As gambles go, 97% odds are a no-brainer. Ninety-seven percent chance you’ll win Powerball? Who’d refuse that ticket? Ninety-seven percent chance this pill restores a full head of hair? Water, please. Ninety-seven percent chance the sun will shine? Pack the picnic basket.
Because 97% is a virtual guarantee. It’s also the percentage of climate scientists who think that the climate crisis is real and that burning fossil fuels is why. That, too, is a bet it’s crazy not to make. So why do 30% of all Americans still reject it?
Blame it on a recalcitrant collection of non-truths, selective fact-finding, and hearsay that says climate change is fiction and we’re all going to be just fine. Add to that the fact that climate data has been removed from government websites – on an order from the current presidential administration -- and slashing research budgets, and you’ve got a perfect storm of misinformed opinion. Let’s take the wind out of its sails:
- The Myth: There hasn’t been any warming since 1998. In fact, Earth is cooling!
- The Truth: We wish, but the 12 highest average global temperatures recorded since 1880 have occurred since 1998. 2016 was hotter than 2015, which was hotter than 2014, which was hotter than 2013, which was hotter than 2009, which was hotter than 1998. Now add the oceans, which have warmed at twice the rate of previous decades since 1992. See the trend?
- The Myth: It’s the sun’s fault.
- The Truth: Hold the sunscreen. Though sun spots and brightness can affect our planet’s thermostat, that activity has declined since 1960 while Earth’s temperature has risen dramatically. If the sun was causing any climate change, it would be global cooling.
- The Myth: Computer climate models are unreliable. They can’t predict warming’s effects.
- The Truth: Computer programs that predict our atmosphere’s behavior are no longer digital Ouija boards. When scientists enter in past data from earlier times, sophisticated General Circulation Models and other tools accurately “forecast” what actually happened under those prior conditions, which makes it reasonable to trust their future predictions.
- The Myth: Warming won’t be bad. Plants and animals (and humans!) will adapt.
- The Truth: Global warming won’t be pretty. And plants and animals won’t have time to adapt. Such evolutionary changes typically take millennia while drastic climate shifts will occur in just a century or two. Sudden rising seas, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, ocean acidification, agricultural disruptions, and extreme storms mean people will struggle, too.
- The Myth: What Warming? Glaciers are growing all over!
- The Truth: According to the World Glacier Monitoring Service, 20% of the world’s glaciers have grown in recent years. The other 80%? Not so much. For the last 30 years running, annual glacial ice averages have decreased. You can always cherry-pick a glacier or two that’s expanding. But they’re not representative.
- The Myth: Hurricanes and extreme weather aren't linked to global warming.
- The Truth: We can’t blame any one weather event on climate change. But the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are increasing . From 1966-2009, for example, there was an annual average of 11 north Atlantic tropical storms. From 2000-2013, the average rose to 16, and these storms were stronger, too.
- The Myth: “Climategate” emails prove a conspiracy to manufacture the crisis.
- The Truth: The controversy centered on just a few potentially suggestive, misrepresented emails taken out of context, and no fewer than six separate investigations cleared all parties involved of any malfeasance. Case closed.
- The Myth: How can climate change be real? It’s super cold outside.
- The Truth: A locally cold week or even season has nothing to do with long-term temperature trends. This confuses weather with climate—daily weather is subject to huge swings that make it a poor indicator of climate, which comes from adding up broad weather trends over decades. These trends say global warming is very real.
- The Myth: Petroleum extraction and use doesn’t hurt the environment.
- The Truth: Few things are more harmful once the costs are added up. Drilling for crude oil disrupts wildlife migration routes; causes air, water, and light pollution; and often results in oil spills both on land and offshore, even the smallest of which can be devastating. When burned for energy, petroleum produces vast amounts of pollution. A gallon of gasoline, for example, produces almost 20 lbs. of CO2 and toxins like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates. Petroleum can also be used to create products from plastics to the ingredients in some household detergents. At Seventh Generation, we believe sourcing ingredients for our cleaning products from plant-based rather than petroleum-based sources, is one way we can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
- The Myth: Placing limits on CO2 releases will irreparably harm the economy.
- The Truth: A renewable energy economy would go like gangbusters. We won’t lose money battling the effects of climate change. And the greater economic performance offered by sustainable energy will generate untold billions. Today, such investments generate about three times more economic activity than comparable fossil fuel investments.
Science is right: The fairytale here isn’t climate change. Hence our goal at Seventh Generation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in 2016 and obtain all our energy from renewables by 2020. It’s why we try and make as much of our packing from post-consumer recycled materials as possible and certify our products with the USDA Biopreferred® program to show how we choose ingredients from plant-based, rather than petroleum-based sources. Prove it. Because reducing dependence on petroleum is the future we want for our kids.
Building that clean, renewable future means fighting fictions wherever we find them. Seventh Generation fights for ingredient disclosure in cleaning proeucts because we belive the consumer as the right to know what’s in the products they use, and because we believe in the principle of Transparency. It’s no different when it comes to the truth about Climate Change – people have the right to know the real facts. Visit the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Climate Reality Project to learn more about how you can defend climate reality. Then put your own truth on a sign and bring it to the April 22nd March for Science. We’ll see you there and together we’ll stand up for the real story.
 http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024 and http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!