Climate change

It is hard to believe, but apparently more than a few climate change deniers still roam our ever-heating planet. According to a recent study in the esteemed science journal PLOS, people systematically understate their disbelief in human-caused climate change when answering surveys, so scepticism is more prevalent than many of us realise.

Given the urgency of the climate crisis, it is crucial that we all do our part to educate any doubters we might encounter. That is why the Rainforest Alliance has compiled six arguments commonly made by climate change deniers, along with science-backed responses you can deploy to convince them of the truth: that climate change is real, it is accelerating and that we need to take bold action as soon as possible.

1: “This is the coldest winter we have had in years, so much for global warming!”
Response: The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture has stated that there is a difference between climate and weather: weather fluctuates day in, day out, whereas climate refers to long-term trends and the overall trend is clearly and indisputably a warming one. While the impacts of climate change have only just begun to hit the Global North, farmers in the tropics have been contending with the impacts, from droughts to floods to a proliferation of crop-destroying pests, for years. That is why the Rainforest Alliance works with farmers to take a climate-smart approach. That means first assessing a farm’s particular climate risks, taking the crop and local ecosystem into account, then finding the right combination of tools to manage the farm’s climate challenges. That is what makes climate-smart agriculture ‘smart’.

2: “Climate change is natural and normal; it has happened at other points in history.”
Response: It is true that there have been periods of global warming and cooling, also related to spikes and lulls in greenhouse gases, during the Earth’s long history. But those historic increases in CO2 should be a warning to us: they led to serious environmental disruptions, including mass extinctions. Today, humans are emitting greenhouse gases at a far higher rate than any previous increase in history.

3: “There is no consensus among scientists that climate change is real.”
Response: Wrong. There is nearly 100% agreement among scientists. Moreover, the United Nation (UN)’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that global warming is accelerating and will reach 1°C above pre-industrial levels around 2030, a full decade earlier than previously forecast.

4: “Plants and animals can adapt.”

Response: Wrong again. Because human-caused climate change is happening so rapidly, species simply do not have time to adapt. Frogs tell the story best: with their semi-permeable skin, unprotected eggs and reliance on external temperatures to regulate their own, they are often among the first species to die off when ecosystems tip out of balance and they are dying off in droves. The Rainforest Alliance chose a frog as its mascot more than 30 years ago precisely because it is a bioindicator: a healthy frog population signals a healthy ecosystem, which is what they have been working to promote, along with thriving communities, since 1987.

5: “Climate change is good for us.”
Response: It is hard to even know where to begin to address this statement by climate change deniers, especially when you think about the human cost of a warming planet. The evidence points to a clear link between climate change and a surge in modern slavery: when crop failures, drought, floods or fires wipe out livelihoods and homes, people migrate in the hopes of improving their lot, but can find themselves vulnerable to human trafficking, forced labour and other human rights abuses. The overall economic cost is also staggering: the global economy could lose $23 trillion (approximately £18.8 trillion) to climate change by 2050.

6: “OK, maybe climate change is real, but there is nothing to be done, it is too late.”
Response: It is true that we do not have a moment to waste, but it is not too late. If governments, businesses and individuals begin taking drastic action now, we can keep global warming within the 1.5°C target set by the Paris Agreement. What can you do to make sure that happens? A lot. There are actions you can take, both to make your daily life more sustainable and to push governments and companies to act, to secure a better future.

My personal response is to wonder if the climate change deniers are aware of the tipping points and how they may affect the next generations. Tipping points are often, but not necessarily, abrupt. For example, with average global warming somewhere between 0.8°C and 3°C, the Greenland ice sheet passes a tipping point and is doomed, but its melt would take place over millennia. It is possible that some tipping points are close to being crossed or have already been crossed, like those of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, the Amazon rainforest and warm-water coral reefs. A danger is that if the tipping point in one system is crossed, this could cause a cascade of other tipping points, leading to potentially catastrophic impacts.

I challenge my readers to respond to the assertions made in this article and consider the future of our children and grandchildren if we cannot reach a global consensus to avert a catastrophe. The basis for the six Climate Change Denial Assertions was extracted from an article in the Rainbow Alliance publication. The Rainforest Alliance is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit registered in the US under EIN: 13-3377893. In 2022, 75% of its income supported sustainability programmes.

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