Fake news, and any interesting news, can spread like wildfire. Unfortunately, recent wildfires in Greece generated more fake news.
It has now become popular to blame every natural disaster on global warming. Here I try to explain why this attitude is wrong and can sometimes even impede our scientific progress.
Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) is a scientific theory that states that carbon dioxide emissions from human sources are causing global temperature to rise dangerously.
A consequence, proponents claim, is increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, like the one in Greece in July.
Before we try to evaluate the data for the validation of this claim, it is important to know what CAGW actually means.
Our planet’s climate has been changing continuously over the last 2000 years (the two millennia that saw an exponential growth in human population).
The Roman Warm Period during the first century A.D. and the Medieval Warm Period around the 10thcentury A.D. were both marked by warmth similar to the present. There was also a Little Ice Age that caused a significant dip in mercury during the 16thand 17th centuries, disrupting normal life in Europe and other temperate places.
Since the end of Little Ice Age, global temperature has been rising again. This rise began before industrialization era, clearly ruling out carbon dioxide, emitted by industrial activity, as its primary cause.
However, a section of influential scientists associated with powerful institutions like the United Nations now attributes the increase in global temperature to carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.
They also assert that this warming has made natural disasters like the wildfires in Greece more frequent and severe.
And they don’t stop just there!
They prescribe a reduction in the carbon dioxide emissions, which they believe will offset the temperature rise and take us back to “safe levels.”
But there are some major errors in the claims of these CAGW advocates—errors big enough to justify calling their claims fake news. Fake news is a popular term in the political arena, and it is an everyday reality in climate sciences.
- Carbon dioxide emissions failed to cause any significant increase in global temperature levels in the last 18 years, despite the emissions being higher than in the preceding decades. Moreover, the onset of the current warm period and the previous warm periods in climatic history occurred before industrialization, when there was no major carbon dioxide emission from human civilization.
- The current wildfire in Greece is suspected to have been caused by arson, not by natural causes magnified by climate change. Temperatures may have aided its spread, but that is likely to be the case even when the temperatures are a few hundredths of degree lower.
- Regardless, there is absolutely zero evidence for an increase in the frequency or intensity of wildfires or natural disasters. Data show that wildfires are on the decline. If anything, the forest cover in Greece (and in Europe) has been increasing and not being destroyed by wildfires as portrayed in popular media. There is no major negative impact from the marginal increase in global temperatures. The massive increase in carbon dioxide concentration levels has actually helped the world become greener since the Little Ice Age.
- Fake news on wildfires provides CAGW advocates with the perfect platform to push for more restrictions on the emission of carbon dioxide. A reduction in carbon dioxide emission through policies like the Paris climate agreement will not bring the temperature levels down by any significant margin. International agreements require nation states to invest billions of dollars in alternative technology (renewables) and emission mitigation strategies for no gain.
These points give us no reason to panic about our climate or to believe in the false climate-hype that we see in the media.
The arson-caused wildfire and the destruction it caused in Greece are unfortunate events. The loss of life is tragic. However, it should not be politicized to spread fake news about climate change.
Nonetheless, CAGW advocates have once again utilized a tragic moment to spread panic. Such tactics impede actual climate science and inhibit us from addressing the real causes behind the loss of the precious lives in the wildfires of Greece and elsewhere.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Chennai, India.