By Olivia Visser, Staff Writer
Climate change is real, imminent, and one of the biggest disasters facing humanity. More than sixty years of scientific research has led to the conclusion that humans must act quickly to prevent a global ecological and humanitarian crisis. Sadly, misinformation and disinformation still run rampant in conversations about the threat of climate change. An explosion of fake news on social media has only increased the level and accessibility of misinformation. By pointing out climate change has moved beyond a prediction to a reality negatively affecting billions, we can start to effectively push back against that misinformation.
It’s important to identify the drivers of climate change denial. Not everyone who shares misinformation does so out of malice — some people are genuinely uninformed. On the other hand, those who spread disinformation deliberately attempt to misinform people. You should not count on changing the minds of people who are caught up in disinformation, because they aim to reject evidence that opposes their existing beliefs. From my personal experience, those who are genuinely uninformed benefit the most from exposure to evidence. Emphasizing the massive consensus on human-driven climate change in the scientific literature is important. But it’s through examples like increasingly frequent heat waves and floods that we start to paint a humanitarian crisis.
The unprecedented North American heat wave of 2021 was made possible because of increased temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions. At least 595 lives were lost in BC alone to heat-related deaths. During this heat dome, the town of Lytton suffered devastating damage from a wildfire that displaced over 1,000 people and destroyed infrastructure.
Meanwhile, in Abbotsford, we can point to the 2021 “atmospheric river” that caused 15,000 people to evacuate and $450 million in damages. It’s the kind of eye-catching event that can be used to underline how extreme weather events are increasingly severe in a changing climate. It’s also a personal reminder of the human cost of climate change. Lives and small businesses were upended. The examples don’t stop there. The federal government published a handy list of 10 extreme weather events from 2021, including expanded wildfire seasons and unprecedented hurricanes.
I believe much of our futures will be spent suffering through the consequences of ignoring climate change. These natural disasters are not isolated events, but an increasing reality that is catastrophically changing life on earth. Their unprecedented nature makes it particularly poignant as a potential tool to convince climate deniers of a shift in their environment.
Climate predictions encourage people to act with their futures in mind, but catastrophes are already being realized. We must remind misinformed people of the existing and worsening humanitarian crisis that is climate change. If you care about people then you should care about the climate, because humans will continue to suffer exponentially if the issue remains unaddressed.