10 weird climate change myths
Nobody's claiming that climate change is simple, but there's a lot of wrong information out there. Here are 10 of the oddest things people have told us about climate change this year.
This is still a very common myth about climate change. Global warming will mean nicer weather in the UK, more Indian summers and less of our British drizzle... right?
In reality it's more complicated than that – and probably less positive too. The rise in global temperatures that we're experiencing (caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions) affects weather patterns and ecosystems in complex ways, often making storms, floods, droughts and other extreme events more likely.
Global warming doesn't mean that we'll all experience warmer weather.
For the UK, it will probably mean more extreme rainfall events. We could also see less seasonal weather, with warmer winters and wetter summers.
According to the Met Office climate change makes disasters like Storm Desmond seven times more likely in the UK.
In its basic sense this statement is true (except the last part, which is a bit rude). The Earth’s climate goes through natural cycles of warming and cooling.
However – and it’s a big however – when people talk about climate change today they mean anthropogenic (man-made) climate change, i.e. the Earth’s average temperature warming because of humans.
Climate change is happening to an extent that can't be explained by natural factors alone.
Global temperatures have been rising for over a century, accelerating in the past 30 years, and are now the highest since records began. The global scientific community widely agrees that the warming we are experiencing is man-made.
During the last ice age, which ended 12,000 years ago, the world's average temperature was only 4-5°C cooler than it is today. Those few degrees made a drastic difference: parts of Britain were under a mile of ice, and sea levels were about 100 metres lower than they are now.
Just a few degrees can have very dramatic effects, and what's happening now is at a far greater rate than we've ever seen. More importantly, we know that it's largely caused by human activity.
To avoid the worst impacts, we need to keep the already unavoidable rise to 1.5°C. We can do that by cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the energy we produce, the buildings we live in, the way we travel, the stuff we manufacture and the food we eat.
Polar bears are considered 'vulnerable' in the IUCN red list of threatened species, with between 22,000 and 31,000 remaining in the wild.
Climate change is the most serious threat they face. The Arctic is warming roughly twice as fast as the global average, and sea ice is melting earlier and forming later each year. This makes it more difficult for females to get onto land in late autumn to make their dens, and onto the sea ice in spring to feed. It means bears are fasting for longer in parts of the Arctic, dramatically reducing their body weight and making it harder for them to survive the summer season.
Loss of sea ice also threatens polar bears' main prey, seals, which depend on sea ice to raise their young and rest.
It's a commonly-held belief that renewable energy is expensive, but solar power has been the cheapest form of energy generation (per unit of energy generated) for a long time. Some great news over the past decade is that the costs of renewables has fallen faster than anyone (including our optimistic climate team!) could have predicted.
A recent survey found that many people think nuclear is a cheap source of energy, when in fact it's the most expensive.
The cheapest "green" measure of all is energy efficiency. Technology like double glazing and loft insulation may not sound glamorous, but it reduces our bills and helps save the planet at the same time.
WWF's vision (backed up by a whole load of technical analysis) is that we need to – and can – have 100% renewable energy within a generation.
Many people ask us why WWF is so involved in tackling climate change. Don't we just stick to saving wildlife, like tigers and pandas?
At WWF our job is to improve the relationship between people and the natural world. Right now climate change is putting pressure on both, and it affects all the work we do.
Here's the stark truth: one in six species is at risk of extinction because of climate change if we don't get things under control.
This one isn't a myth. It's true that everything is affected by climate change, and it's true that some things can adapt.
To survive, plants, animals and birds confronted with climate change have two options: move or adapt. There are several examples of species that have begun to adapt to climate change already.
But it's a different story for many. With the speed of climate change we are experiencing already, it’s often not possible for a species to adapt quickly enough to keep up with its changing environment. And, as habitats are destroyed by roads, cities and dams, moving becomes increasingly difficult.
True! But in the context of a debate on climate change this is misinformed.
Yes, plants need CO2, as humans need oxygen. In fact, the world’s forests store and cycle huge amounts of carbon. However, there’s a limit to the amount that they can absorb, and with deforestation increasing this limit is getting lower. It’s not the nature of CO2 that causes problems; it’s the quantity.
Our carbon emissions are contributing to the greenhouse effect – trapping heat and making the Earth warmer.
The scientific evidence that climate change is a real, present threat is overwhelming. It's not a government conspiracy; it's not a money-making scheme.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time, and it's our responsibility to tackle it now.
This, we firmly believe, is wrong. It’s easy to start feeling that we've gone too far already, and that the best thing for our planet would be the extinction of the human race.
It's WWF's mission to build a world where people and nature thrive together. The technology and systems we need to move to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and use our planet's resources sustainably are already available.
Humans and wildlife can benefit each other. We can learn to live in harmony with the natural world.
Let's do it!
Climate change is complicated. We know that. That’s why we’re making as much noise about it as possible. Discover more about how and why we're tackling climate change.
Images not credited above:
Penguin © naturepl.com / Bryan and Cherry Alexander / WWF
Earth from space © NASA
Polar bear © naturepl.com / Andy Rouse / WWF
Tree roots © Wim van Passel / WWF
Panda © naturepl.com / Edwin Giesbers / WWF
Turtle hatchling © naturepl.com / Solvin Zanki / WWF