Climate Change Myths
Updated: Sep 11
By Wendy Guzin
“The worst of all deceptions is self-deception.” (Plato)
In the past 30 years, humankind has been unsuccessful in a fight to control the threat of climate change. Mark Jaccard has written a fascinating book, “The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success”, which dispels many myths preventing us from moving forward and taking the right actions to truly make a difference.
Jaccard raises the issue of self-deception which hinders otherwise climate aware, well-meaning individuals who believe in and support myths that inadvertently raise a roadblock to winning the climate change battle. One notable myth the author elaborates on is the idea that all countries will agree on climate fairness. This is simply not true. There is currently no universal collective action, despite the Paris climate accord, to slow down greenhouse gas emissions. Because of national sovereignty, no one truly owns the earth and it is thus impossible to globally enforce sustainability in any nation. An example of this is the inability of the family of nations to compel an unwilling government of an individual nation to restrict its citizens from dumping pollutants in its lakes and rivers. When this occurs, the earth ultimately suffers from polluted oceans.
There are many reasons why global agreement is so difficult to achieve. For instance, if a number of countries address reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by compelling their citizens to do so, this can result in non-compliant countries getting a free ride on their efforts, by burning low-cost fossil fuel to gain a more competitive position leading to a more prosperous economy. Jaccard devotes a chapter to this widely discussed topic on global climate fairness.
Another myth broadly believed is that we must personally change our behavior to conquer climate change. Jaccard maintains that while this is still an extremely important focus, it is not the ultimate solution. Many concerned citizens have a specific area they choose to aim their attention on. For example, some are concerned with their consumption of electricity while others seek to minimize their private vehicle use by taking public transportation, bicycling or good old-fashioned walking. Although we must continue our own quest for environmental healing, we must not delude ourselves by only limiting our focus to individual change.
Further, we must be vigilant in avoiding deception by large corporations conning citizens into false beliefs, by misleading product advertisements to fool consumers into thinking they are helping the environment. Beware of the mislabeling of so-called “green” products which imply a positive environmental impact, commonly employed by corporations and fossil fuel marketers as well.
“The fossil fuel industry and insincere politicians would like nothing better than to delay compulsory decarbonization policies by claiming that we need behavioral change. We must not play into their hands. Instead, we should prioritize the one behavioral change that can make a big difference: changing our behavior as citizens and voters to more forcefully pursue deep decarbonization policies."
Annie Leonard, producer of the documentary, The Story of Stuff, put it this way:
‘Instead of asking what we as consumers can do, let’s ask what we as citizens can do.Our real power to reduce the environmental and health impacts of the energy we use lies not in convincing consumers to make different choices from a limited menu but engaging as citizens to influence what is on the menu.’”
These are just two of the many myths dispelled by Mark Jaccard in his book, which is chock full of important information about climate change. “The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success” is a must read for all of those interested in making a difference and helping to heal our distressed planet.
Wendy Guzin is Co-Chair of the Conservation Committee