Shout out to the Climate Sceptics

We all know them. That one guy at the office who thinks it’s all a conspiracy. The uncle who thinks it is something hippies came up with to bug him. The acquaintance who insists that we can’t do anything about it anyway. And even the well educated roommate who refuses to listen to scientific evidence.

Even though, according to NASA, 97% of scientists agree that the human population has had a hand in climate warming activities over the past century. Even though the United Nations recognises climate change to be the most important environmental problem facing the globe. Even though the World Trade Organisation has incorporated committees working solely with climate change into its main operations. Even despite all these facts, some people still do not believe that climate change exists or is caused by human actions.

You know, I can understand if you’re heavily invested in the fossil fuels industry. If you’re a Saudi Prince, if you’ve spent your entire life researching how to mine coal in the most cost efficient way possible, if you just happen to have bought a few billion barrels of oil. I can understand that you’d be a bit miffed, that you’d try to fight for what you hold dear. Not that I wouldn’t still try to stop you, but I’d understand. What I don’t understand is why normal people feel the need to stand on their soap box and pretend to be smarter than the vast, vast majority of humans on the globe who want to ensure that all future generations have a planet to enjoy (and that’s not even counting the opinions of dolphins or mice).

Here are a few rebuffs for those folks, taken from these guys here, who have a very detailed argument-for-argument rebuttal section.

 

1. Oh, but some places are actually getting colder! Then it is not global warming, ha!

Well, when we talk about global warming, we talk about an overall long run increase in global temperatures. During this process, the weather in different areas changes drastically – some Northern places may suddenly not get access to the gulf stream, thus making temperatures colder. Some places may suddenly get flooded. Climate change is a more accurate way of describing the phenomenon, but there is no denying the rise in overall temperatures on the planet.

 

2. Alright, well it has all happened before! Greenland was once green, we have had really warm periods before, think about the temperature change between ice ages! That’s nothing compared to now.

Well, actually, the Vikings were a bit stupid – or attempting an early marketing ploy. They told everyone that their newly captured land was nice and green, so that people would be encouraged to settle there. In fact, it wasn’t all that great – and the ice caps covering 80% of Greenland’s surface clearly show signs of having been around for a while (read: hundreds of thousands of years).

Yes, there have been warm periods, yes, there have been ice ages, but if you look at the trends, the earth should actually be cooling at the moment, something that it is in fact not doing at all.

 

3. Well, who says CO2 has anything to do with that rise, really? The sun is changing and going through stages too!

Well, a lot of evidence most certainly points in that direction. Sophisticated models have proven the link between rising temperatures and CO2, and no, we cannot accurately predict everything. Prediction is not an accurate science. But when a lot of evidence points in that direction, would it then not be wise to listen to it?

 

And no, the sun did not cause the increase in global warmth. No significant increase in solar radiation has been observed since the 1940ies. This does not explain the increase in global warming after that decade. This chart shows climate change attributed to the sun, the ozone, volcanic activity and greenhouse gases respectively. Here is also an interesting discussion on water vapour and how climate sceptics use it as an argument against conclusions of climate change.

 

4. Fine, it’s happening, but it has nothing to do with humans! What we emit is nothing in the big picture.

Yes, it is true that nature emits carbon too. But nature also takes carbon away. We may not produce that much carbon and other greenhouse gases in the big picture, but we have destroyed the balance between emitting and taking away.

So if you only look at numbers, then yes – it doesn’t look like that much – but it is significantly more than what the earth can absorb. We are severely disrupting the natural balance of the planet, not only through what we emit but through deforestation and actively destroying the planet’s ability to compensate for the CO2 emitted. So really, we are destroying both sides of the equation. Added to that argument, carbon trends (even in the most volcanic areas) are steadily rising, and not showing any signs of spiking after volcanic eruptions.

 

5. No matter what you say, there’s nothing we can do about it. Mitigating climate change could lead to an economic disaster for the planet, and besides, you and I can’t control what India, China and the US are doing.

Let’s leave aside for a minute the fact that hunger, loss of costal cities, extinction of species, drying waterways, melting polar caps, flooding and other consequences don’t exactly sound like fun. If we did consider this dreary scenario, we could ask “can we really afford not to?”. But let’s stick to pure economics for a bit.

Any economics textbook for beginners would tell you that economic conflict arises because human wants are infinite but resources are scarce. The science of economics therefore works with ways to optimise scarce resources and get the most out of our planet. Alright, so not using fossil fuels would destroy our current economic system of consume and throw away? Let’s again leave aside the fact that the consumerist product cycle is unsustainable in itself. Oil, Coal and all the other resources that we are taking out of the ground are finite resources. They are not always going to be there. Will it cause problems in our societies to change to sustainable power sources and a system based on recycling? Some people would certainly have to change positions, some industries would most definitely lose a lot of money and their livelihood, no doubt about that. But what will these people do when the finite resources run out anyway? Switching early prevents the same economic disaster from happening in the future.

And no, there is no way for you and I to control what the governments of large nations are doing. But if we keep silent on climate change, if we keep pretending like it doesn’t exist, if we keep letting our uncles and acquaintances lull us into the assurance that it is all a hoax and our descendants and future generations will take care of it with new fancy innovations, then we certainly will not make a difference at all. Only if we, the global masses who want the best for our planet, stand together and ask for change, only then will it happen.

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