Wading through the latest on climate change is an emotional rollercoaster.
You will be hit with a dizzying array of inspiring examples of innovation and activism, you’ll be incensed by the regressive Empire Strikes Back happenings in US and more recently Australian climate politics, you’ll be frustrated by the snail-like progress on some fronts and left with breathless hope at the rocket-fuelled pace of others. At least that’s my experience anyway – maybe I just take it all very personally. It’s my favourite planet, after all.
But one of the most common emotions I feel around climate issues is just being so painfully irritated by someone’s dumb comments that I want to scream and shake them and bang my head against my keyboard. You know what I mean?
In this post I’m going to share my top ten most annoying things people say about climate change. Some are outright denialist climate myths, some are misguided opinions or false dichotomies. So here we are, in no particular order!
The climate has always changed.
*Huge sigh*. Yes, we know.
Over the Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history, its climate has changed a lot. But since human civilisation kicked off properly about 10-12 thousand years ago with the development of agriculture, it has been in a remarkably stable period which geologists call the Holocene.
It’s really no comfort to know that the actual planet has seen boiling and freezing temperatures if they’re not able to support human life.
Also, even in the distant past, it has never changed so quickly. The kind of changes that would normally take the Earth hundreds of thousands of years are happening in decades. Bit different.
Plants need CO2 though.
While of course infuriating, this one is kind of funny in a weird way. Like, do these people think that scientists have just forgotten how plants work and not factored that into their research?
It’s remarkable to me that anyone would think their vague memories of primary-school science lessons would trump actual peer-reviewed science by actual professionals, but I’ve seen this ‘point’ wheeled out more times than you’d expect.
For the record – for plants, the helpful CO2 factor is more than outweighed by the erratic and extreme weather, more frequent droughts, higher temperatures, changes to the seasons etc.
(Though in some cold places climate change could boost agriculture, the net global affect is overwhelming negative).
The climate action agenda is about making money.
This is another one that is kind of hilarious if you disengage from how seriously worrying it is that people actually think this.
I mean AS IF climate action is the field you’d go into if you wanted to make a lot of money. People go into this field because they are passionate about it. That’s the only reason. It would be lovely if it was highly paid, but unfortunately, it’s the opposite.
If you go into it with dollar signs in your eyes, you must be extremely dumb and definitely in the wrong industry. Go try banking instead.
I’m really not sure where this conspiracy came from. Maybe just that Al Gore is rich?
Climate action is bad for the economy and kills jobs.
You know what is really bad for the economy? Climate change. Numerous studies say that doing nothing about climate change is much more expensive than doing something about it.
Studies also show climate action can easily be a net producer of jobs. Yes, some jobs will be destroyed (less people working on oil rigs for example), but a greater number will be created, so the overall affect is positive.
Also, even if it was an either or thing, which it’s not, but if it was – a stable climate habitable for human life is more important than the economy.
Renewable energy needs expensive subsidies to work.
Have you SEEN the subsidies that fossil fuels get? An eye-watering five trillion dollars is spent on fossil fuel subsidies every single year.
It drives me absolutely crazy that people so often bitch about the subsidies for renewable energy without mentioning the much much much bigger subsidies that go to fossil fuels. Not sure if they’re just totally unaware, or have vested interests in making renewables look unaffordable.
Despite this, renewables are starting to be affordable even with zero subsidies, are already on a par with fossil fuels in some markets and by 2020 are expected to be price comparable with fossil fuels globally. It’s an out of date myth that they’re too expensive. And fossil fuels only seem so cheap because of their enormous subsides.
Climate change is a problem for the distant future, we have more pressing issues.
A frustrating one because it’s understandable – we do have a lot of pressing issues with immediate effect – whether it’s political instability or terrorism or unaffordable costs of living.
And while climate change is happening at breakneck speed in geological terms, humans are not good at dealing with threats that are a few years down the line, or even months.
But it is an outdated myth that climate change is ‘just’ something for our grandchildren to worry about.
People have been saying that since the 70s, and those grandchildren are here now.
Climate change is already causing 400,000 deaths a year globally, according to this study. Already. THIS year.
I snapped this amazing sign at the 2014 climate march in London.
Being green is just a lifestyle choice for middle class people.
It may seem that way, but this is a really unhelpful way or looking at it.
Like all problems in our hierarchical unequal society, the costs and risks of climate change are falling most heavily on the poorest, and will continue to do so.
It’s poor and working class people that are at most risk from environmental disasters like floods and storms, because their homes are in the most vulnerable places and they have less resources to fix the damage.
Also, read my post on ‘Why we can’t rely on individuals to fix climate change’ to see why looking at this through the prism of lifestyle choice isn’t great.
Only rich, developed nations can afford to worry about the environment.
This is similar to the last point, but on a global scale. It’s just not true. Lots of people have it totally backwards – thinking that the environment is some higher-tier luxury, when actually it is foundational.
Many of the poorest countries are the most threatened by climate change, and are already feeling the effects now. Some poor island states are disappearing entirely due to sea level rise.
During the UN’s climate change negotiation summits, it’s often delegates from the developing world that speak most passionately, because it is already a matter of life and death for many of their people.
See my post ‘Do the global poor care about climate change?’ for research on this topic.
I care about people, not polar bears.
Similar to the last two, this is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what climate change means.
I think the environmental movement itself is partly to blame for this one. Too much of the communication has been about sad looking polar bears and rallying cries of ‘save the planet!’, so many people still don’t realise it’s just as much about humans.
Climate change is intimately connected to the economy, business and jobs, food and water, human rights, politics, social justice, war, law, immigration, and many more human issues.
I don’t care about climate change because it won’t affect me.
Well thanks, sociopath.
But seriously, even if we put aside the moral deficit in not caring about problems that don’t directly affect you, this is still stupid. Because it will affect you.
Even if you’re not poor and don’t live in an arid or low-lying country, and even if the early effects of climate change are not bothering you. We live in a globalised society where everything has knock on effects.
It only takes a bit of imagination to see how climate impacts could have a domino effect that result in a financial crash, a war or a refugee crisis, or indeed how climate action could lead to some sectors rising fast and some being crushed.
One way or the other, it will affect everyone, so get your head out of the sand.
So there you go, ten of the things people say about climate change that I find most annoying and drive me crazy!