Climate change myth buster

Illimani glacier overlooking Bolivia's capital La Paz. Much of the city's population rely on this glacier for drinking water.

Have you faced tricky questions on climate change from neighbours or friends? From people asking if climate change is real, to those questioning whether or not it's a good thing, there are lots of myths and misinformation when it comes to climate change. Click on the myths below for a quick guide on how to tackle some of the common ones.

MYTH 1. Scientists can’t agree. The jury is still out.

Fact: The vast majority of scientists agree that human activity is overwhelmingly responsible – 95% - for recent warming. There is consensus among scientists that the climate is being changed by human activity, in the same way as there is consensus on the links between smoking and  lung cancer.

MYTH 2. It’s just part of natural change.

Fact: The climate has changed throughout the earth’s history but the huge changes happening to our climate today are not due to natural causes. Natural variations happen over millions of years. Scientific research shows us that the last ice age ended around 11,000 years ago and since then the earth’s climate has been relatively stable at about 14°C.

However, over the course of the last century our climate has started to change rapidly, with an unusual increase in global temperatures, accompanied by changes in extremes of weather. There is overwhelming scientific evidence from the IPCC that suggests this is due to increased amounts of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gasses occur naturally in the atmosphere but human activity such as burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil and deforestation.

MYTH 3. The globe has stopped warming.

Fact: Temperature records clearly show the world has continued to warm over the past century, and continues to do so. The intensity of this warming varies but the trend is upwards. For example, the past 30 years have been the warmest experienced by the northern hemisphere during the last 1,400 years. This warming has started to impact upon the climate system and is projected not only to increase global temperatures, but change patterns of rainfall and increase extreme climate events. The effects are now being felt around the world.

MYTH 4. Scientists have exaggerated claims about changes in our climate.

Fact: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is considered the leading authority on the science of climate change. It consists of 2,000 scientists from over 150 countries. Its latest report released in 2013/14 – the Fifth Assessment Report (‘AR5’) – provides the most detailed and up-to-date view of the state of our climate. The findings of the IPCC are agreed upon by all 195 countries that make up its membership.

MYTH 5. Volcanoes emit more carbon dioxide than humans possibly could.

Fact: On average volcanoes emit less than 1% of the CO2 humans put into the atmosphere in a year. This percentage is growing smaller as emissions from human activities continue to rise.

MYTH 6. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant; it’s natural and essential for life.

Fact: ‘Natural’ does not always equal ‘safe’. Rapidly increasing high concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases generated by human activity are causing climate change and jeopardising human survival, health and wellbeing.

MYTH 7. Far back in time, global warming episodes had nothing to do with carbon dioxide levels.

Fact: Carbon role of carbon dioxidein the planet’s history is reasonably well understood. While changes in CO2 levels are certainly not the only force at work on the climate, the current changes in climate could not be explained without an understanding of the warming impact of carbon dioxide.

MYTH 8. Some countries have always had droughts, heat waves and extreme bushfire weather. There is no link to climate change.

Fact: The effects of climate change are resulting in increasing extreme events; heat waves and droughts, which in turn affect our livelihoods and health. These climate extremes are projected to worsen over the next couple of decades.

MYTH 9. Global warming is good for us!

Fact: Left unchecked climate change will make life significantly harder for the majority of people, especially the world’s poor who can least afford to adapt. Climate change anywhere on the scale predicted by the IPCC will have substantial to severe impacts on food and water, economic growth, and health globally, undermining and often reversing gains made on reducing poverty.

These myths and facts have been adapted from

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