Myths, misinformation and lies about global warming circulated in 2022
- Climate change has not always been so polarizing and even today relatively few Americans deny that global warming is real.
- Experts say easily rebuttable climate stories continue to circulate.
- These lies and distortions target renewable energy, the economy and political polarization.
There was a time – a recent time – when concern for the environment was relatively bipartisan, not a cultural flashpoint.
A Republican, President Richard Nixon, created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. In the 1980s and 1990s, bipartisan majorities voted to strengthen the Republican-led Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act – Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island.
Those days are over and today a wide range of misleading claims and outright lies about the reality of man-made climate change are circulating widely.
The sheer volume of misinformation can distort perceptions of how many people don’t believe the science that shows Earth’s climate is changing because of human activity, said Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor at Texas Tech. University.
“I call them ‘zombie arguments’ because you can explain they’re not true, but they still stumble because they’re not about facts but about excuses,” she said.
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In truth, a small number of people actually believe these lies, she said. Surveys by the Yale Climate Change Communication Program in Connecticut found that between 8 and 9 percent of Americans totally reject climate change, believing it is not happening, not caused by the man or that he does not pose a threat. Many of these people also endorse global warming conspiracy theories.
“They represent only 8% of the population. A strong 8%, and very present online, but only 8%. So I would rather answer from everyone’s perspective,” said Hayhoe, who is also an evangelical Christian whose most recent book is “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World.”
Here are some of the most common climate myths and lies that experts say have been circulating this year:
False: Summer heat waves show renewables can’t work
Power grids in Texas, California and the Pacific Northwest have all experienced extreme heat events this summer. Every electrical system has been pushed to the brink by electricity consumption for air conditioning. And yet none broke.
Nevertheless, a false narrative circulated that solar and wind power had rendered these power grids – and California’s in particular – fragile and unable to cope with high demands.
In fact, the opposite is happening. Although renewable energy presents challenges, especially during heat waves, this year has proven that careful planning and green innovations can successfully meet these challenges.
In California, battery storage and conservation helped the state avoid power outages during a 10-day heat wave in September. In the Northwest, battery storage and voluntary programs that rewarded customers for reducing demand kept the system running.
Following:‘A ‘Wow’ moment: Renewable energy in the United States hit a record 28% in April.
In Texas, a heat wave in July prompted the Texas Electric Reliability Board to take emergency action, including urging residents to reduce demand and paying electric operators up to $5,000 per megawatt hour. to keep generators running. ERCOT said two factors were affecting its ability to meet growing demand: low wind power generation as well as outages at coal and natural gas power plants.
Blaming renewable energy as the cause of power outages is unfair, said David Doniger, senior strategic director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate and clean energy program.
“Their answer is always, ‘Conserve fossil fuels, because renewable energy and energy efficiency cannot meet the needs. “That’s the lie, that’s the problem, not the solutions,” he said.
“Some of the biggest lies these days focus on slowing the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives by saying that the problems or shortcomings of renewables make it impossible,” he said.
Energy experts say the percentage of US electricity coming from renewables can go much higher than today’s relatively low numbers without causing serious stresses on power systems. In April, records were set when 28% of US electricity came from renewable resources.
They admit that decarbonizing the remaining 10% of the power grid will be tricky, but say that’s no reason to avoid decarbonizing the first 90%.
False: Using ESG criteria is “waking up” capitalism
Make investment decisions taking into account environmental, social and governance factors has been around for decades.
But recently it has been decried as “woke capitalism” and a concerted effort has been made to stop corporations from taking the three, so-called ESG, to be taken into consideration when making investments. This is especially true when it comes to managing environmental risks.
Following:GOP vs. ESG: Why Republicans are fighting ‘woke’ ESG investing
Over the past year, 18 states have proposed or adopted rules limiting the ability of state government and public pension plans to do business with entities deemed to “discriminate” against certain industries on the based on environmental, social and governance criteria, according to JD Supra. , a source of legal information. For example, the Arizona State Board of Investment said in August that ESG considerations could not be taken into account in the investment management of its assets.
“It’s a sinister lie that is deeply counterproductive, not just for the climate but also for people’s wallets and pensions,” said Alicia Seiger, who teaches sustainability and energy finance at the School of Law and at Stanford University Graduate School of Business in California.
Telling companies they can’t take into account all available information to make solid long-term investments “is madness,” she said. “That should be determined by the investor, not the political system.”
False: Belief in climate change belongs only to the far left
Experts have noted an effort by some to bundle climate change with other liberal and progressive causes, such as racial justice. The implication is that those who believe global warming is a problem to be addressed must also support a host of other goals that are considered “far left”.
It also comes amid a move to pressure corporations to make climate change a hot political issue.
“Conspiracy theorists are linking climate change with other lightning rod issues to generate emotional and irrational responses that drive online engagement,” said David Di Martino, co-founder of nonprofit triplecheck. that fights against the spread of misinformation, including climate disinformation. .
But this position ignores the many conservatives who worry about global warming and are working to fight it. These include the American Conservation Coalition, Conservatives for Clean Energy, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, and the Conservative Congressional Climate Caucus.
False: There is no hope of solving the problem of climate change, so why try?
An increasingly frequent message revolves around ‘doomerism’, the lie that it is totally impossible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to near zero without devastating the economy and drastically reducing our standard of living, it so there’s no need to try.
This is false because the technology to decarbonize a large part of the electricity network already exists. Meanwhile, wind and solar, as well as battery storage, are increasingly cheaper than coal and natural gas. Decarbonization of harder to reach areas, such as steel and cement production and aviation fuel, will take longer but is underway.
A University of Oxford study published in September found that a rapid transition to decarbonized energy systems is cheaper than a slow transition or no transition at all. Achieving carbon-free energy systems is “feasible and cost-effective” and will save the world at least $12 trillion from current levels of fossil fuel use, he found.
A long-term lie has been that climate change isn’t real, but as climate change has made that argument harder to make, it’s moved to an argument that says there are no good alternatives to fossil fuels or that the alternatives themselves cause problems and are too expensive.
“In other words, we’re stuck with fossil fuels and there’s no good alternatives, so burn baby burn,” said Jason Smerdon, professor of climate physics at Columbia University in New York.
These arguments are mostly in favor of fossil fuel producers who want to keep making money for as long as they can.
“Climate misinformation has always been about delaying action on global warming,” Smerdon said. “They just perpetuate the false assumption that we have no choice but the same old addiction to fossil fuels.”
Following:We have the tools we need to fight climate change
In fact, the business community is jumping in with both feet because they see strong opportunities, said Julio Friedmann, chief scientist at Carbon Direct, a carbon management firm and former professor at Columbia University.
“We have the technology that we need and we have a lot of market alignment policies that we need,” he said.
It’s no longer a question of “Is it even possible?” but rather “How soon can we do it?”
“It’s a fundamentally different mindset,” Friedmann said. “That’s why I’m optimistic about our ability to cut those corners and get the job done.”