For the deniers and doubters among us, I offer you three simple, brief points on climate change that may warrant your consideration. For those already convinced, these three points may be helpful to you in future debates…
1. Climate change science IS good science.
What makes good science? The ability to make reliable predictions, for one. Contrary to what you may have heard, the predictions about human-caused climate change have been pretty accurate overall.
A 1972 paper in Nature suggested that human activity was having a significant impact on the climate (and this effect was expected to increase). A later report published by a group of scientists in 1979 (that’s FORTY years ago) made the very accurate (and now scientifically verified) prediction that warming of between 1.5℃ and 4.5℃ would accompany a doubling of atmospheric CO₂. Climate change models have only become more accurate over time. It has also been found that in their effort to provide conservative estimates, most scientists have actually UNDERESTIMATED the effects of climate change.
You can read more about the 1972 and 1979 papers here: https://theconversation.com/40-years-ago-scientists-predicted-climate-change-and-hey-they-were-right-120502
And for an excellent examination of the reliability of climate models, which debunks many of the false claims about inaccurate predictions, visit this website: https://skepticalscience.com/climate-models.htm
The truth is that many of the criticisms you will read from climate change deniers are themselves inaccurate representations of the science.
2. There IS a scientific consensus, and it’s overwhelming.
There is an overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change is both real and caused by humans. A recent 2019 review of the scientific literature—consisting of 11,602 scientific papers—found 100% agreement that climate change is human-caused. Many such reviews have been conducted and published over the years, most finding a consensus between 97% and 100%.
Although many climate change deniers like to focus on the 2% of research that has made contrary conclusions, a 2016 study found that these papers were all flawed in some way. That paper can be found here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00704-015-1597-5
I’m not a climate scientist, but I am a researcher, and I hold a degree in statistical modelling. Scientific research isn’t perfect, nor is statistical modelling. Although most studies that are published are of high quality, particularly due to the high standards that underlie the peer-review process (which is not to be taken lightly, speaking as someone who’s been through the process numerous times), studies do occasionally get published which have made problematic methodological errors. This is the very reason that scientists rely on a consensus: to gain confidence in observations and conclusions by performing many (or in the case of climate change, thousands of) studies over time.
The most recent paper from 2019 can be found here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0270467619886266?journalCode=bsta
And while I do not recommend Wikipedia as a reliable source, their page on this topic is actually a useful starting point. It includes links to all of the primary, trusted sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_consensus_on_climate_change#Surveys_of_scientists_and_scientific_literature
3. The cost-benefit analysis is being too easily overlooked.
On a more fundamental level, here’s a question that I personally struggle to answer: Even if scientists are mistaken, what is the problem with having a cleaner world? Is there even a worst-case scenario if we imagine ending our reliance on fossil fuels, for instance?
The World Health Organization estimates that 4.6 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution. More than 100,000 people die in North America alone. And what’s worse, deaths linked to air pollution disproportionately affect those who live in poverty or who are otherwise disadvantaged. When we consider the impacts of other human activities that also contribute to climate change, such as overfishing or clear-cutting for the purposes of cattle-raising, we can easily find numerous other long-term benefits associated with climate action.
The reality is that actions to curb climate change will not only have a profound impact on the natural world; they will also result in substantial benefits to human health. As concluded by The Lancet (what is arguably THE top medical journal in the world), human-caused climate change threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health. Yet a comprehensive response to climate change could be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.”
You can read their most recent report on climate change and public health here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)32596-6/fulltext
Human-caused climate change is real, and its effects are serious. We know this because of good science, on which the overwhelming majority of researchers and experts agree. And at the very least, serious climate action will result in a cleaner, healthier world. What’s really to lose?
It may not be easy, but nothing important ever is. Let’s move past all the nonsense, set aside the false narratives and agendas of Big Oil (and its investors), and realize a sustainable, livable future—before it’s too late.