Global average temperatures

It is almost impossible to avoid talking about climate change in the media and in everyday conversation. With new research, reports and evidence of its effects appearing frequently, it’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of updates.

And with this wealth of information comes a lot of climate misinformation; as the stakes get higher, tackling these myths and setting the record straight is more important than ever.

This is not just a matter of scientific accuracy—it can have real-world impacts. Dilshani Saratchandra, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Idaho who has studied various aspects of climate skepticism, says these myths can sap energy for change and undermine public and policy action.

“In the face of myths and misconceptions, we as individuals lose our motivation to act,” says Saratchandra. “We are also losing our drive to engage in collective action that would demand institutional and structural change.”

Myth 1: Climate change is not anthropogenic

Cascade Tuholske, Assistant Professor of Human-Environmental Geography at Montana State University, explains the first of these myths, is still extremely persistent. “This human activity is not causing climate change,” he says.

For some time, the counterargument against climate change has been that humans cannot affect the environment in such a way. Some even suggest that climate change is “fraud” or “fake”.

Yet more than 99 percent of peer-reviewed scientific the literature agrees that climate change is happening and driven by us. Mass emissions, large-scale deforestation, unsustainable food production, etc all cause drastic changes to the natural world that impact our overall climate.

Read more: When climate adaptation backfires

“We started with ‘Climate change isn’t happening’ and then ‘It’s not caused by humans,'” says David Ho, a climate scientist at University of Hawaii. But now “we’re getting to the point where almost a majority accept that it’s caused by humans.”

Despite this broad scientific consensus, a survey last year found that, on average, people in the UK believe that only 65 per cent of scientists agree that human-caused climate change is real. Other European nations fared little better, according to the researchers.

“These kinds of findings show how careful we need to be when we give credence and airtime to very niche opposing views of climate science,” said Bobby Duffy, director of the Institute of Politics at King’s College London. in a press release.

Myth 2: It’s a problem for future generations

Climate change is already impacting people and biodiversitybut attributing extreme weather events to climate change is complex work. Analysis by Carbon Brief found that 71 percent of 504 extreme weather events in recent decades were “made more likely or more severe by human-caused climate change.”

Heat waves, severe storms and droughts — like those felt by much of Europe in the summer of 2022 — are predicted to intensify under climate change. We are already seeing some of the effectsscientists say, and tackling it is not a problem that can be put off.

As such, Ho says the myth that climate change is a problem for future generations is important to debunk. “That’s just not true anymore,” he says. “Now you can see these impacts happening to people in the Global South as well as people in the [Global North].”

And some 3.3 to 3.6 billion people are on the climate frontline, living in regions that are highly vulnerable to climate change. And 2021 UNICEF report states that nearly 1 billion children live in areas at “extremely high risk” of the impacts of climate change.

Not to mention the multitude of wildlife that will be affected; in 2016 a small rodent from Australia known as Bramble Cay melomys reported to be the first mammal whose extinction has been attributed to climate change (in this case due to storm surges reducing its habitat).

This tiny creature is just one example of the impact on terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems around the world, threatening biodiversity and contributing to the decline of species.

Myth 3: There is nothing to be done

When it comes to climate change, fear mongering often abounds. This perpetuates another myth: that there is little that can be done to alleviate its impact.

“This belief is problematic,” Saratchandra says, “because it breeds apathy or resignation and prevents individual and collective action, as well as reduces public pressure for much-needed political action.”

Actions are already underway to mitigate climate change and adapt to its risks and impacts. Efforts to reducing carbon emissionsswitched to renewable energy sources, re-wild natural areas and more are ongoing and often happening on local level.

“There’s a lot that can be done in terms of both mitigation and adaptation, and a lot of the technology to do that already exists,” Tuholske says. “We just need the political and economic will to implement them on a massive scale.”

Although the impact one person can have may seem limited, it is not that there is nothing to be done, he continues. “Each individual has a role to play. Whether it’s just talking about what actions they’re taking in their lives or, even more importantly, what kind of political pressure they can apply.

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