The Beginner’s Guide to Climate Change: Introduction & Misinformation

The Beginner’s Guide to Climate Change
Part 1: Introduction & Misinformation

Introduction

            Climate change is one of the most hotly debated topics of modern times. From its initial discovery in the 1970s to the mass political upheaval it spurs in countries across the world today, there is no avoiding the discussion; unfortunately, much of the information accessible online is presented out of context or is simply not accurate. This creates a dangerous trap for anyone attempting to learn more about the subject.
            This six-part blog series aims to provide a crash course for the most essential details surrounding climate change. Afterwards, hopefully you should be able to hold your own in any spontaneous climate change discussion! It is impossible to explain the entirety of the topic in a bite-sized blog, so links will be provided throughout that lead to further reading should your interest be piqued. Here is a brief outlook of the subjects that will be focused on throughout this series:

1) Identifying Misinformation
2) Is the Climate Changing?
3) Are Humans Causing Climate Change?
4) What Impacts Will Climate Change Have?
5) Combatting Climate Change
6) Modern Climate Change Policy


Without further delay, let’s begin by assessing the most important thing you have to be aware of when discussing climate change: misinformation.

Misinformation

            The internet is a powerful tool, but near-infinite knowledge comes at a price; anyone is capable of writing whatever they please and releasing it for the world to see. It is important to note that not all misinformation is intentional, but a discussion simply cannot bear fruit if one side has corrupted sources. It is generally good practice to complete a preliminary checklist when analyzing a source. When confronted with a climate change claim, answer these questions in your mind:

  • Where is this information coming from?
    • Who is the author? Do they have the proper credentials? What other pieces have they produced in the past?
      • Scientific articles are always peer-reviewed by multiple scientists anonymous to the author before they are made accessible to the public. Additionally, scientists who have been cited in multiple other scientific journals are generally highly reliable.
    • Are there any directly opposed articles that appear when searched for?
      • If there is a particularly damaging piece of misinformation floating around, multiple experts will generally create their own rebuttals to stop it. Do the same credibility checks on those authors.
    • If it is a website, what is the URL?
      • If the link can be written with words, it is generally an established and trusted website. Be cautious with long strings of numbers.
  • What is the motive for the production of this information?
    • Is there a large group of people that can benefit greatly from this information?
      • If a result seems “too good to be true” for a specific interest group, proceed with caution; the result may have been manufactured as such.
  • How does this information factor into my beliefs?
    • Am I being open-minded?
      • Be careful not to fall into a trap of cognitive bias. Humans often will not allow their opinion to be changed despite the evidence presented to them, and no one is an exception to this.

With that, you have been equipped with the starter tools for reading on climate change. Next time, we will take a look at some of the most glaring evidence of its existence.

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