Climate change deniers have tried many, many lies to try to deny the reality of climate change. Initially it was simply denying that it was happening at all. Then, after slowly realising the data showed that the planet was actually warming, they tried to convince the gullible that the warming stopped in 1998. However, again they had to back down when they realised the data showed that assertion was equine ordure. Even ignoring the long-term trends and just looking at the record-breaking years, 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2015 were hotter than 19981. Indeed, apart from 1998, nineteen of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, with 2020 and 2016 being the two hottest, since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) started keeping such records in 19802.
After the ‘it stopped in 1998’ idiocy, many other equally silly ploys were tried, one of which was ‘it’s happening but it’s natural’. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane were involved in most of the climate changes in Earth’s past. When concentrations in the atmosphere were lower, the global temperature was lower; when concentrations were higher, global temperature was higher. However, when the concentration of greenhouse gases increased quickly, as it is now, major disruption occurred, commonly causing major extinction events3. One of these extinction events was the worst that has ever happened to life, at the end of the Permian Period about 252 million years ago. In that disaster, it is likely that the carbon dioxide was released from a massive volcanic eruption in Siberia over a period of 400,000 years, which caused enough warming to reach a tipping point which in turn resulted in a sudden release of methane which caused an even more dramatic and abrupt warming which was the likely cause of the fairly abrupt extinction4.
David Wallace-Wells had an interesting way of viewing this5, in that because we know global warming is caused by emissions of greenhouse gases mostly from fossil fuels, we are in some way, lucky. If it was a natural phenomenon, on the scale of the end of the Permian, there is probably nothing we could do about it and most of the biosphere would be doomed as it was 252 million years ago. However, because it is caused by us, specifically and mostly by fossil fuel companies, we can do something about it. Now we just have to do so, and we have to do it fast.
- Wallace-Wells, D., 2019. Uninhabitable Earth: a story of the future. Allen Lane, 310p.