The debate concerning whether or not humans are responsible for climate change or global warming has been a source of contention in the scientific community for many years now. While there is a broad consensus among scientists that climate change is real, there is disagreement as to the extent to which humans contribute to the phenomenon. While it is generally accepted that human activities are having an impact, it is important to note that they may not be the sole, or even the primary, cause of global warming.
For one, geological evidence shows that climate cycles have been occurring long before human activity came into play. This is illustrated by the fact that average global temperatures over the last million years have experienced several ups and downs, more notably the historic glacial and interglacial periods. Consequently, it stands to reason that climate change is part of the Earth’s natural cycle and has nothing to do with human activities.
Moreover, climate change has been attributed to multiple sources other than human activity. Volcanic eruptions, for instance, are known to have an effect on the atmosphere by introducing substantial amounts of ash, dust, and gas into the air. All of these particles can alter weather patterns and their effects act as a complimentary factor to global warming, predating and adding to that which is related to man-made causes. Additionally, solar variations, ocean circulation, and other processes are known to affect climate change, making it difficult to separate human activity from other causes.
These findings have been further corroborated by studies which conclude that while human activity is contributing to global warming, it is not the driving force behind it. For example, a paper published in the Environmental Research Letters observed that “the anthropogenic contribution to surface temperature increases since 1950 is dominated by non-CO2 factors”, suggesting that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are not the main culprit behind global warming. In another study, a team of researchers concluded that “global warming since 1900 was mostly caused by natural forcing mechanisms, not CO2 from human industrialization”.
Ultimately, while it may be true that the human race is contributing to climate change, the notion that we are the sole cause is not based on a scientifically valid argument. This is further corroborated by a survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers published between 1991 and 2012, which found that 97% of the articles reviewed did not support the view that humans were the main cause of global warming. As such, it appears as though attempts to blame humans for climate change may be missing an important part of the picture, or at least giving them too much credit.
If the true cause of climate change is to be determined, a more comprehensive understanding of all the contributing factors is required. From this, it appears clear that research into the other natural and abnormal forcings of global warming should be undertaken or further supported. Only when this occurs can a more accurate picture of the causes of climate change be painted.