1. "CO2 is not a pollutant. It’s a GREEN gas which plants, crops and trees need to grow."
This is true, but in the context of climate change, this is misinformed.
Yes, plants need carbon dioxide (CO2) for photosynthesis as humans need oxygen for respiration. In fact, the world’s forests store and cycle huge amounts of carbon. However, there’s a limit to the amount that they can be stored in any given woodland area, and with deforestation increasing this limit is getting lower. CO2 itself does not cause problems; it is part of the natural global ecosystem. The problem is caused by the quantity being released by human activity: there hasn’t been this level of CO2 in the atmosphere for 800,000 years.
Our carbon emissions are contributing to the greenhouse effect – trapping heat and making the Earth warmer.
2. "Climate change has been here AT LEAST 5 million years, you fools!"
In its basic sense, this statement is true (except for the last part, which they must obviously be mistaken about!) The Earth’s climate does go through natural cycles of warming and cooling. Our current warming being experienced is completely out of sync with previous cycles – it is so much higher!
However – and it’s a big, however – when people talk about climate change today they mean anthropogenic (man-made) climate change, this is how the Earth’s average temperature is warming because of human activities such as burning coal, oil and gas for energy and cutting down trees to make way for agriculture. Climate change is currently happening to an extent that cannot 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… you fools!
3. "A few degrees don’t matter."
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. Yet those few degrees have made a drastic difference: parts of Britain were under a mile of ice, and sea levels were about 100 metres lower than they currently are.
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.
We’ve seen just over 1°C over the last century and we’re seeing real effects and impacts of climate change on nature and people all over the world – most recently, in the UK, in extreme weather, both very cold and very hot. 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 products we manufacture and the food we eat.
4. "Polar bears have increased their numbers. They have obviously benefitted from climate change."
This is not true. Climate change is the most serious threat faced by the planet’s biggest land-based carnivores. The Arctic is warming roughly twice as fast as the global average, and the 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. In parts of the Arctic, bears are struggling without food for longer than previously. This fasting dramatically reduces their body weight, which in turn reduces their chance of surviving 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. Polar bears are considered 'vulnerable' in the IUCN red list of threatened species, with between 22,000 and 31,000 remaining in the wild. And their numbers are predicted to decline by 30% by the middle of this century. As the top predator in the Arctic food chain, it is vital to protect these creatures to ensure that the ecosystem remains balanced.
5. "Wind farms and solar are expensive and inefficient. Nuclear, coal and oil are the only realistic way to provide for our energy needs."
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, onshore wind costs about the same as gas, and offshore wind is now cheaper than nuclear and close to challenging gas too. The costs of renewables have fallen faster than anyone (including our optimistic climate team!) could have predicted.
There are many misconceptions surrounding this issue; a recent survey found that many people think nuclear power is a cheap source of energy, when in fact it's the most expensive of the currently available forms. Onshore wind is actually the UK’s cheapest power source.
Pairing renewable energy with improved technology is actually proving to be very good for your bank account! 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 is that we will use 100% renewable energy to provide our energy needs within a generation.
6. "I thought a warmer climate brought less nasty weather."
Global warming will mean nicer weather in the UK, more Indian summers and less of our British drizzle... right?
You might be forgiven for believing so, with this still being a very common myth about climate change. The truth is far more complicated than that – and it bodes less well for your holiday plans. The rise in global temperatures that we're experiencing is caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions and affects weather patterns and ecosystems in complex ways, making storms, floods, droughts and other extreme events more likely.
Global warming means more extreme, erratic, unpredictable weather.
For the UK, we could see less seasonal weather, with colder winters, more intense heatwaves that last longer and wetter more intense summers. Met Office data shows that climate change makes disasters like Storm Desmond seven times more likely in the UK. We’ve seen evidence in 2018 already in Europe with the ‘beast from the east’ extreme cold-snap earlier this year, and right around the northern hemisphere this summer, with a heatwave that broke temperature records all over the place.
7. "Why is the WWF talking about Climate Change?"
Many people ask us why WWF is so involved in tackling climate change. Shouldn’t we just stick to saving wildlife, like tigers and pandas?
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. Those species are the ones we’re perhaps most familiar with – penguins and polar bears, for example. But it’s true of species we see here in the UK, too. Puffins are threatened by climate change, as their prey migrate to colder waters and it becomes harder for them to source enough food to raise their chicks. It’s a similar story for lots of UK seabirds, and this is partly why their numbers have plummeted in recent years.
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. If we solved every other threat to wildlife but ignored climate change, we’d have wasted our time tackling those other threats!
8. "Everything is affected by climate change, but things adapt!"
This one isn't a myth, Darwin got the adaptation part right. But let’s clarify the wording: everything is affected by climate change, and some things 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 increasingly it's a different story for many. With the speed of climate change we are experiencing already, it’s becoming impossible for many species to adapt quickly enough to keep up with their changing environment. And, as habitats are destroyed by roads, cities and dams, moving becomes increasingly difficult. If you can’t adapt quickly enough, and you can’t move – then you die.
9. "Global warming was made up as a way to make money."
Climate change has been verified by almost every nation-state today in some form; if it was a conspiracy by one group, then why is everyone standing behind it? Because the science is easily attainable and verified – and supported by 97% of climate scientists, with the rest having no single, coherent and verified an alternative theory. You can check the data and the science right now if you want to.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time, and it's our responsibility to tackle it urgently. The time has gone for us to pass this problem onto the next generation; we must face up to this now.
10. The only way this planet will survive is us humans getting wiped out.
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!