Here are five common refrains you'll hear from climate naysayers... and why they're dead wrong.
Myth #1: It's only a few degrees
What the naysayers claim: “A few degrees of extra warming? How bad could that be? We shouldn’t bother with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
The reality: Even a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius will disrupt our lives and threaten our economies.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
The world has warmed about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880 (that's 0.8 degrees Celsius). That may not sound like much, but only a few degrees is all that has separated us from the unfavorably cold global conditions that the Earth experienced during the last ice age thousands of years ago. Now that we’re changing things in the opposite direction, we’re already starting to see what a warmer world could have in store for us, For example, California’s record drought, which is consistent with scientific studies showing increasingly drier and hotter conditions in the American Southwest, has cost the state’s agricultural sector about $1.5 billion and up to 17,100 jobs. And as the saying goes, “No farms, no food.” Struggling farmers have already begun adapting by switching production away from water-intensive crops like oranges and almonds, which means more costly and less available produce for the rest of us.
Around the world, intense rainstorms, severe droughts and heat waves are becoming more frequent. Rising seas are damaging homes near the water. Some populations of animals are starting to die out. And that’s just 1.5 degrees!
Now consider what could happen if we do nothing to limit the pollution that’s causing global warming. The best available estimates say the Earth will warm another 3 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 (roughly 2 to 4 degrees Celsius). In other words, the more we pollute, the worse things will get.
Myth 2: It’s freaking cold today
What they say: “Did you hear about the record cold snap? It’s not even warm out, so let’s not waste time and resources on climate change.”
Reality: Even with climate change, it still gets cold sometimes. But hot days are happening more often, and the consequences are serious.
Since 1950, hot days have become more common and cold days have become less common around the world. In the U.S., we’re seeing record-high temperatures set more than twice as often as record-cold temperatures. But the bottom line is this: “Less cold” never means “never cold.” Cold days will happen less often as the world warms, but they won’t go away.
What naysayers claim: “Cutting carbon emissions will cut growth, cut the GDP and destroy our modern civilization.”
Reality: The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change.
If we don't do anything about climate change, we’ll have serious economic problems on our hands. Top economist, Nicolas Stern, estimated that each ton of carbon pollution we put in the air costs society at least $85. Seeing as humans put about 35 billion tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere every year, the math is pretty simple—and it doesn’t look good.
Here's the good news: A shift to a low-carbon economy could add $2.5 trillion to the world economy annually. A recent study showed that in Australia, the solar industry was creating jobs while at the same time reducing electricity costs.
The world is already making the transition. That's why we need to stop with all the arguing, and start pressuring world leaders to make strong commitments to reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions.. The momentum’s already building—we just need to act before it’s too late.
Myth 4: It’s too late
What they say: "Even if we stopped burning coal and oil today, the world would continue to warm. It’s too late to do anything about it. Why bother?"
Reality: Climate change is already happening today. How much the climate warms in the future is up to us.
We’re already feeling the effects of climate change. But that’s precisely why we need to both prepare for the climate change impacts we can’t avoid and act quickly to curb the carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases that are causing the problem in the first place. It’s not an “either/or” decision—we need to do both. The longer we wait to make the transition to clean energy, the worse this problem will get for our children and future generations. It’s our choice.
If you’re a young adult today, this is a choice with real consequences for your future. Challenge world leaders to act at AskWhyWhyNot.org.
What they say: “Shifting over to clean energy would require changing our way of life and shutting down our economy, and it wouldn’t even solve the problem.”
Reality: Is it too hard to go to the moon, eradicate smallpox or end apartheid? Is it too hard to build a computer that fits in your pocket? No? Then it's not too hard to build a clean-energy future, either.
When was the last time we accepted “It’s too hard” as an excuse? Is that what they said in the U.S. when President John Kennedy wanted to go to the moon? Is that what they said before the Iron Curtain fell in Eastern Europe? Or before smallpox was eradicated from the face of the earth?
In just the same way, we can’t accept “it’s too hard” as a reason not to tackle the climate crisis. And the fact is, the solutions are here, right in front of our eyes. Between 2007—2012, electricity generation from both wind and solar grew by over 300 percent in the U.S, and are set to continue growing rapidly over the next two decades. China is already the world’s biggest investor in low-carbon energy, already has the most renewable energy installed capacity in the world and is expected to invest an additional $294 billion through 2015, to counter climate change. Further, the country recently announced it will ban coal use in the dense, smoggy capital of Beijing by 2020.
The transition to clean energy won’t happen overnight, but it will happen sooner than we think.
If you’re in the U.S., you can help accelerate this transition, right here in America the Beautiful. Send the U.S. EPA a message to show your support for its Clean Power Plan.
Look, there will always be naysayers. But we can’t let them force the rest of us to give up hope. Doing so would prevent the entire world from making progress.
We’re on the right track, and if we act soon, we can still achieve a sustainable future where our prosperity is powered by clean energy.
What we do today matters more than ever, so it’s your choice: will you give up on solving the most pressing issue of our time? Or will you help us create a better tomorrow for generations to come.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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