From an individual level, climate change can seem as a difficult issue to connect with, often leaving people with emotions of helplessness as they struggle to understand this phenomenon. While most people can identify practices to reduce their carbon footprint, very few of them actually engage in such activities. One of the main reasons for such inertia from the public may lie in the image of climate change, portrayed by media as being distant, remote and affecting future generations. Here are some of the most common myths and misconceptions about climate change:
1. There is still no global scientific consensus on climate change
Media often portrays climate debates between climate scientists and climate deniers as two equal sides of the argument. The reality is of course quite different with over 97 percent of active research scientists agreeing that human activities have influenced climate change. As such, for the sake of having a “balanced” argument, media pairs arguments of the significant climate majority with the minority 3 percent sceptics that share the same light.
Such a false portrayal of the climate change debate may be one of the many reasons of climate scepticism among the general public. A recent survey conducted by the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project revealed the US leading the ranks of having the highest proportion of public doubtful of man-made climate change in the West.
2. Climate change is a natural and normal phenomenon of the planetary cycle
The current phenomenon of climate change is a myriad of complex systems working together: the El Nino effect, variations in global wind systems, and the increased warming caused by excess levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; with the latter caused most exclusively by human activities.
In fact, in recognition of the fact that human activities have made such a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecological cycles, scientists have suggested naming the current geological period as the Anthropocene. This suggests that the human activities have left impacts and changes on the earth that are equivalent to those previously left by geological forces such as volcanic eruptions, floods and meteorite crashes.
3. The weather is going to get warmer with climate change
Studies have shown how members of the public associate hotter extreme events to climate change as opposed to colder weather phenomenon, based on the literal translation of global warming. While climate change will increase the overall temperature of the earth’s surface, not all impacts of this change will be represented through warmer summers, droughts and heatwaves.
Increased temperatures in the Arctic as a result of global warming, for instance, have been found to alter the patterns of the jet stream flow, a global set of wind patterns that influence our current weather patterns. As such, the weakening of these jet streams have been known to lead to more extreme and longer winters especially in the northern hemisphere.
And it’s not just the temperatures that are affected by global warming. Indirect effects of such rising average temperatures can lead to changes in the topography of the planet as already seen through melting ice sheets. The warming temperature of the planet also impacts oceans, causing them to expand and result in sea level rise. This is expected to result in the submergence of vulnerable coastal and island nations such as Bangladesh and the Maldives affecting both the entire nations and their neighbouring countries.
4. Individual actions don’t matter; it’s a problem for governments and businesses to solve
Consumer demand is necessary to push the climate agenda and send important messages to the retail and supplier markets. While it is important for large stakeholders in the supply chain to accelerate efforts towards climate change, there is so much that we, as individuals, can do to live sustainably and reduce our carbon footprint.
A recent example of the rise in individual actions can be seen through the global climate movement by school children entitled Fridays for Future, where students from across the world protest for their local governments to take climate change seriously. The battle against climate change is a collective one, that will require both institutions and individuals to change their attitudes and actions.
As individuals, let’s start this battle by reducing our carbon footprint by eating and purchasing sustainably, lowering our flight and vehicular emissions, and spreading awareness about climate change!