As John F. Kennedy put it, “the goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.” The issue of climate change can be clouded by misinformation and mistruth; the classroom is an important place to clear up climate misconceptions.
Here is the truth about seven of the most common climate change myths:
1. Transitioning to clean energy would damage the economy. On the contrary, studies have shown the cost of inaction greatly outweighs the cost of action – and they’ve also confirmed that we can cut emissions and grow the economy at the same time.
2. China’s not doing anything, so why should we? Actually, China has made huge investments in wind and solar, reduced coal consumption, and committed to launching a national cap and trade program.
3. Business doesn’t want this. Not true – as of last week, 81 of the world’s largest corporations had signed a pledge supporting the White House’s clean energy initiative.
4. Investors won’t support the clean economy. In reality, many organizations are steering their investments away from fossil fuels. And last month, six major financial institutions pledged to accelerate investment in clean energy solutions.
5. God gave us dominion over nature. Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, and other prominent religious leaders point out that this means we need to take care of our planet, and be wise and compassionate stewards of nature.
6. Congressional Republicans will never support climate action. While it’s true there has been obstruction, a small but vocal coalition of Republicans have put forward a bill acknowledging climate change and urging action. And last week, 48 former defense and foreign policy leaders from both parties took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal asking Congress to take the lead on fighting climate change.
7. Renewables can’t power a modern society. The proof against this is all around us – wind and solar energy continues to expand and get more affordable, and advancements continue to be made in energy storage.
Climate change deniers and those opposing moves to a clean-energy economy, your time is up.
The fossil fuel lobby spends a fortune supporting their relentless PR campaign that seeks to showcase why it make no sense to transition to a new economy driven by renewable energy.
But do any of their arguments actually stack up?
Let’s ignore the irresponsible claims that climate change is not actually taking place or that it is not caused by human activity and look at the economic, political and religious arguments for sticking with the status quo: These range from the high cost of moving away from oil, gas and coal to the impossibility that renewable energy can power the global economy.
To fire test seven of the fossil fuel lobby's key arguments, I caught up with one of the leading experts on corporate sustainability, Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot. Winston provides what he says is compelling evidence that “obliterates” each one of their arguments.
1. Transitioning to a clean-energy economy is expensive and damaging to growth
Winston says the best estimates on what climate change will cost the world -- versus the investment costs of acting to avoid the worst of it -- have for years pointed away from this fallacy.
From the Stern Review in 2006, to the more recent New Climate Economy and Risky Businessreports, Winston says the numbers show clearly that not acting on a changing climate would be a terrible and costly mistake.
“The most recent analysis, the powerful Energy Darwinism report from Citi, tells us that between now and the middle of the century, unchecked climate change would reduce global GDP by up to $72 trillion,” says Winston. “That’s a hefty bill for climate impacts. But another calculation from Citi tells a more positive and important story. To keep a global energy and transportation system going and growing, the world will spend large sums of cash on fuel and capital on infrastructure. Citi compares two scenarios for how we approach these investments: ‘action,’ where we build a clean economy, and ‘inaction,’ the fossil-fuel-heavy scenario that could drag GDP down so much. The bill for the action path, Citi says, will be $190.2 trillion over the coming 45 years. That sounds like bad news until you compare it to Citi’s estimate for the business-as-usual scenario: $192 trillion."
“So, in short, we’re going to invest huge sums of money in energy either way, so we may as well spend $2 trillion less to avoid tens of trillions of economic and human damage,” he adds.