5 Common Climate Change Myths Debunked

5 Common Climate Change Myths Debunked

Published on Jan 18, 2022 by Carbon Removed

The climate crisis has become a heated debate in mainstream media - there is a lot of confusion around climate change. Hence the necessity to separate facts from fiction. There is a growing distrust of news media outlets because of lending too much weight to individuals who dismiss climate change, decelerating efforts aimed at raising public awareness. Today we’re going to clear up some of the myths around climate change.

Let’s look into some of these myths:

Individual Action Will Have Little-to-No Effect; Systemic Change is Needed

Why do we keep hearing that only systemic changes matter?

Many agree that collective action on an unprecedented scale is inevitable if we want to achieve a low-carbon future. However, some argue that solving the current climate crisis demands systemic change over individual actions.

Calling for a system change and rejecting individual action is a kind of denialism. Individuals are part of the system; therefore the system should not be seen as a separate entity. System change and individual actions are heavily intertwined. It’s not one or the other, but both. Individual action has the potential to create a system change, which in turn influences us as individuals.

What Can We Do As Individuals to Bring About System Change?

Preventing a climate change catastrophe eventually boils down to one thing—reducing the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere. And to achieve that, we need to decarbonize.

All actions add up. The emissions need to be drastically reduced immediately. At this point, every effort is necessary, small and big. Individual actions are an integral part of system change.

Despite the overwhelming evidence and agreement that humans are changing the climate, it’s appalling that there is a level of denial that has now shifted the narrative to it’s ‘too late’ or that ‘I wouldn’t change anything.’

The big issue here is not the denial of facts but more the excuse for not taking action.

Getting past these climate change myths ultimately comes down to individuals. Individual actions may seem like a ‘drop in the ocean,’ but positive actions have an impact, just like many negative actions do. The combined effort is what will make a difference.

We are all responsible for climate change and have a collective responsibility to change it — through economic, social, and political actions. That’s a key difference.

100 companies account for 70% of all emissions

This is one of the most popular phrases in discussions about climate change. Most people have misinterpreted the Carbon Majors Report of 2017. Almost everybody utilizes a version of it, especially in discussions on personal responsibility.

Most people likely use the Guardian article for reference rather than the actual report, which has a totally different focus. Let’s analyze the original report to debunk this climate change myth.

Top Ten Emitters

Looking at the actual list in the report, among the top 10 emitters, Shell and Exxon are the only private companies; all the rest are government entities. It is therefore incorrect for anyone to insinuate that just 100 companies are responsible for global warming. These are national entities, therefore part of the government.

The Scope of Emissions

Most people ignore the crucial point that the emissions are broken down into scope 1 and scope 3. From the report:

Scope 1 emissions come from fugitive releases of methane or the self-consumption of fuel. Scope 3 emissions, which account for 90% of the 100 companys’ total emissions, are due to downstream combustion of oil, coal, and gas for energy purposes.

Simply put, scope 1 emissions for gasoline entities involve extraction, refining, and shipping gas to the pumps, whereas scope 3 encompasses us buying it, using it in our cars, and turning it into carbon dioxide.

Of the 70.6% of emissions charged to these 100 entities, over 90% of these emissions are actually emitted by us - individuals - directly. These entities profit from our consumption, but the majority of their emissions are only caused as long as individuals consume gasoline to fuel their cars.

Consumption Drives the Markets, Not Production

Looking again at the list of the 100 entities, included are companies like Murray Coal – now bankrupt, and Peabody Energy which is circling the drain because there is no market for its product.

The industry is continually being battered by rapid structural declines driven by low gas prices and the falling cost of building wind and solar power generation in the bid to cut emissions by corporations. In other words, they will go out of business if we don’t consume what they are selling.

Humanity needs to stop the blame game for the destruction of the planet and start acting! Let’s look in the mirror, cut down on consumption, purchase green alternatives, and adopt lifestyles that are sustainable.

Net-Zero is Modern-Day Greenwashing

There have been rising concerns that some fossil-fuelled corporations have hijacked and devalued the phrase “net-zero.”

Attaining net zero emissions doesn’t mean eliminating all emissions.

It Implies ensuring human-induced emissions such as those emanating from fossil-fueled factories and vehicles should be reduced as close to zero as possible. Any surplus GHGs should be counterbalanced through other channels like direct air capture and forest restoration.

Net-zero is key to guarding us from harm. Man-made carbon emissions need to drop by about 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by mid-century to be able to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, otherwise the planet will face extreme weather and be uninhabitable.

It seems odd to find climate action activists debating the merits of net-zero, a concept that science indicates to be crucial for halting climate change and enrooted at the heart of the defining global agreements.

It is safe to say that net-zero is the defining lens through which governments, NGOs, and businesses view decarbonization.

However, for some activists, it is not a universal celebration. Many have pointed out the flaws in the achievement of net-zero targets, particularly with fire turned on oil and gas companies who use emission offsetting to be able to keep burning fossil fuels. In some instances, criticisms about the concept of net-zero have come up, with activists pointing out that this is an excuse to delay action. For example, Greta Thunberg, in her post, says that “they’re about communication tactics and making it seem like we’re acting without having to change.”

Despite net-zero commitments and implementations evoking a mixed picture, net-zero itself is not bad, but can be abused like any other concept. It is actually great and necessary if done right.

Entities proclaiming to be net-zero should have specific measures of robustness in place at the very least. Namely:

  • First, they should follow their pledge by implementing immediate actions to cut all possible emissions, and only remove what can’t be cut.
  • Secondly, by pledging a target, it means that the entity can be held accountable by shareholders, customers, or voters.
  • Thirdly, demonstrating credibility means applying for accreditation and validation by an impartial body such as the science-based targets initiative.
  • Fourthly, accreditation mechanisms and criteria are dynamic and evolve in response to new information offered by science.

It is difficult to pass through all these four steps unnoticed. Despite the imperfections, strengthening net-zero targets is the most viable route to a carbon-free future. We should therefore get net-zero right – not get rid of it.

The Rich Are Responsible for Climate Change

It’s no secret that wealthy individuals are more likely to emit more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Studies estimate that the poorest 50% of the global population are responsible for only 10% of global emissions, yet profusely live in the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

These studies place the burden of responsibility on “the rich”, by pointing out that the average footprint of the richest 1% of people across the globe could be 175 times that of the poorest 10%.

People often justify not taking responsibility themselves by claiming their actions will have no effect and “the rich” are to blame. However what is often not realized is that globally, the richest 10% are those with incomes above $35,000 (£27,000) a year, and the richest 1% are people earning more than $100,000. So if you are reading this, you are highly likely to be part of the rich contributing a lot to climate change.

Capitalism is Responsible for Climate Change

The significance of capitalism in climate change cannot be ignored. However, the most important question here is whether capitalism can be part of the solution or be at the heart of the problem.

The addiction to growth and profit is digging us deeper into the climate crisis every day. Stopping capitalism means breaking all the rules in the ‘free-market’ playbook. But humanity’s selfishness and greed makes this impossible. When salaries and bonuses are tied to stock prices rather than sustainability or happiness index, then it encourages short term exploitation.

Looking at some of the biggest global emitters, for instance China, despite being a communist nation, it is responsible for massive environmental damage to furnish rapid economic growth. Russia is another capitalist state, whose greed for profits has made it impossible to halt the degradation of the arctic basin.

In a nutshell, there is no system (capitalism, communism, socialism etc.) that does not contribute to climate change.

Linkages between capitalism and environmental issues have increased demand for radical climate actions with movements. The corporate world has now started to adopt new ideas of how capitalism must function to mitigate environmental degradation. It’s only a start, but promising.

And yet, can capitalism adapt fast enough?

The current economies are heavily dependent on fossil fuels; Ideal capitalist systems should shift their focus from short-term profit maximization to sound and sustainable environmental ideologies.

Way Forward?

There is a great need for environmental sensitization now more than ever to address more profound climate change myths and confusion.

Through Individual actions, we encourage others to make adjustments in their lifestyles too, triggering a ripple effect which leads to systemic change. When people have a shared understanding of a problem and similar views on what needs to change, it makes it easier to move forward.

So stop with the climate change myths already.

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