Cop26: Debunking the worst myths about climate change 8 months ago

Cop26: Debunking the worst myths about climate change

Recycling is a ploy, the Earth warming isn’t anything to worry about - and the impending ecological disaster is all China’s fault

When it comes to climate change myths, there are still far too many mistruths flying around - some of which have probably been shared by your embarrassing uncle on Facebook. 

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But the truth is that even though we’ve all had a tough 18 months dealing with the covid crisis - the biggest threat facing all of us now, and in the future, is climate change. 

Ahead of the COP26 UN conference which opens in Glasgow on October 31 - we’re debunking some of the worst myths and sorting the rubbish from the actual facts.

Myth 1: “The Earth’s climate changes all the time”

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The temperature on Earth has always fluctuated (Photo: Getty)

What the deniers say: Earth’s warming is part of a recurring natural cycle. Look back millions of years and you’ll find the sun warmed and CO2 levels changed. So relax, our planet’s just doing its thing - it’ll probably decide it’s too hot and start going cold next. Like last week’s Tinder date...

What the science says: Yes, the Earth goes through cycles which cause variations in our climate. This is due to changes in the sun’s heat, for instance. But what we’re experiencing now is seriously NOT this. The IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concluded in 2016 that it is 90% likely humans are causing the current shifts in the Earth’s climate.

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Plus, research published in the Nature Geoscience journal found that recent global temperature anomalies are definitely a byproduct of climate change. “There will be more days in summer that are noticeably hotter or colder than the new average as temperatures vary more,” a professor from the research study says. 

So again. It’s definitely happening. It’s definitely caused by us.

Myth 2: “Until China cleans up its act there’s no point us doing anything”

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Brits are hardly heroes of recycling either (Photo: Getty)

What the deniers say: China is the world’s biggest polluter of C02, producing more than 30% of all global emissions. What’s the point in us doing anything when they’re on such a destructive path? It's president, Xi Jinping isn't even attending COP26 in person.

What the science says: The UK has hardly nailed the art of eco-friendliness. So it’s definitely not all somebody else’s fault, as convenient as that might feel. Here, recycling is often not recycled but burned by incinerators. A whopping 82 per cent of household waste, including recycling, was incinerated in 2017/2018 in Westminster, according to The Guardian. 

So we’re far from innocent. The UK is directly responsible for climate change and we must lobby those with power to do more.

Myth 3: “Climate change is just a money-making scheme”

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What the deniers say: People will exploit anything to make money and this is exactly what’s happening with climate change. Award-winning journalist, McKenzie Funk, revealed the people cashing in on the climate disaster in his book, Windfall. He writes about a Dutch company that is preparing to sell floating cities to territories that will soon be underwater, and banks buying farmland worldwide in preparation of droughts.  

The absolute cheek.

What the science says: It’s true that there are people cashing in on climate change. “Adaptation isn't necessarily going to be a let's-all-work-together thing,” Funk told US news publication Vox. However, not to bang on about it, but the scientific facts, including the latest IPCC report, tell us climate change is a very real threat, not just a cynical financial ploy.

Some rich people with too much money might be profiteering from other people’s misery, but don’t let that distract you from the cause we should all care about: Saving.The.Planet.

Myth 4: “My individual actions make no difference” 

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 15: Schoolchildren take part in a nation-wide student climate march in George Square on February 15, 2019 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.Thousands of UK pupils from schools, colleges and universities will walk out today for a nationwide climate change strike. Students in 60 cities from the West Country to Scotland are protesting, urging the government to declare a climate emergency and take action over the problem. They are keen that the national curriculum is reformed and the environmental crisis is communicated to the public. Similar strikes have taken place in Australia and in European countries such as Belgium and Sweden. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) Only 3.5 per cent of the population need to get involved to make change (Photo: Getty)

What the deniers say: The corporate machine has all the power, what do you expect me to do? Change the world from my sofa? Jog on, mate...

What the science says: It’s true that corporations are the bad guys when it comes to climate change. In 2019, the Guardian revealed the 20 companies responsible for a third of all carbon emissions, and the 2017 Carbon Majors Report found that 71% of global emissions come from just 100 countries. Also, more than 96% of BP’s annual spend was on oil and gas between 2014 - 2018, according to calculations by the environmental charity ClientEarth

It might seem helpless - but there really is stuff we can all do.

Recycling and switching to more sustainable cars and energy resources definitely helps. Plus, the whole ‘we’re doomed’ vibe is not a great attitude to spread if we’re trying to convince more people to be conscious. Harvard University analysis revealed that no government can withstand a non-violent protest without accommodating the movement in some way if as little as 3.5 per cent of the population get involved. 

People power will prevail. Stats prove it. 

Myth 5: “Doing Veganuary means I’m off the hook”

A vegan badass (Photo: Getty)

What the deniers say: Stop eating meat and you’ll be an Earth-saving legend. Animal agriculture has caused 91 per cent of the deforestation in the Amazon since the 1970s, and the rainforest is literally being cut down to make room for cows to stand around farting methane. That’s the cause of climate change. Obvs. 

What the science says: It’s true that animal products are a huge problem for the environment - but it’s a mistake to assume vegan food is eco-friendly. Staple vegan and vegetarian foodstuffs like avocados and almond butter often carry high environmental costs. “It’s essential to be mindful about everything we consume: air-transported fruit and veg can create more greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram than poultry meat, for example," Joseph Poore, a researcher at the University of Oxford, who studies food and environmentalism, told the BBC

Start checking where your food comes from and buy locally where you can. It’s pretty extra to expect your dinner to fly thousands of miles when there are trustworthy spuds right here at home.

Myth 6: “Sustainable means sustainable”

Deep-sea trawlers hauling in large catches are costing the Earth (Photo: iStock)

What the deniers say: You can totally chill about the eco-footprint of your food when it says sustainable on it. For instance, tinned fish saying ‘dolphin safe’ on it implies no dolphins or other sea life were caught in the fishing nets along with the tuna. 

What the science says: The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts that one-in-three fish caught internationally never makes it to the plate, either because it’s thrown overboard or rots before it’s able to be eaten. Grim. It’s a topic Netflix documentary SeaSpiracy dived into when they interviewed the man behind the ‘dolphin safe’ brand which goes on tuna tins. He says he absolutely can’t guarantee no dolphins were caught in his fishing nets. (Seriously, we shit you not.) It’s basically impossible to police the ocean trawlers, for obvious logistical reasons linked to the epic size of them. 

But wasted catch isn’t just a waste: the sea provides 50 per cent of Earth’s oxygen, so ocean biodiversity taking a turn for the worst means… we do too. 

It’s time to be vigilant and think twice about the messages you’re being told on packaging. If a claim sounds too good to be true, it’s time to do some research. Check the credentials of a product before buying it.

If we all make these small changes, we can do our bit to help out. And next time a friend or family member starts spouting rubbish about the environment you can set them straight with some serious science. You're welcome.

Related links:

What the hell is COP 26 and will it actually change anything?

The 10 most burning climate questions COP 26 must address

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