Disproving Common Environmental Myths

Author: Adam Heppell

Date: Tuesday 1st June 2021

The environmental issues facing the planet are well documented, government pledges, ambitious targets are set, gloomy predictions are made by the scientific community. The sheer volume of material available means it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction resulting in assumptions being accepted for reality.  Take a look at a few common misconceptions people make about the environment and what they really mean.

Warmer Earth Temperature Is Expected

Throughout its existence over billions of years, the temperature of the planet has fluctuated. But such changes would historically take place over many thousands of years in a gradual fashion. Since the industrial revolution, these fluctuations have been happening in a much shorter time span.

Plants Will Benefit From Extra CO2

Humans are now having a direct impact on climate with activities involving coal and oil burning leading to increased CO2 levels. Not only does this mean a warmer temperature but the excess carbon dioxide also overwhelms trees that, contrary to common belief, do not need CO2 to function.  

Global temperatures are now at their highest since records began. In fact, 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have all taken place since 2001.

It Is Still Cold Where I Am, So Everything Is Fine

Just because it’s still cold in the winter doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist. Global warming is causing the Earth’s average surface temperature to increase. This is not only making heatwaves and droughts more likely but it’s also causing changes to the natural climate. These changes are making extreme weather events more likely and more severe – and that actually includes cold and wet spells in places.

Climate change can have a detrimental effect on many species. The oceans are forced to absorb the increased carbon dioxide that is being produced which not only raises the temperature but also increases the acidity of the water. Coral reefs are being steadily destroyed, destroying many creatures of nutrients and habitats.  It is suggested by the WWF that at present the sea temperature has increased one degree. An increase of two degrees could mean all existing coral reefs are eventually destroyed. 

Renewable Energy Costs Too Much

Renewable energy was once seen as an expensive, impractical alternative to fossil fuels. This is an outdated belief. In fact, renewable energy today is just as cheap (and often cheaper) than any other form of energy. In a 2019 report, the International Renewable Energy Agency stated that in most parts of the world today, renewables are the lowest-cost source of new power generation”. The cheapest form of new electricity capacity in the UK is wind.

Animals Will Adapt to Climate Change

For years, animals and plants have been faced with an ‘adapt or die' scenario. So far most species have adapted, but the speed of change means it’s becoming impossible for many species to evolve quickly enough to keep up with their changing environment.

Changes affect more than temperatures. As habitats are destroyed by roads and cities, animals can have their basic needs like access to food and water, and suitable places to mate and raise young, taken away. This is not just a problem overseas. The 2019 ‘State of Nature’ report from UK nature charities revealed that 41% of UK species have declined since 1970, with 15% now on the brink of extinction.  

China, India and Other Emerging Nations Are Solely to Blame

Despite being one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, China is currently one of the largest investors in renewables. The increase in investment has been in response to the rapid growth of green business and the need to clean up air pollution in its major cities.  

Although, nations including China, India and Japan are all currently more reliant on coal than many western nations. However, considering all emissions historically, the US has been the main contributor. Indeed, it has generated 25% of all man-made CO2 since 1751, more than twice as much as China.

In other words, every country contributes to and will be impacted by climate change. The Paris Agreement,  the international agreement to decrease emissions agreed by UN members in 2015, serves not only to reduce emissions globally, but to ensure each nation sets targets that are relevant in context and to ensure that wealthy, developed nations support developing countries to industrialise without the use of coal or oil.  

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