Some of it is pessimistic, presenting climate change as an inevitable disaster that individuals and governments can't do anything about.
Other perspectives are too optimistic, ignoring the threats climate change poses to our lives or suggesting that unproven technological solutions will save us.
But both of these perspectives rely on myths about climate change that just aren't true.
Breaking down these myths will give you a clearer understanding of climate change and how to address climate skeptics.
1. "The Earth’s Climate Has Always Changed – It’s Natural!"
It is true that the Earth’s climate has changed a lot over the course of 4.5-billion-years.
But the rapid warming that we see today is not a result of gradual natural cycles of warming and cooling. The type of changes that would take place over the span of hundreds of thousands of years are taking place within decades.
The vast majority of climate scientists agree that climate change is very likely caused by human activity, not natural cycles.
2. "Global Warming Can't Be Real — It's Still Cold Out!"
Weather and climate aren't the same thing.
describes short term changes in the Earth's atmosphere in a specific area
describes weather patterns in an area over a longer time period
But they're definitely related! Climate change influences weather patterns around the world in different ways.
The science is clear that the Earth’s average surface temperatures are on the rise due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (Co2) concentrations.
This warming is making extreme weather events, such as droughts, heatwaves, extreme cold, and floods more likely to occur and more severe.
3. "Changing My Behavior Will Stop Climate Change."
Many people are led to believe that buying climate-friendly products and reducing your personal greenhouse gas emissions are the answer to climate change.
While changing the way we shop or behave can be impactful if carried out on a large scale (if all cars were electrified or if every homeowner increased the energy efficiency of their home), the level of change we need to combat climate change and its impacts is systemic.
Plus, climate-friendly options aren't always available to everyone. For example, if you live in a rural area and there’s no transit and no fast-charging infrastructure, buying an electric vehicle might be impractical.
This means change must come at the scale of major corporations and government regulations, not just individuals.
4. "Technology Will Save Us!"
Technology is part of the solution, and there are incredible developments in helping reduce emissions and mitigate impacts, from reducing the climate footprint of cement production to blockchain technology .
Many proposed solutions like blue hydrogen and "clean coal" are more science fiction than science fact.
Ultimately, technology is only part of the solution — we still have to fundamentally shift how our society functions, especially in the world’s wealthiest countries. Instead of fantasizing about living on other planets, we need to focus on our own.
5. "I Can't Make A Difference."
It’s true most global greenhouse gas emissions originate from a small number of large companies that produce coal, oil, and gas, but they're subject to government regulations that have the power to stop them from polluting.
15 years ago, few people were talking about climate change. Since then, millions have taken to the streets around the world. As a result of people like you taking action, many governments have climate plans, and even corporations are changing their tune on climate change.
Millennial and Gen Z voters make up a large share of the electorate in many countries (40% in Canada, for example). The political power of young people is growing stronger, and they believe climate change is a top priority for the future.
We have to step up and hold those governments and companies accountable! Millennials and Gen Z have an important role to play.
6. "I'm Not Qualified To Talk About Climate Change."
This is not true at all! As people get more exposure to climate change news and information, it's much easier now to have an informed opinion on climate change.
But some myths are still out there:
❌ "Only activists and experts can talk about climate change."
✅ You don’t have to be an expert to talk about climate change. In fact, research shows that relying too much on the facts and expertise actually turns people off from talking about climate change.
❌ "It's only urban middle-class White people who care about this issue."
✅ Climate change disproportionally impacts marginalized people and people from developing countries. The rising concern around climate change is growing globally.
❌ "You have to have a pure, eco-friendly lifestyle to have a legit stance on climate change."
✅ Society has made it really hard to live in an eco-friendly way. Driving a car or using plastic doesn't make you a hypocrite, and it doesn't mean you can't speak out about climate change!
7. "I'm Alone In The Fight Against Climate Change."
You might feel like you're the only one in your town/community/workplace who cares deeply about the climate, but it's not true!
People often underestimate how many people around them care. If you can speak to those around you in ways they understand and relate to, you might be surprised by how many values you share.
Many climate solutions hold wide appeal for different reasons. You may support making the suburbs more transit-friendly for climate reasons, but your aunt, who has no interest in climate change, may simply appreciate not having to pay for car maintenance if she had better bus routes in her community. Ultimately, you both support the same government action for more transit.
It's not too late to stop climate change!
In the last 5 years, there has been an impressive increase in government activity at the local and global levels on climate change.
We have a ways to go but climate change is an issue of top priority for governments. From local climate plans that focus on green energy to federal commitments to global emissions reductions targets, things are happening that you can be a part of!
Are you ready to fight for climate action?
Click the links below for more Climate Communications Bytes!
Byte 1: How does misinformation derail climate change conversations?
Byte 2: 7 things people get wrong about climate change
Byte 3: 6 myths we need to confront if we want a clean energy future
Byte 4: Why we need a new approach to climate change conversations
Byte 5: Why aren't people more worried about climate change?
Byte 6: Can I talk to people about climate change even if I'm not an expert?
Byte 7: 5 things to consider before you start a conversation about climate change
Byte 8: 6 ways to have better conversations about climate change
Byte 9: What is the climate change “spectrum of engagement”?
Byte 10: How will the "messaging triangle" help me talk to people about climate change?
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