Common Myths about Climate Change and why they are wrong
- The earth’s climate has always changed.
True, but the changes happening in the past took hundreds of thousands of years, now they’re happening in decades. And global temperatures are at their highest since records began. Scientists are united in stating that this is not normal climatic variation, and the effects will be (and already are) massive.
- Scientists don’t agree that climate change is happening or caused by humans
The scientific method permits (even encourages) dissent. However around 97% of climate experts agree that humans are causing global warming, and the greater the expertise on climate matters, the higher this number. Who would you rather believe?
- Increasing carbon dioxide is beneficial to plants.
Within limits, true, but the increase we’re seeing in CO2 vastly outstrips plant consumption and causes effects (warming, higher sea levels, climate effects, etc) that will cause more damage to plant growth. Temperate latitudes may be able to grow more tropical crops at the expense of existing staple varieties such as wheat and corn, but more equatorial regions will see a significant fall, causing not just food shortages but mass migration of people who can no longer feed themselves.
- Climate change is a future problem, I can ignore it for now.
There are fewer and fewer climate deniers, but there’s been a big increase in climate delayers, those who say we can wait and something in the future will make it all better. The problem is that the bigger the problem gets (and it’s getting bigger every year) the harder it is to reverse. If we had cut back a little on burning fossil fuels 30 years ago then the steps needed would have been much less severe than now. In 5 years time it may actually be too late to do anything at all. There are currently no mitigation technologies (such as carbon-capture) that work with sufficient capacity, to ameliorate climate change.
- Renewable energy is too expensive
Right now the cheapest way of generating electricity is onshore wind power, closely followed by offshore wind and photovoltaic (solar). Gas, coal and oil generation are already more expensive. Renewable energy costs will continue to fall (once you’ve built a wind-farm or a solar array the ongoing costs are negligible) but gas, oil and coal costs will continue to rise and, as we have seen, are at the mercy of political forces. The environmental, health and climate impact of fossil fuels and the subsidies they receive are not included in their cost. If they were, the cost of fossil fuel would be many times higher.
- It’s not our problem, it’s other countries or the number of people in the world.
Completely false. In comparison to developing countries including China and India our per-capita energy consumption is far higher than theirs. And the western northern hemisphere’s historic contribution to CO2 levels is hugely more than other countries. It’s a global problem and we all must play our part.
- Renewables can’t provide electricity when it’s dark or there’s no wind.
This is superficially true. However, with linked grids (which we already have) there will always be somewhere that is generating, and when there is surplus in one place it can be delivered to other regions. In addition, energy storage is available now and improving in leaps and bounds. We can store electricity in batteries, by pumping water uphill to release it downhill later to drive turbines, by storing it as heat in our homes (heating water tanks during the day to release heat at night) and many others.
- We can adapt to climate change
We, as the human race, will certainly adapt to climate change. But the adapted world will be very different, and the adapting process will be very painful. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced from their homelands to seek sanctuary elsewhere. Food and water supplies will be restricted. Many animal and plant species will become extinct. These changes are already happening. They will only get worse.
- It’s too expensive to ‘go green’
It’s too expensive not to. Those that argue that we can’t afford it ignore the huge costs that will be incurred if we do nothing. Addressing climate change will cost a huge amount of money, but will also create millions of jobs, reduce health expenditure, travel costs, heating bills and others. Not addressing climate change will cost even bigger sums of money in adaptation – moving cities away from coastal flooding, improving coastal defences, adapting medical services to handle tropical diseases, pest infestations and similar climate related changes.
- Going green will make Britain uncompetitive
Completely false. Britain used to be a world leader in green technology, but now it’s a (distant) runner up. Countries (like China) that have invested in battery production, solar panel production, wind turbine production, are already reaping the rewards. Our vehicle production, our manufacturing industries, our house building are already way behind other countries in their commitment to energy conservation and emissions reduction. We use too much energy domestically through poor insulation, inefficient heating and expensive travel. With joined-up policies we could live more economically, in more comfort, with a modern workforce building the materials and technologies that the world will need in the future. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
Phil Shotton: Ramsgate Society Lead on Environment and Climate Change 20:10:23