Glacier

Why people still believe climate change is fake… and why we know they're wrong

Interview with Professor Mike Rogerson
Glaciers are melting, tropical storms are changing and some pacific islands are already under water… but to some the idea of man-made climate change is just a worldwide conspiracy to claim your tax dollars.

For years scientists have debunked the claims of deniers, only for them to be rehashed again a few months later. Well no longer! With the help of Professor Mike Rogerson, senior lecturer in Earth System Science at the University of Hull,  it’s time to explain things in simple black and white.

Fake Claim 1: Climate change is part of a natural cycle

We’ll start by giving you one. Yes, there are natural cycles. For instance deniers love pointing to 17th century Dutch oil paintings as proof of a mini ice age, of all things, because they often depicted frozen lakes. Of course it only takes a few days for a lake to freeze, and even fewer to thaw. The role of “palaeo” scientists, like Mike, is to check whether recent changes look like past natural cycles. They don’t! The changes in the last 40 years are too big, and too fast. In fact, the most powerful cycles we know about are slowly pushing us towards a colder climate. 

“Another problem with natural cycles is that people look at too small a sample size,” says Mike. “A cold winter in the USA doesn’t disprove climate change. Did you check to see how hot it was in Asia at the same time? We need to look globally and for longer than the last couple years we remember.”

Above all, simply look at the annual average of worldwide land surface temperature. From 1910 to 2010 it has steadily increased, Dutch oil paintings or not.

Fake Claim 2: Climate change isn’t that bad, life will find a way.

Ok, for a start, stop using Jurassic Park quotes as the basis of your science. The fact is that the rate of climate change is putting huge ecological stress on our environments. 

Think of the noble oak tree, if you will. In the past, if its environment became too hot, a tree would of simply drop its acorns a few metres north each winter, and over hundreds of years move 50 miles north where it was cooler. The problem is that now, with humans having urbanised so much of the environment, that acorn will likely hit concrete before reaching its promised land. The same goes for bugs, small mammals and fish… there’s simply no where to go and no route to get there.

“Even humans have got themselves stuck in areas that are becoming uninhabitable,” says Mike. “You try selling your house if it’s on a predicted future flood plain. If you can’t quit your mortgage, you’re stuck there with the oaks and the squirrels.”

Fake Claim 3: I thought things were getting hotter. Have you seen how much it rains?

Hold tight, this one is really simple. The sun heats the planet. Heat evaporates water. Vapour gathers as clouds. Rain falls from clouds. In short: the hotter, the wetter.

Recent research from the University of Hull into Libyan weather patterns over the last 10,000 years has born this to be true, with rainfall increasing alongside a rise in average yearly temperature. Can we please put this one to bed now?

Fake Claim 4: The models used to measure climate change are unreliable

The models are experiments, not oracles!. But they’re the same models that predict your daily weather and, bar the odd missed shower, they’re not predicting snow in summer. In fact the first climate prediction came in 1901, from a scientist who wanted to judge how much coal he’d have to burn to start a vineyard in Sweden.

With just a few scribbles on a piece of paper he predicted how burning different levels of CO2would warm the planet over time. Amazingly, and worryingly, his prediction is in line with today’s measurements.

Fake Claim 6: There’s no scientific consensus

Oh give over. Not this one again. “This hasn’t been true for over a decade,” says Mike. “The problem is that society gets climate information from the media, not from scientists. And the media, in an effort to seem unbiased, often line up one climate scientist against one denier to debate their point. But that doesn’t mean that the scientific community is split 50/50 on climate change. Actually it’s more like 97/3.” We’ll let you guess which way.

Fake Claim 7: The big conspiracy

Whether it’s scientists lying to earn big research grants, the illuminati or aliens… there are dozens of outlandish conspiracies as to why climate change reports are not to be trusted. But beyond ridiculous is the idea of nearly every scientist in the world trying to keep one big secret. People seem to misunderstand the economics. For one, if there was a scientific basis for denying climate change, don’t you think scientists would be running to BP, Shell and every other coal-burning corporation for big money research grants?

“The idea that climate scientists must have some big conspiracy WhatsApp group or underground lair is beyond absurd,” laughs Mike. “Recently Trump claimed that climate change is a Chinese-funded conspiracy. My wife turned to me and asked ‘well where's our secret Chinese cheque then?” If only!

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Study at Hull

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  • BSc (Hons) Geology
  • BSc (Hons) Geology with Physical Geography

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