Man-made climate change is here.
Climate change is a reality we can no longer ignore. We see the impacts in our everyday lives, from extreme superstorms, to heat waves, to massive wildfires and droughts. But climate denial, bankrolled by Dirty Energy companies and justified by pseudoscience, persists.
Reality Drop, inspired by Skeptical Science, is a library of science-based rebuttals to climate change deniers.
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Deniers say: One of the most important records of the Earth’s CO2 concentrations is 30 miles away from a carbon dioxide-spewing volcano.Science says: Scientists adjust for the fact that Mauna Loa is a volcano to make sure their measurements are accurate.Continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory clearly show that carbon dioxide has been increasing in the atmosphere since 1958. And Mauna Loa isn’t the only place this pattern is seen; data from observatories in Alaska, American Samoa and Antarctica all show the same upward trend. Scientists were well aware when they selected Mauna Loa that it’s a volcano. But they also knew that most of the time, the wind blows volcanic gases (including carbon dioxide) away from the observatory. When the wind infrequently shifts, there’s an obvious spike in carbon dioxide. Measurements from the “volcano days” are removed from the Mauna Loa dataset. That's how scientists make sure the data are accurate.
Deniers say: Hurricanes are natural weather events and they have nothing to do with climate change.Science says: Get ready for more Category 5s. Even if hurricanes don't happen more often, they are likely to get more intense.The science is settled when it comes to the cause of global climate change: It’s definitely happening and humans are responsible. But when it comes to the effect of climate change on tropical storms and hurricanes, the question isn’t fully settled yet. So what does the research show so far? It may well be that the FREQUENCY of tropical storms won't change much. But there is increasing evidence that storms will get MORE INTENSE as the climate warms — with higher wind speeds and more rainfall. There's a growing body of evidence that suggests hurricane intensity and climate change are linked. Stay tuned for more.
Deniers say: Switching to renewable energy would be dangerous to the economy.Science says: Clean energy is one of the world's fastest growing industries, and it employs millions of people in America alone.The best way to create jobs and grow the economy is to invest in clean, renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal power. Clean energy is one of the world's fastest growing industries. Global investment in clean energy climbed to $260 billion worldwide in 2011, a record high. That’s a 5% climb compared to 2009 and five times the investment made in 2004. And 2010 was the first time that investment in renewable energy surpassed investment in fossil fuels. According to one estimate, global clean energy investment will grow by another $140 billion by 2021.
All this investment creates jobs. Just look at the solar industry in the U.S., where jobs more than doubled from 2009 to 2011. According to one comprehensive study, the green energy economy (which includes clean energy) employs 3.1 million Americans today. Clean energy investment is a smart jobs plan. Pollution isn’t.
Deniers say: The wind stops blowing, the sun is covered by clouds, and the only backup for that unreliability is good old oil and coal.Science says: All day and all night, rain or shine, renewable energy is a reliable way to keep the lights on in the 21st century.Clean, renewable energy is turning out to be just as reliable as dirty fossil fuels — with the added benefit that it doesn't pollute the air or warm our climate. The right combination of a more flexible power grid and appropriate sources of clean energy can provide around-the-clock power — even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. In fact, by adding more clean energy, we’re making the entire grid more dependable. Which is a good thing, because every power plant is vulnerable to disruption. Take the coal-fired power plants in Nebraska, for instance, that were temporarily shut down in 2011 by flooding. One way engineers and scientists are working to improve the reliability of clean energy is through battery storage, which saves electricity when demand is low (or production is high) and releases it when demand is high (or production is low).
Clean energy technology will also get better as consumer demand increases. That trend is already underway: Clean energy is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, accounting for more than half of all new electric power added in 2009 and 2010.
Deniers say: Renewable energy is a nice idea, but it just isn’t economically viable.Science says: The wind and the sun are free, and they also don't ruin the climate.The claim that renewable energy is too expensive is out-of-date propaganda. The price of clean, renewable energy is plummeting. In some parts of the U.S., it's now almost as cheap to buy solar as it is to buy electricity from coal or gas. New estimates suggest wind power now costs customers about the same as natural gas in some areas and is even a little cheaper than coal. So it's no surprise that clean energy is one of the world's fastest growing industries, and already makes up 20% of the world's energy supply. Best of all? When you use clean energy, you don't have to pay for the millions of kids with asthma as a result of air pollution from coal. You don't have to pay Middle Eastern dictators to hand over their oil supplies. And you don't have to pay for the devastating financial and human impacts of climate change.
Deniers say: Natural gas is a ‘bridge fuel’ with relatively low carbon emissions.Science says: Natural gas is a bridge to nowhere. It undermines progress on clean energy and is dangerous for our climate.Natural gas is a dirty fossil fuel. Like coal and oil, it produces carbon pollution that disrupts our climate and greatly increases our risk of costly disasters. Nonetheless, natural gas is often touted as a temporary “bridge fuel” that will help us move away from coal and toward renewable energy like wind and solar. But here’s the thing: We don’t have to wait. The longer we delay our transition to truly clean energy, the worse off we’ll be. Natural gas is mostly made of methane, which is a greenhouse gas over 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. If methane leaks from natural gas extraction and distribution prove to be as high as initial studies indicate, natural gas could even be worse for our climate than coal. Moreover, the International Energy Agency found that a large natural gas boom, even with practices to reduce methane leakage, would still put us on track for an unsustainable global temperature rise of 3.5 degrees Celsius. The good news? We have viable alternatives. In 2012, the top new electricity source in the U.S. was wind power — not natural gas. To reduce carbon pollution, we need to ramp up our clean energy use without any further delay — and not get sidetracked by dirty energy like natural gas.
Deniers say: Why invest in wind and solar when we have clean coal?Science says: Don’t be fooled by the promise of “clean” coal. “Clean coal” is the industry’s tooth fairy. There’s no such thing. Wind and solar on the other hand, are real clean energy technologies that are viable today.In reality, there’s no such thing as "clean coal” — it’s a false solution. Coal is a dirty fuel — from start to finish. During the coal mining process mountaintops are blasted away and toxic slurry ponds left behind. Burning coal results in pollutants that are harmful to human health, like mercury and smog. As if this weren't enough, worldwide, more carbon pollution comes from the burning of coal than any other fuel. A limited number of coal plant operators are now experimenting with capturing the carbon pollution their plants produce and storing it underground. But the present cost of this technology — known as Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) — is extremely high and safe storage areas are limited. While CCS may play a limited role in a low-carbon future, it shouldn’t be mistaken for a quick fix to the climate crisis. To make meaningful progress in curbing climate change we need to invest in real clean energy sources, like wind and solar, which are more economically viable and better for our climate and health, too. That’s the bit Big Coal won’t advertise.