True or false? Exposing the lies of climate change skeptics

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As the COP26 climate summit takes place in the UK city of Glasgow amid projections of an apocalyptic future if drastic changes are not made, climate change skeptics are still making claims like “global warming is being caused by the sun “and” there is no scientific consensus “AXADLETM spoke with climatologist Hervé Le Treut, who deconstructed these lies.

If we don’t keep climate change below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the earth will be ravaged by heat waves, hurricanes and storms, entire species will disappear, and vast swathes of humanity will have to leave their homes when coastal settlements will be inundated. This is the consensus among experts as COP26 opens in Glasgow on Monday.

Desperate to avoid this bleak future, people around the world have become active in taking action on climate change in their own lives, as well as urging politicians to act. Global warming has become the major challenge of the 21st century.

Nonetheless, many people around the world still doubt or deny the terrifying and galvanizing reality of man-made climate change. AXADLETM addressed some of its most frequently heard statements to Hervé Le Treut, climatologist at the Sorbonne University in Paris, the Élite Polytechnic School of France and the French Scientific Academy.

True or false? “The climate has already changed, so that’s okay”

We have had a stable climate for 10,000 years. We are therefore specifically trying to protect the climatic conditions that allowed humanity to develop during this period. The question is whether or not we want to continue with the climate that allowed human civilization to emerge.

True or false? “The sun causes global warming”

This idea has been repeatedly shown to be wrong. Solar radiation does indeed fluctuate, with sunspots varying in their activity levels. But these are fairly small variations that occur in relatively rapid cycles (a typical cycle lasts 11 years).

However, scientists have observed many of these 11-year cycles and it is clear that these changes in solar radiation cannot explain the increase in temperatures that we have observed in recent decades. The notion is impossible to defend scientifically.

True or false? “There is no scientific consensus on global warming”

We are faced with a complicated problem, and within that problem there is consensus on many aspects and contestation around certain areas.

But it is a very clear fact that greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere and stay there for a very long time – and that they cause global warming. It is very easy to see when you look at what is happening to the planet. There is no doubt that there is a consensus on this.

You can tell how things are going just by looking at sea level rise, accelerated warming of oceans and melting glaciers – the direction of travel is obviously towards a warming planet. So it takes a lot of nerve to say that there are no symptoms of climate change or that these symptoms are not clear enough.

True or false? “It’s very cold outside right now, and it was a little cold at times during the summer, so what is global warming?”

This type of argument is very boring because it is based on a poor understanding of what climate change is and how it works.

We are dealing with systems created by human activity as well as chaotic forces that operate in sometimes unexpected ways – this is the nature of climate. Some forces at work are easy to understand and anticipate; others don’t.

Sometimes it’s hard to see proof of what’s going on when looking at the weather on a small scale. But the whole picture is clear: the number of anomalous phenomena going on – floods, forest fires, etc. – shows how much we are faced with something we have never seen before.

The problem with the climate is that we face unpredictable risks. It is sometimes difficult to predict the weather for the next ten days. On the other hand, when we look at how things are going in the world, it becomes obvious that we have no time to waste in the fight against climate change. Over the past 50 to 60 years, we have witnessed very significant global warming, much stronger than natural fluctuations.

True or false? “The situation is not that bad; the IPCC is far too alarmist “

The IPCC report [released in August] was produced by the unanimous agreement of all signatory countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. that’s a lot of countries [197, to be precise].

There is therefore a very strong unanimity, which makes it difficult to accuse the IPCC of saying something wrong.

True or false? “People, animals and plants will simply be able to adapt”

We have only seen the beginning of the climate change process. Science shows a clear effect of greenhouse gas emissions in climate change. It’s a process that began in the 1970s, became visible in the 1990s, and is accelerating exponentially. As it is, what will happen in the future is a continuation of what is already happening. We are at a stage where global warming continues and we know why – because it is produced by causes that scientists have been able to observe with precision.

Humans will have a greater ability to adapt than other species. But the world is now very crowded. Previously, when humans adapted, it meant moving. But now the migration is not that easy; there are borders, there are rules. There is therefore a great risk of conflicts linked to migration. It will only be possible for humans to adapt if we allow people to move away from severely affected areas – and we don’t today.

With regard to plant and animal species, we are witnessing a very sharp decline in the number of most species in most countries. There are many documents showing how much such biodiversity is disappearing – often linked to non-environmentally friendly forms of agriculture in addition to greenhouse gas emissions.

So it’s pretty clear from the evidence we’re seeing today that species adaptation is not happening.

This article has been translated from the original into French.

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