New Scientist, May 16, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: How do you talk to skeptics about global warming? Here's a science-based response to 26 common myths.]

By Michael Le Page

Our planet's climate is anything but simple. All kinds of factors influence it, from massive events on the Sun to the growth of microscopic creatures in the oceans, and there are subtle interactions between many of these factors.

Yet despite all the complexities, a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences.

Yes, there are still big uncertainties in some predictions, but these swing both ways. For example, the response of clouds could slow the warming or speed it up.

With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories.

So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions.

There is also a guide to assessing the evidence. In the articles we've included lots of links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.

** Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter

** We can't do anything about climate change

** The 'hockey stick' graph has been proven wrong

** Chaotic systems are not predictable

** We can't trust computer models of climate

** They predicted global cooling in the 1970s

** It's been far warmer in the past, what's the big deal?

** It's too cold where I live -- warming will be great

** Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans

** It's all down to cosmic rays

** CO2 isn't the most important greenhouse gas

** The lower atmosphere is cooling, not warming

** Antarctica is getting cooler, not warmer, disproving global warming

** The oceans are cooling

** The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming

** It was warmer during the Medieval period, with vineyards in England

** We are simply recovering from the Little Ice Age

** Warming will cause an ice age in Europe

** Ice cores show CO2 increases lag behind temperature rises, disproving the link to global warming

** Ice cores show CO2 rising as temperatures fell

** Mars and Pluto are warming too

** Many leading scientists question climate change

** It's all a conspiracy

** Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming

** Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production

** Polar bear numbers are increasing

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