstorms. Forest Fires.
How many times have we seen each of these natural disasters recurring in the last ten years?
Let’s take the case of India. It is one of the top ten countries affected by climate change published in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 (GermanWatch Report, 2021). If we only look at this year, India has borne some of the biggest climate disasters namely,
- The ice glacier burst in Uttarakhand – a strong sign of the effects of global warming which can affect the safety of people and their access to water for drinking, industry, and agriculture in the long term
- Cyclone Tauktae which demonstrates the fourth consecutive year of intense, pre-monsoon cyclones forming over the Arabian Sea, and
- Cyclone Yaas, another intense cyclone that washed over different parts of Odisha, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh end of May, proving that a once-rare cyclone in the Arabian Sea, is now becoming increasingly commonplace.
Around the rest of the world as well, the frequency of natural disasters has increased over the last decade as a result of climate change. For example,
- The recent Australian bushfires which started in Dec 2019 and continued till early 2020 killing over 400 people and causing massive land destruction
- Locust swarms in East Africa and parts of India and Asia damaging a number of crops,
- Parts of Antarctica’s continent turning green due to algal blooms caused by its melting glaciers and
- California’s Wildfires – they might seem like a common occurrence but with the increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the wildfires in 2020 were one of the most ferocious blazes ever experienced.
There is enough and more evidence to prove that climate change is real including constant warning signs from researchers, scientists, activists, celebrities. Yet, very few have taken it seriously. Political leaders, the media, and the fossil fuel industry have played a huge role in creating confusion and doubt among many, so as to make people believe that climate change is a hoax. Even many scientists these days are spewing a ton of misleading information. This planned denial to understand the science of climate change has resulted in such a lack of proactiveness to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that now we are in the middle of a global climate crisis. This is why it is important to understand and debunk the following false claims on climate change:
#1 The science claims are not true
The previous US President Donald Trump’s public denial of the reality of climate change and withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement created a huge stir in the nation and the rest of the world. But he had a huge number of supporters amongst American citizens and Republicans who have done enough damage to influence a huge part of the US population and make them believe that scientists are manipulating data sets to show that the warning signs are true. That is incorrect as scientists have been validating and correcting data consistently over time who are part of world-renowned organizations such as NASA, the UK Meteorological Service, India Meteorological Department
Instead, what must be taken into account is that many towns and cities have expanded where previously meteorological establishments in rural areas may now be in urban areas which are significantly warmer.
#2 CO2 doesn’t have a huge heating effect
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one-tenth of the earth’s atmosphere but it is powerful because it traps greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. When the surface of the earth absorbs sunlight, it heats up and emits infrared radiation waves. Carbon dioxide absorbs the infrared energy and re-emits it back into space, but that is only half of that energy. The remaining energy stays in the Earth’s atmosphere as heat, contributing to the ‘greenhouse effect.’ Since the industrial revolution in the 1800s, carbon dioxide levels have increased to 420 parts per million in the last 171 years due to human activities. According to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, carbon dioxide takes up more than three-quarters of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, most of it attributed to fossil fuel burning through transport and electricity. This consistent increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the years has contributed to increasing global temperatures, known as global warming.
#3 Climate Change is part of the natural cycle
This is a true statement except what has also seen an unprecedented growth is the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to increasing anthropogenic activities causing global warming. The present age we are in is known as the Anthropocene: where human activity is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and the surge in this human activity through history across different areas is known as The Great Acceleration.
#4 Solving climate change is expensive
The truth is there is no single solution for climate change and it will take a combination of adopting green solutions at multiple scales to do so which could cost approximately 300-500 billion dollars over the next couple of decades. While solving climate change is expensive, the costs will only keep adding up if we do nothing.
#5 Climate Change is not an emergency and can wait
It is unfair to put the burden on future generations to solve climate change when it is us, the present generation, and our ancestors, who have created the global climate crisis. The world’s leading climate scientists have warned that we only have 10 years to reduce global carbon emissions by 50% but situated within the current COVID 19 crisis, this begins to seem like a distant goal.
#6 I believe it is only fossil fuel industries that are causing climate change, it’s not individual actions
It would be inaccurate to say that climate change has increased greenhouse gas emissions which only oil, petrochemicals, and the energy sector have to solve. It is true that the majority of carbon emissions come from fossil-fuel industries. But we as human beings consume end products and services from these very same industries and contribute to increasing atmospheric carbon levels. The fight against climate change is a collective global effort and not just for the industries. If we aim to reduce their products and services, it would definitely be a positive start.
#7 Insufficient action taken by superpower nations so far
While developed countries like the US and Russia have failed to send financial help to developing countries as agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement, if a developing country has sufficient resources to reduce its climate and carbon footprint, then it needs to stop the blame game and accept responsibility for its climate actions so far and in the future till additional financial aid is arranged.
#8 Misunderstanding that climate change is irreparable
Many policymakers make climate change to be irreversible regardless of whatever actions are taken. This is not true. While past actions are irreversible, future global warming is unavoidable but it depends largely on changing human actions and not the climate system.
#9 The relationship between ozone layer depletion and global warming is misunderstood
The ozone hole through the increase of UV rays is not causing global warming but it is affecting atmospheric conditions. Ozone is a powerful greenhouse gas, which has been damaged through human use of gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and this is causing the stratosphere (the second, upper layer of the atmosphere) over the Southern Hemisphere to become colder. This has resulted in faster winds near the pole, and can even move all the way to impact the equator through tropical cyclones and heavy rainfall at lower altitudes. But since the Montreal Protocol international agreement signed in 1987, which was designed to stop production and usage of ozone-depleting substances, the ozone hole has reduced by 1-3% in recent years; possibly one of the fewest successes we’ve had in the climate war.
#10 The impact of melting ice in the Arctic and Antarctica is not of concern
The melting ice in the Arctic is floating on the Arctic ocean and does raise sea levels. Melting ice on land, on glaciers on Greenland and Antarctica, raises sea levels as well. Ice is disappearing from both the Antarctic and Greenland, and the big question is how fast the glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising, and the future imbalances these will create for our planet.
#11 One of the most simple yet important reasons for people not believing in climate change is that you cannot see the ever-increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. If you don’t see something, then you tend to believe that it doesn’t exist or cause harm.
Some of the world’s richest (and arguably the smartest) people are not doing anything about it. From India’s perspective, Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani continue efforts in accumulating more wealth without any concern that we are in a crisis or time is running out. They are the role models for millions who see no benefit in changing their current lifestyles.
Today our lives are more comfortable with easier access to resources, but we forget that we may also be the least vulnerable for now to climate change. There is a huge section of the population across the world who are most vulnerable and do not have access to any luxury. Some do not have access to basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. So the question really is if we want to continue denying that climate change exists and its impacts are life-threatening to the present and future generation or choose otherwise. We could choose to live with the philosophy of “ignorance is bliss” or instead, educate ourselves about climate change, accept responsibility for our actions and join the fight against climate change and actually save future lives. Because we are the only generation who can choose to act now and reduce/mitigate/adapt to this man-made climate crisis.