Common climate fallacies

There are many climate fallacies that are contributing to delaying the necessary actions.

Some have been deliberately created and promoted by governments and companies.

Fallacies should be identified and challenged.

Urgency

"There is no climate emergency"
The truth: The UK needs to make urgent radical emission cuts of over 10% per year to comply with its Paris Agreement commitments.

"The UK needs to halve its emissions by 2030"
The truth: It is the global total emissions that need to be halved by 2030 to restrict global warming to 1.5° - but the Paris Agreement specifies that countries with high current per capita emissions need to reduce their emissions more quickly, and countries with low current per capita emissions can take longer (document 122). The UK's fair share of the residual global CO2 budget runs out at the start of 2025 at the current emission rate (document 33), and so needs to halve before then.

"No major changes in lifestyles are needed"
The truth: Cuts in emissions of over 10% per year are needed in the UK - this needs major changes in lifestyles.

Strategies

"The UK has halved its emissions since 1990"
The truth: The fall has been 11%. Some Government documents and politicians claim a figure of 44% or more. These figures are obtained by ignoring the outsourcing of manufacturing abroad, and ignoring emissions from aviation and shipping. This is not fair or honest accounting.

"A strategy can be judged by its net zero date"
The truth: What matters is whether the total emissions are within the residual carbon budget - there does not have to be a net zero date. Whether it is 2040, 2050, 2060, etc is irrelevant.

"The UK's Net Zero strategy meets the UK's climate commitments"
The truth: The total emissions from the UK's Net Zero 2050 strategy (published October 2021) would be three times our fair share of the residual global CO2 budget - see document 109.

"China and India are the main problem"
The truth: What matters is the CO2 emissions per person. China's emissions per person are close to the world's average. India's are less than half the world average. The UK's are over double the world average.

"The UK's contribution of global warming is too small to make a difference"
The truth: Every 1% matters. The whole world can be divided into areas that emit 1% of the total. If any region claims its emissions do not matter, every other region will do the same and nothing will happen. The UK pioneered the use of fossil fuels - it now needs to pioneer the giving up of fossil fuels.

Protest

"Protests are unnecessary since effective action is being taken"
The truth: The UK and other governments are negligent and appear deliberately deceitful in their climate strategies; this will lead to world to disaster. Many people feel a need to raise the alarm.

Sectors

"Leisure flying is compatible with the Paris 1.5°C commitment"
The truth: Most people cannot afford leisure flying within their 50 tonnes personal share of the residual CO2 budget.

"Electric vehicles are zero-carbon"
The truth: Electric vehicles are generally powered by the spare capacity of the national grid, which is fossil fuel power stations. The exception is if the purchase of an electric vehicle is linked to a new installation of sufficient sustainable generation capacity.

"Hydrogen powered vehicles are zero-carbon"
The truth: The hydrogen is mostly derived from fossil fuels.

"Burning biomass to generate electricity is zero-carbon"
The truth: We cannot depend upon the burnt trees being replaced, and if they are, the CO2 will not be reabsorbed for decades.

"Planting trees has a major role in tackling climate change"
The truth: the area of land required would be too large, and the timescale is too long.

"Carbon capture and storage can be relied on to have a major role in tackling emissions"
The truth: It is still experimental and need is for emissions to be reduced now.

Terminology

There are a number of terms with meanings similar to fallacy, including
Of the options, fallacy is preferred here because



First published: 23 Jan 2022
Last updated: 17 Mar 2022