10 Climate Change Lies, and How to Catch Them

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Chances are, you’ve probably met a climate change denier before.

According to a 2019 global survey on climate change attitudes, 13% of Americans believe that climate change is not caused by human activity, while a further 5% deny the existence of climate change completely. 

The survey, conducted by the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project, polled respondents in 23 countries and found the U.S. to be the largest hotbed of climate science denial among western countries. 

For a country that endured four years of climate denial under President Trump, these numbers aren’t so surprising. 

During his time in office, more than a hundred members of Congress shared their doubts about climate change in the media and voted against climate change legislation.  Large numbers of people also became exposed to climate change lies on Facebook.

The lies have become so widespread that separating fact from fiction can sometimes be a challenge. Even with the right scientific evidence, rebuking false climate change claims can be met with derision and slander, especially as climate issues become politicized by American leaders.

The best way to protect yourself against these lies is to know the facts firsthand. In this article, we explore the top ten climate change myths and show you how you can refute them.

Myth #1: You can’t fight climate change with your money

Most people think that the money sitting in our bank accounts can’t be used to fight climate change. After all, if the money isn’t being spent on something that’s environmentally destructive, how could it affect the climate?

How to refute it: 

The reality is, our banking habits are closely linked to the climate. Many large financial institutions, like Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, lend billions of dollars to fossil fuel companies despite the limits set by the Paris Agreement.

When we put our money in these unethical banks, our savings deposits get repurposed into loans for oil companies. We essentially lose control over where our money goes, and there’s usually no way to find out. 

Thankfully, there are environmentally-friendly financial platforms like Aspiration that don’t invest any money in fossil fuels. Aspiration is a B Corp certified neobank that works to make our customers’ money benefit the planet and themselves; we offer up to 1.00% APY on our savings deposits and donate 10% of our profits to environmental conservation projects around the planet.

Myth #2: Individual carbon offsets are expensive and ineffective

There’s a common misconception that carbon offset projects, such as tree planting and investments in clean energy, are too small to be effective against climate change. They only provide a temporary stopgap to the carbon emissions problem and are too expensive for the average person to buy. 

How to refute it: 

While carbon offsets may not be a perfect solution to climate change, they’re probably one of the most impactful. Contrary to the myth above, studies have found that carbon offsets in the form of reforestation projects can help reduce annual carbon emissions in the U.S. by up to 15 percent. 

Also, programs like Aspiration’s Plant Your Change initiative help individuals buy carbon offsets automatically using ‘spare change’. Our system rounds every transaction our customers make to the nearest whole dollar and plants a tree on their behalf using the difference. 

Myth #3: There’s only a tiny bit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It can’t drive climate change. 

This is a point that many climate deniers bring up in debates. 

Carbon dioxide makes up just 0.041% of the Earth’s atmosphere – so how can such a small amount of carbon dioxide cause global temperatures to rise? The rest of the atmosphere is mainly nitrogen, oxygen, and argon, which all play a negligible role in climate change because they don’t absorb heat.

How to refute it: 

Although the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may seem minuscule, the burning of fossil fuels increases that percentage steadily. Carbon dioxide, along with other greenhouse gases and water vapor, traps heat in the atmosphere and causes global average temperatures to rise

If carbon emissions aren’t controlled, carbon dioxide levels could rise to 0.1% of our atmosphere by 2100. That would be triple the amount before the Industrial Revolution, and enough to cause catastrophic climate change.

Myth #4: We need fossil fuels to achieve global prosperity

There’s no denying that fossil fuels enabled us to build bigger, travel faster, and live better. It’s one of the most reliable sources of energy we’ve ever had. It’s also the go-to solution for political leaders who want to spur economic development.

How to refute it:

While fossil fuels have gotten us to where we are today, they’re not the most sustainable, and environmentally-friendly, way to help us achieve global prosperity. These non-renewable fuels are accelerating climate change, which threatens the very prosperity that we’ve worked hard to build

Instead, renewable energies such as solar and wind power have the potential to boost global GDP by 2.5% and provide energy to both rural and urban areas at a fraction of the cost of coal-powered electricity.

Myth #5: Renewable energy can’t replace fossil fuels

Even though renewable energies have been scientifically proven to be a safer, cleaner alternative to fossil fuels, climate skeptics argue that fossil fuels will still be needed in large amounts for manufacturing and transportation beyond 2050.

How to refute it: 

The problem with this myth is that it overlooks the energy production capacity of clean energy systems and the costs of building them. 

Renewable energies produce up to 25 times the amount of energy needed to build them. They produce no carbon emissions and are designed to operate for at least two to three decades, providing a reliable source of energy after a one-time investment.

Whereas electricity generated from the burning of fossil fuels loses half of its energy capacity in the form of wasted heat. They’re also only cheap because governments provide subsidies to keep fossil fuels competitive.

Myth #6: The sun causes climate change

Some climate change deniers believe that increased solar activity is causing climate change, not human activity. They cite a rise in the number of sunspots, as well as “evidence” that the sun is moving closer to the Earth, as the main drivers of extreme climate activity.

How to refute it: 

While the sun can influence our climate, the warming we’ve seen in the past few decades has happened so quickly that it cannot be linked to solar activity. Since 1978, satellites orbiting Earth have not relayed any information indicating that more of the Sun’s energy has been reaching Earth to warm it.

This observation is consistent with the finding that the Earth’s stratosphere has been cooling instead of warming. If solar activity was the cause of global warming, both the stratosphere and atmosphere would be warming together.

Myth #7: A mini-ice age is coming

In early 2020, a few tabloid newspapers published a claim that the Earth was about to enter a “Mini Ice Age” that would last until 2050 or 2060. This climate change lie was based on the predictions of one researcher that an impending decades-long period of lower solar activity would cause food shortages and record-low temperatures. 

How to refute it: 

This myth is based on a climate phenomenon known as a “Grand Solar Minimum,” which occurs every few centuries when the Sun becomes quiet and gives off less energy, causing unusually low temperatures on Earth as a result

The last time this was believed to have happened was between AD 1650 and 1715. Recent scientific research suggests that although the low temperatures experienced during this period were initially thought to have been caused by reduced solar activity, it’s instead more likely to have been the result of major volcanic eruptions.

Myth #8: Many scientists do not believe in climate change

To this day, climate skeptics still hold on to the belief that the majority of scientists do not believe in climate change. Their main gripe is a tweet by President Obama back in 2014 which claimed that 97% of scientists agree that climate change is a real, man-made problem.

How to refute it: 

Despite what most climate deniers will say about this, it’s a fact that an overwhelming majority of publishing climate scientists agree that human activities are causing rapid climate change. 

This finding is taken from the results of several surveys that interviewed dozens of climate scientists. The surveys show that 95 to 99% of actively publishing climate scientists believe global average temperatures have increased as a result of increased fossil fuel use. 

Myth #9: The earth’s climate has always changed.

Climate skeptics also like to point out that the Earth’s climate, over 4.5 billion years, has changed constantly. They’re right. But the changes that we’re seeing now have happened in just a few decades when they would have normally happened over hundreds of thousands of years.

How to refute it: 

The speed at which these changes have happened points to one culprit, us. We’re burning coal, natural gas, and oil to heat our homes, cook our food, and travel for work. 

We’re consuming the planet’s resources more than previous generations ever have. We’re also manufacturing products and consuming energy at unprecedented scales. All of these activities emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and trap the heat that’s causing our weather patterns to change.

Myth #10: Climate change is a future problem.

This has to be the number one climate change lie that’s commonly shared. Climate change is considered a future problem because it doesn’t affect everyone the same way

How to refute it: 

Climate change may not affect us all equally, but there’s enough evidence of it in the news and around us to make it a present problem. Wildfires, rising sea levels, and record-breaking temperatures are all signs that the climate is reaching a breaking point.

In 2018, the world’s leading climate scientists warned us all that we needed to limit the rise of global average temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent catastrophic climate destruction. 

Climate change is the biggest threat to our future, and we’re the last generation that can do something about it.

*Photo by Cassie Matias on Unsplash

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