Climate myths and misconceptions
Mar 20, 2021
Several months ago I participated in a public outdoor event with Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action. At some point in the afternoon, a gentleman walking his very lovely dog through the area stopped by our display and confronted me with a rapid-fire barrage of questions about climate change.
The talking points he presented were hardly new to me, but I had a difficult time responding to them in the heat of the moment.
For some time I’ve wanted to offer this gentleman a more well-crafted reply than the one I managed to eke out on the spot. A lot of his arguments are actually pretty common mainstays among climate skeptics, and I thought it might be beneficial to readers to explore a few of them in detail.
The first argument this gentleman offered was that we shouldn’t be too worried about climate change because Earth’s climate is always changing.
It is absolutely true that our planet experiences natural cycles of cooling and heating. However, these natural cycles span over hundreds of thousands of years, whereas the changes we now see are taking place over mere decades, and correspond directly to the release of greenhouse gases by human industry.
He also mentioned the idea that Earth’s position in its orbital cycle (a.k.a., its Milankovitch cycle) is an explanation for why our planet is heating. But again, this possibility has been thoroughly debunked by climate scientists, with the primary onus placed once again on human activity.
Now, I do have to give him some credit for his next point, which was Al Gore’s statement in 2009 that the North Pole would likely be free of ice by 2013, a prediction which clearly hasn’t come to fruition.
The former Vice President did actually say this, and he was absolutely wrong about it. That said, Al Gore is by no means a scientist. Whatever impact his advocacy work has had on our response to the climate crisis, he nevertheless remains a flawed and fallible spokesperson. In this case, it appears as though he inadvertently misrepresented a piece of information once presented to him by an actual climate scientist, and simply got his numbers confused.
On the other hand, Earth has lost over 28 trillion tons (or 62,000,000,000,000,000 pounds) of ice since 1994, so we clearly do have significant cause for concern.
From here, I have to admit that the case this gentleman was making began to get very spacey, and I mean that quite literally.
He went on to argue that if climate change is in fact happening, we can surely depend on technology to save us. This is a fairly common argument, if one loaded with quite a bit of uncertainty. But from here, it quickly turned into an endorsement of grandiose scifi concepts like space colonization and mining other planets for resources, and finally the argument that the sun will burn out eventually (in about 5 billion years), so there’s really no point in worrying about relatively short-term issues like climate change.
It’s truly incredible to me the lengths that we’ll go to avoid confronting the truth about the climate crisis. We shouldn’t be reduced to a hope of cultivating life on dead planets when we can’t even maintain it on our own- an idea which some very powerful people in the world nevertheless pursue with a straight face. Nor should we be throwing up our hands in nihilistic surrender.
Our planet is as unique as it is fragile, and we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to preserve it while we still can.
Aaron Dunbar is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.