The changing perception of climate change

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In the 2016 nature documentary Before The Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio summarised the need to combat climate change by saying: “You [humans]are the last best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it or we, and all living things we cherish, are history.” He has a point.

Back in 1896, a Swedish scientist named Svante Arrhenius found that doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase the surface temperature of Earth between 5 and 6OC.

However, his claims were widely disputed and largely ignored by the scientific community, with scientists believing that the instruments used at the time would not have been accurate enough to calculate such an association. They also believed that the Earth’s oceans would quickly absorb any excess atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Global Warming: real or hoax?
This controversy of opinion surrounding climate change has not gone away over the years. It’s been over 120 years since Arrhenius’ research was first published and yet many still believe the concept of climate change and global warming to be a ‘hoax’, blown out of proportion by governments and the media.

And yet, climate change is happening. Polar ice caps are melting. The planet is getting warmer. So, why do some still insist that it’s not as bad as people think? You’d be hard-pushed to find a polar bear with the same outlook.

A growing controversy
Despite the abundance of scientific evidence showing that the planet has got warmer year on year, and the strong consensus that this is due to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, many remain unconvinced that global warming is actually occurring. Not only that, but there remains controversy around whether the effects of climate change will be as bad as the science makes out, and whether there is a need to act against its threat.

As Donald Trump has recently proven through his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement for climate change, leaders are ignoring the science put in front of them. Instead, the public are manipulated into thinking that climate change isn’t as serious as it actually is, and yet its threat isn’t going away.

A changing world
More needs to be done to spread the message, and now more than ever. The debilitating effects are already being seen: hotter summers, longer allergy seasons, food shortages – research from the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health is even predicting that within the next 100 years, the US will look unrecognisable.

So, herein lies the million-dollar question: how do you shape public perception to help communicate the potentially dire consequences of global warming? Put simply: with a lot of persistence, time and effort.

There needs to be a relationship between science and the media to ensure that scientific evidence is presented to the public in a way that is factually accurate, yet easy to comprehend.

The risk of simply ignoring global warming is not even worth contemplating. With increased ignorance comes increased danger – only through a united world effort can climate change be managed effectively.

Gandhi once famously said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Maybe it’s time we listened.

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