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Debunked: Climate change is real - it is not a 'hoax' or a 'scam' designed to control people

Claims on social media suggest that climate change is made up.

For debunks

IN THE PAST few months, claims shared on two Irish social media pages which regularly post conspiracy theories and misinformation have alleged that climate change is not real.

On 9 August, a page linked to Yellow Vest Ireland – a group which spreads conspiracies about immigration and Covid-19 – shared a short video on Facebook titled “climate hoax”, which contained clips of Greta Thunberg and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan.

Three days later, another page called the Irish Inquiry – which describes itself as a “media company” and shares conspiracy theories about Irish politics, the media, the EU, Covid-19 and vaccines – posted a two-minute video about what it called “the climate scam”.

The video, which parodied the 1980s TV series Dallas, claimed that climate change is a “badly scripted melodrama designed to profiteer from, tax and control” ordinary people.

It further suggests that the so-called “scam” was engineered by the World Economic Forum and within the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 - both of which are regular targets of conspiracy theorists who incorrectly believe that the Covid-19 pandemic was a ruse by global elites to dismantle citizens’ freedoms and establish a new world order.

Climate change denial is not a particularly new form of misinformation, but claims which suggest that it is a fabrication of global elites have gained traction in recent years.

Conspiracy theorists are increasingly making claims, similar to those above, to suggest that the concept of climate change is a front that will allow unnamed people in power to impose restrictive policies and laws aimed at oppressing ordinary citizens.

This is despite an overwhelming body of evidence and a scientific consensus that climate change has been happening since the 19th Century and that global temperature changes have accelerated significantly since the middle of last century.

The so-called “hockey stick” graph, first published in the journal Nature 1998, shows how temperature fluctuations on Earth’s surface were consistent for hundreds of years before sharply rising from the 1950s.

That is largely because of the release of greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations – to the point that they are now circulating in the atmosphere at their highest level in 800,000 years.

That rise has been particularly stark since the middle of the 20th century: concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere – measured in parts per million (ppm) – have been increasing exponentially over the past 50 years so.

Scientists also agree that humans are responsible for this warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations group which was created to provide regular assessments on climate change from scientists in 195 countries, concluded in 1995 that ”the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”.

A NASA website which explains the causes of climate change specifically states that “human activities are changing the natural greenhouse”.

And hundreds of scientific institutions from across the world have confirmed that climate change is caused by humans. One US study even analysed more than 88,000 papers on climate change – 99% of them agreed about the role played by humans.

Their reasoning is that humans have burned fossil fuels, and engaged in agricultural activities, and deforestation, all of which have contributed to the so-called ‘greenhouse effect’, whereby heat from the sun’s warmth is trapped in the Earth’s lower atmosphere.

As the Earth has warmed up, we’ve seen a change in weather patterns, like longer and more intense heatwaves, increased flooding, and a likely increase in the strongest type of hurricanes.

Recent examples point to evidence of this. Climate attribution scientists – those who examine single weather events in the context of wider trends - say that this year’s devastating heatwaves in south-east Asia were 30 times more likely because of climate change.

Emeritus Professor of Geography at Maynooth University John Sweeney also explained to The Journal last month that high temperatures experienced in the northern hemisphere this summer were primarily driven by climate change.

“The evidence points increasingly to the fact that these kinds of heat wave events are occurring in greater intensity and greater frequency by climate change,” he said.

“There’s a recent report on the July heatwave in England which indicates that it was ten times more probable to have occurred as a consequence of climate change.”

Every decade since the 1980s has been warmer than the one that preceded it, a trend which is expected to continue, while the seven warmest years during human life on Earth have all occurred since 2015.

Warming induced by human activity has already led to global temperatures hitting 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels – and the World Meteorological Organization says there’s now a 50% chance it could reach 1.5 degrees within five years (in 2015, it was close to 0%).

If that seems small, scientists say that warming beyond 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels would pose a significant risk to the existence of human life.

Dangerous heatwaves have occurred in Europe in the past, but studies suggest that these are becoming more frequent.

A recent study in Science found that a person born in 1960 will only experience four major heat waves in their life, while a child born in 2020 will experience 18, even under the target to keep global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above industrial levels by 2100.

There is no shortage of evidence that the Earth has been warming in recent years due to human activity. There is scientific consensus that this is the case.

The claim that climate change is a scam or a hoax is therefore false.

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