Three Common Misconceptions About Climate Change

Juliette Uncovsky

Climate change is the changing of Earth’s long-term climate and weather patterns that have occurred since the start of the twentieth century. There are both natural and anthropogenic (human-caused) causes contributing to climate change. Natural occurrences include the Earth’s tilt and rotation, volcanic activity, and solar activity variations,  to name a few. Anthropogenic causes consist of fossil-fuel use, land-use change, driving cars, industrial factories that produce commercial goods, and so on. These anthropogenic causes stated above are the primary reasons for the climate change we are witnessing today. While climate change is a currently known problem, it is important to understand the subject itself and to be able to determine the facts from the misconceptions. Below are a few common misconceptions about climate change.

Misconception #1: Climate Change is a Natural Occurrence

The Earth’s climate is always changing and always has been. However, the changes seen throughout time have always been relatively stable. Variances in the carbon dioxide levels of the Earth have always fluctuated around the same amount (see graph below). Beginning in the twentieth century, at the time of the industrial revolution, these fluctuations were disrupted. Carbon dioxide levels have dramatically increased due to human actions since then. 

Therefore, climate change is a natural occurrence, but it is being sped up by human actions such as industries, fossil fuels, rising global populations, etc. The rapid warming we are experiencing now cannot be explained by the natural fluctuations that occurred in the past. Changes that would normally have happened over centuries are now happening within decades. 

The graph above depicts the natural fluctuations in carbon dioxide levels seen for hundreds of centuries. It compares these fluctuations to the current levels occurring today. Notice how the fluctuations in the past were consistent and how there is a dramatic spike in levels since 1950.

Misconception #2: Animals and Humans will be able to adapt

Although it may not seem like it at first, climate change is going to drastically affect the world in which we live. Temperatures will rise, sea levels will increase, some areas will flood and others will experience drought. Ecosystems and the species within them will also be affected. While many species might be able to adapt to climate change, others will not. The species that will suffer from climate change are those that are currently struggling because they are threatened or endangered. Species will be faced with the decision to either move or adapt, but in some cases, climate change will be occurring too rapidly for them to adapt. Moving can also become a problem as human infrastructure can get in the way. 

As for people, many will suffer from the effects of climate change as well. Those who live in drought-prone areas will be at even more risk for water scarcity. Food will be harder to grow as lands become more arid, temperatures become too warm, and water becomes scarce. People who already suffer from food insecurity will feel these effects even more. Most of the world’s big cities are along the coasts. These cities and their large populations will suffer as sea levels increase from inches to possibly feet. While these are just a few examples, it is safe to say that animals and humans will not be able to adapt to climate change without serious consequences.

Misconception #3: Climate Change is a Future Problem

At this point, there is no excuse left to delay finding the solution to climate change. For years now, climate scientists have warned that we only have so many years to act on the problem. Scientists warned that we have twelve years at most to limit the effects of climate change and avoid temperatures rising to 1.5 degrees celsius. Climate change is the biggest threat to our world today and delaying solutions to make it a future problem puts an unnecessary burden on future generations. In other words, climate change is not a problem to be tackled in the future. It is a problem that needs a solution soon before we reach the point of no return.

Climate Change is the biggest problem humanity is faced with today. With that said, it is important that we understand the basics of the issue. In this day and age, a lot of information circulates around the media and internet, and in doing so, the facts and the myths often get mixed. With a full understanding, we can educate ourselves and those around us in order to find a solution to the problem at hand and ensure a sustainable future for our Earth and generations to come.

Sources: NASA, WWF