Saturday, August 15, 2020

Global Warming- Top 5 Myths and Facts

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We have all heard it- the ice caps are melting, glaciers are shelving, sea levels are rising, polar bears are dying, there’s more storms, droughts, heatwaves, floods, and other extreme weather conditions than ever before—the reason behind them all pins down to one heatedly debated subject, nay science- global warming.

While we may hear all about climate change and the carbon footprint, we shrug it off because it doesn’t have a direct impact on us. Moreover, when leaders of the biggest economies in the world are publicly stating that climate change isn’t real, what have we got too worried about?

Well, climate change is genuine. And it’s more fast approaching than you think.

What is Global Warming and Climate Change?

Global warming refers to the rise in average temperature levels on Earth. It is one of the most vital phenomena behind climate change. It is causing drastic effects on our weather, climate, health, food, and wildlife. And the more we ignore it; the faster doomsday might approach.

Global Warming
Image Source: Blogspot

How is Global Warming Caused?

There are many gases in the atmosphere. Most commonly, the gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, among others. These gases allow the heat and light from the sun to come in but entrap some of it before letting it escape. The burning of fossil fuels, which usually comprise of coal and oil, causes an excess release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which leads to further trapping of heat. This makes the planet hotter, raising the average temperature, and creates a greenhouse effect. And that causes global warming.

While there are blatant changes on our planet caused due to global warming, there is still much debate about whether it is real or not. Misconception and misinformation are the root causes of the belief that climate change is a hoax and is caused deliberately by big players in the coal and fossil fuel markets. The reason behind the cause of global warming are humans, and the sooner we realize it, the sooner we can tackle the problem.

 

CO2 emissions
Malcolm Lightbody

            The Top Myths about Global Warming,

             Along With Facts That Debunk Them:

1.Myth- Earth Had Witnessed Climate Changes Even Before Humans Arrived; It’s All A Part Of A Natural Cycle

Fact-  Earth Has Been Significantly Hotter Since The Industrial Revolution

This myth is a statement that requires context. Now, there are natural variations caused in the climate, whether we interfere with it or not. That means that extreme weather conditions and a sudden shift in climate and temperatures have been happening since the beginning of time when humans weren’t around. Take the continental drift or the ice age, for instance. These couldn’t have been the result of factories and industries, yet they still happened. Doesn’t that indicate that the Earth might be warming because of natural factors and not humans?

Well, no.

The world witnessed an industrial revolution, which hit all countries between the 1750s to 1850s. Machinery, factories, plants, and industries were set up extensively. Pollution was a problem in the future. Before the industrial revolution happened, Earth was moving in a cycle of predictable cooling. However, significant warming started after factories emitting smoke became common to practice. (Source) 

In this century, we have seen more droughts, floods, and hurricanes than ever before. Heatwaves and extensive pollution have become prevalent. Besides carbon dioxide, the emission of other heat-trapping gases such as methane and nitrous oxide has also increased. Here is a graph, showing clearly the increase in carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution:

Increase in CO2 levels graph
Image Source: PRESSENZA

Climate change has always been there, but civilization hasn’t. Right now, we are the cause of the emission of greenhouse gases due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and the rise in the number of industries. Fifty billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted every single year.

Interestingly enough, this belief has a name. It is called Single Cause Fallacy, which makes people believe that there can only be one cause of a phenomenon while excluding external factors. The external factor and the root cause of the current climate change are that civilizations have evolved to a much larger degree than before, meaning that the global warming today is anthropogenic, and not a result of natural factors. Click here to learn more about this.

2.Myth- Sun is Responsible For Global Warming

Fact- Scientists Have Established That The Sun Has Nothing To Do With Global Warming

The sun has seen no changes since 1950. On the other hand, global warming and its effects have made significant strides since then. To make this more clear, here is a graph that shows the trends of change in temperature vs. solar activity. While solar activity has its usual rises and falls, the temperature has risen significantly.

Temperature Vs Global Activity Graph
Image Source: Skeptical Science

Another evidence that points to this is the fact that the top layer of the atmosphere, the stratosphere (above the troposphere) is much cooler than the lower layer of the atmosphere. Had the sun been responsible for warming the Earth, all the layers of the atmosphere would have gotten hotter. But since the stratosphere is not hot, that indicates that the greenhouse gases are not letting heat escape and thus keeping the lower layer warmer.

While the sun can affect the Earth’s climate, it is not possible to do so to such a large extent. Click here to see how Climate NASA debunked this myth.

3.Myth- Plants Will Grow Faster With More Carbon Dioxide, Resulting in Global Greening

Fact- Excess Carbon Dioxide Can Be Harmful To Plants

Many people argue that more carbon dioxide means more rapid photosynthesis, thus increasing the number of plants and green surfaces. This is called Global Greening, and people assume that it would be the result of global warming, thus making climate change good for our planet.

This myth holds only partial truth to it. While it is the truth that more carbon dioxide is directly proportional to a faster photosynthesis process, especially when left alone in a lab and projected to a certain level of carbon dioxide, the real world has external forces. A plan requires water, nutrients, and sunshine, too, all of them in the right ratio. An increase in carbon dioxide without a corresponding increase in other components can deteriorate the plant’s growth.

Rotten leaf
Lachlan Gowen

A study found that more CO2 results in plants losing their defense pathways, meaning that insects live on its surface longer and multiply faster. This happens because the presence of carbon dioxide leads to the plant not being able to produce jasmonic acid easily. As a result, their defense pathways don’t act as effectively as before. More carbon dioxide also means that weed grows faster, deteriorating the quality of plants.

Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also leads to extreme weather conditions like drought, which means that soil loses its natural moisture. More heat due to heat waves contribute to poor plant health. According to climate NASA, the carbon dioxide levels in the air today are higher than in the last 400,000 years.

4.Myth- Many Scientists Have Claimed that Global Warming Is Not Real

Fact-  97% of Climate Experts Agree That Global Warming Is A Real Threat

Here is a graph showing a direct relationship between the expertise of scientists in climate science and their agreement on global warming:

Expertise in climate science graph
Image Source: The Conversation

This myth is misguided, all because of the 2001 Oregon Petition signed by 31,000 “scientists.” The petition was signed to convince the U.S Government to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, a treaty that required countries to bring about a reduction in greenhouse gases. The petition claimed that there is no substantial scientific proof that indicates an increase in greenhouse gases is harmful to the planet or would lead to warming. Moreover, it argued that an increase in carbon dioxide is beneficial for the environment in the long run.

Since there were over 31,000  signatures in the Oregon Petition, many “Global Warming Sceptics” use it to conclude that global warming is not real, much less a threat.

Kyoto Protocol Logo
Image Source: simple.wikipedia

The genuineness of the signatories has been questioned since it was signed in 2001, and all for a good reason. The signatories’ credentials were not specified clearly, and very few of them were experts on climate science. Many fake names were also found in the list, which had fictional names from Star Wars and Spice Girls, along with some prank names, which made no sense. Some entries were also found to be duplicated. The criteria to sign the petition was also unclear, with many claiming that only a Bachelor’s degree in any field of science was required to sign it.

The falseness of some names and the ambiguity of credentials makes this petition unsubstantial proof with no backing. It cannot be used to justify that global warming isn’t real.

Seven experts who published notable climate science consensuses co-authored a paper in which they calculated how many experts actually agree on global warming. One of the authors was John Cook, a research professor studying climate change, who also runs skeptical science. This website works on increasing awareness and debunking myths about global warming. The consensus found that between 90-100% of experts agreed that humans are the cause of global warming. And the more educated and higher in the field of climate science they were, the more they decided. (Source)

You can watch this video to get more context about this fact:

 

4.Myth- Volcanoes Produce More Carbon Dioxide Than People Do

Fact- Human Activities Produce 60 Times The CO2 Emissions of Volcanoes

The world has seen many deadly volcanic eruptions. However, while they may harm the climate for a few hours, humans are producing greenhouse gases on a large scale every day. For starters, the volcanic activity and eruptions now aren’t the same as they used to be thousands of years ago. Now, they are less dangerous and eruptive.

The USGS (U.S Geological Survey) claimed anthropogenic (human-caused) carbon dioxide is far deadlier than volcanic eruptions, mainly because of its ongoing effect. Humans generate around 60 times the carbon dioxide volcanoes create every year.

Deadly volcanic eruptions such as Mount St. Helens in 1980 increased the carbon dioxide level only for a few years. But since volcanic eruptions produce other gases such as SO2, which settles in the stratosphere and reflects the solar energy instead of letting it in, the eventual result was global cooling.

volcano eruption
MonikaP

However, scientific journals have claimed that underground volcanoes may have been responsible for the melting of glaciers in some areas of Antarctica. But that can’t be used to negate the anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission that is resulting in global warming causing adverse effects on weather, health, food, and lifestyle.

Click here to find out more about this.

5. Myth- Global warming Is a Distant Problem; Our Generation Doesn’t Have To Worry About It

Fact- Global Warming Is Already Causing Adverse Climate Change, and Living In Denial Will Only Worsen That

A typical stream of thinking about global warming revolves around passiveness or indifference. Many people seem to believe that global warming is just about the melting glaciers, the dying polar bears, or developing countries and their scarce resources, making it look like someone else’s problem. Another common misconception is that climate change as a result of global warming is a problem of the future when the reality is that global warming hits closer to home than you think.

We have seen extreme weather conditions rise in the past few decades. The Earth has become 1 degree Celsius hotter since the 1900s. And it has been predicted that there would be a further increase of half a degree by 2030, and a two-degree by the end of this century. While this may sound minuscule, it is a significant cause of concern.

Climate Change
enriquelopezgarre

Firstly, even a few degrees of temperature rise all over the world will mean different degrees of increase in different areas. It could also make an impact of 5-6 degrees in some places, while less than 2 in others. A rise in temperature means more evaporation, causing torrential downpour that negativity affects agriculture and causes floods. It will also result in more prolonged hurricanes and tornadoes.

Climate NASA found that a 2 degree Celsius increase in the average temperature of the world would result in severe and frequent heatwaves. There will be a higher risk of forest fires. In cooler regions of the Arctic, cold spells will become fewer. Sea levels will rise, ice sheets will melt, ocean acidity will hurt the marine ecosystem and will result in beach erosion. Coral reefs may even be completely wiped out an average increase of 2 degrees Celsius.

For humans, poverty-stricken countries will see more hunger and starvation. Crops like rice and wheat will lose their nutrients, thus becoming less healthy. Plants like corn may bear no seeds. Food insecurity will be on the rise, affecting the poor the worst. Countries’ GDP will suffer, along with the economy.

Global warming is closer than we think and will affect us, or the next generation badly. We owe it to them to work harder and do better at reducing the severity of climate change.

Drought
jodylehigh

These common myths about global warming are a drop in an ocean of misinformation. Global warming has been made a political issue because the oil and coal industry will suffer if countries decide to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. They have bribed prominent politicians to instill skepticism about global warming among the public, and it has worked. Because of leaders of big economies claiming in public that “climate change isn’t real,” people have stopped viewing it as a threat. It is now a political stance- a fight between the left and right, and no matter which side wins, ultimately, our planet will suffer.

Concern and debate should not be over whether global warming is real or not; it should be over how deeply it will affect us and what action we can take about it. This isn’t a question of if this is a question of when.

Companies like ExxonMobil have changed their stance multiple times on climate change so that it works to their advantage. That is not only unethical but deadly to our lives and that of our future generations. (Source)

But there is too much gloom and doom around the talks of global warming, generating a new mental health problem called eco-anxiety. We can bring about a change, and there are many people all over the world devoted to this cause. We need hope and a call to action. If everybody contributes, we might just be able to turn this around.

Click here to find out- what can you do about global warming?

And if you are still questioning the sanctity of this article and the claim of experts about global warming, you can watch this video:

 

 

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