Key climate facts and myths

Climate change is a difficult topic and perceived by many as controversial. You experience changes in the weather on a daily basis when you travel, you notice changes in climate zones, and you have many memories and thoughts in this regard.

Yes, climate change is a perfectly normal thing, taking place long before humans even existed and on a much larger scale. The gas with the greatest contribution to the greenhouse effect is undisputedly water vapour, and anthropogenic CO2 emissions are only a tiny fraction of those from natural sources.

Earth at the time of the ice age maximum 20,000 years ago.

So how’s that for global warming? Is the Earth’s climate warming or not? Is this part of the natural cycles of climate change or the result of our activities? And if we are contributing, to what extent? Well, and will climate change be a serious problem?

Scientists have been studying this issue for a long time. Undoubtedly the best-known organisation dealing with this subject is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), founded by the UN in 1988, which was set up precisely to assess the risks associated with human impact on the climate. Thousands of scientists review the state of scientific knowledge in this area and publish comprehensive reports every few years. The conclusions?

The IPCC’s recent fifth report of 2013 reads:

“The warming of the climate system is indisputable. Many of the changes observed in the system since the 1950s are unprecedented over many decades or even millennia (…). It is extremely likely [author’s note: in IPCC language, ‘extremely likely’ means a probability greater than 95%] that humans have dominantly influenced the warming observed since the mid-20th century. (…) Continued greenhouse gas emissions will cause further warming and changes in all elements of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, widespread and irreversible consequences for economies and ecosystems.”  (source))

In other words, the IPCC states that global warming is occurring and is caused by our emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, and that it will cause very serious problems.

But, after all, there are many other scientific organisations in the world, not just the IPCC… What do you think: what percentage of the several hundred internationally or nationally renowned scientific institutions agree with the IPCC’s conclusions in their published positions, and what percentage take the opposite view (stating, for example, that we are not warming at all, or that this is mainly the result of natural cycles of climate change, and that even if we have some contribution to make, it is small or the consequences will be insignificant)? Can you remember the name of at least one institution from the latter group?

We suppose you don’t remember. We are not surprised, because…

…no scientific institution with an international reputation in the field of climate research rejects the IPCC’s conclusions in its official position. The last such organisation was (tellingly) the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which in 2007 revised its 1999 statement rejecting the likelihood of human influence on current climate change, replacing it with no opinion on the issue (link).

There is now NOT ONE major scientific organisation that denies the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic roots*.

Of course, science is not done by voting. There was a time when there was a belief that the Earth was flat or that the Sun revolved around the Earth, which was the centre of the Universe. Dissenting opinions were voiced by individual scientists such as Aristarchus, Copernicus and Galileo, who advocated a heliocentric model of the Solar System. And it turned out that it was not the majority who were right, but them.

Science is not a democracy. Science is a dictatorship. A dictatorship of observations, facts and scientific evidence. Time has shown that it was Aristarchus, Copernicus and Galileo who were right, because they based their theses on the results of critically verified observations. Their opponents persisted in their error because they ‘knew their own’ without bothering with observations and their critical analysis. It is worth adding that the aforementioned scientists did not refute all previous knowledge, they only gave a better explanation than their predecessors for the results of observations, not only of their own, but of many other researchers.

Climate change and its link to human activity are scientifically verifiable phenomena, confirmed by abundant evidence – and this is where the unanimous opinion of research institutions comes from. If Aristarchus, Copernicus or Galileo were to look at the discussions on climate change today, with scientists with research findings on one side and people who ‘know their own’ on the other, who would they support?

We have repeatedly heard the question: ‘Do you believe in global warming?’ We respond with the question: “And do you believe in electrons, Maxwell’s laws and the theory of relativity?”. The interlocutor is usually bewildered, because to electrons or Maxwell’s laws the question of ‘belief’ somehow does not fit. It is clear that it is not a question of faith, but of the knowledge we have gained from a great deal of scientific research. It is exactly the same with climate change, which is a scientifically verifiable phenomenon described by the laws of physics.

The action of our civilisation, based on economic growth fuelled by fossil fuels, is centred in climate change, as in a lens. The need to protect the climate is a formidable challenge, uncomfortable business-wise for influential corporations and for politicians. The actions required for effective climate protection are, in turn, difficult for many people to accept for worldview, social and psychological reasons. Faced with cognitive dissonance, we have two choices – to change our worldview and behaviour or – to suppress the facts. Many choose the latter path. This is why there are so many climate myths operating in the public consciousness and the media. Their list is long and the explanations often quite scientific. If you are interested, we encourage you to visit   the Climate Science, page, where you can find explanations of all climate myths.

* Yes, there are organisations that deny the anthropogenicity of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions as a cause, or even the fact of global warming itself. However, none of these are large scientific organisations with an international reputation. You can read more about which organisations these are, with examples of their statements,

This article was written with the consultation of Nauka o Klimacie