Five myths about climate change

On the eve of COP26, which takes place in Glasgow, the AFP Fact Check service reviews some of the most common claims that cast doubt on human-caused climate change.

Created plan or plot

There are those who think that the climate crisis is nothing more than an idea created by scientists to justify the funding of science. Also those who believe that it is a plot by the governments to control the population. Something for which a plan of a complexity never seen before would be needed, coordinated by successive governments of different countries with the complicity of an army of scientists.

But, on the contrary, the almost unanimous consensus on the existence of anthropogenic climate change has been built with tens of thousands of studies (reviewed and corrected by other scientists). Furthermore, far from being non-transparent, reports such as the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are open to all UN countries.

Created in 1988, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, the IPCC brings together hundreds of volunteer scientists who review the state of knowledge based on a method and public references (they can be consulted on its website (https://www.ipcc.ch/languages-2/spanish/).

Its latest 3,500-page report, published in August, was written by 234 authors from 66 countries, and approved by delegates from 195 states.

The weather has always changed

The planet Earth has known from its origin the alternation between very cold and warmer periods, with an ice age more or less every 10,000 years. Therefore, cannot the current warming period be considered as one more stage in this cycle, which has lasted for a million years?

For the experts, the answer is clear: No. The speed, magnitude and global nature of the warming that we are experiencing is exceptional. "Since 1970, global temperatures have risen faster than in any 50-year period in the past two millennia", says the IPCC, based on meteorological records (since they exist), sediment studies, samples taken from the ice (cores), and other elements for more recent times.

Human influence is not proven

Despite the accumulation of evidence of warming, there are those who question whether it is caused by human activity, such as greenhouse gas emissions, which have increased since the industrial revolution due to the use of fossil fuels.

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The IPCC developed a modeling to measure the impact of different factors on global warming. "There is no doubt that human influence overheated the atmosphere, oceans and land", writes the IPCC in its "summary for policy makers", in its latest report, published in August (pages 7 and 8, in English http://u.afp.com/wZ6N).

A few more degrees can’t be bad

"Much of the country is under a huge amount of snow and suffers from record cold temperatures … A little of the old global warming would not hurt!".

On January 20, 2018, Donald Trump, president of the United States at that time, and a confessed skeptic of the climate, spread this supposedly common sense idea on Twitter: If the planet heats up, why are there still episodes of intense cold?

However, the evolution of the climate is observed in the long term, while meteorological phenomena have their own mechanisms, more immediate, even when some may be aggravated by climate change.

And that certain areas of the world are overheating, such as Siberia, is not good news. Permafrost, the permanently frozen layer of land, traps huge amounts of greenhouse gases that would be released into the atmosphere if it melts. Not to mention the possible existence of trapped viruses …

A world with +2 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era would cause a half meter rise in sea level, endangering the lives of millions of people in coastal areas.

Scientists question the reality of climate change

Although there are scientists who have expressed their doubts in public forums, in general, these are people who are not specialized in the climate. Historically, scientific knowledge is built on controversy, followed by consensus based on existing knowledge.

When it comes to climate change, this consensus is overwhelming. According to a recent study by Cornell University in the United States, more than 99% of the articles on climate change published since 2012 in scientific journals (peer-reviewed), agree on the attribution of this phenomenon to human action (http://u.afp.com/wZ6p).

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