Climate apocalypse warnings unjustified and unhelpful

The more extreme warnings of mass extinctions and the collapse of civilisation due to climate change are not supported by science or common sense, and are likely to be more damaging to the important measures we should be taking too reduce emissions and pollution, and limit the destruction of important habitats and ecosystems.

There are reports that some young people suffer from anxiety over what apocalyptic events could happen, while it is likely that many people will turn off to the whole climate issue, to an extent at least.

The worst case scenarios that some are promoting as inevitable in the near future are likely to be wrong. Humans have had an impact on the Earth’s environment for a long time, increasingly as the population has exploded and industrialisation has introduced major adverse effects. But we have also been adaptable and resourceful. Most of us will likely survive climate change, and in some ways some of us will benefit.

It is still worth reducing energy consumption and food consumption and pollution, as we will benefit, as will our planet.

Michael Shellenberger (Forbes):  Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong

Environmental journalists and advocates have in recent weeks made a number of apocalyptic predictions about the impact of climate change. Bill McKibben suggested climate-driven fires in Australia had made koalas “functionally extinct.”  Vice claimed the “collapse of civilization may have already begun.”  Extinction Rebellion said “Billions will die” and “Life on Earth is dying.”

The name “Extinction Rebellion” sounds as extreme as there warnings. They have protested in New Zealand recently, but failed to attract much support.

Few have underscored the threat more than student climate activist Greta Thunberg and Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The latter said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.”

Says Thunberg in her new book, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”

They have wider (worldwide) support but specifying years that catastrophe will strike or will become unavoidable seems like nutter territory.

Sometimes, scientists themselves make apocalyptic claims. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” if Earth warms four degrees, said one earlier this year. “The potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” said another. If sea levels rise as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts, another scientist said, “It will be an unmanageable problem.”

They sound like vague but extreme guesses at best.

Apocalyptic statements like these have real-world impacts. In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change.

In October, an activist with Extinction Rebellion (”XR”) — an environmental group founded in 2018 to commit civil disobedience to draw awareness to the threat its founders and supporters say climate change poses to human existence — and a videographer, were kicked and beaten in a London Tube station by angry commuters.

And last week, an XR co-founder said a genocide like the Holocaust was “happening again, on a far greater scale, and in plain sight” from climate change.

There was quite an adverse reaction to that.

Climate change is an issue I care passionately about and have dedicated a significant portion of my life to addressing. I have been politically active on the issue for over 20 years and have researched and written about it for 17 years. Over the last four years, my organization, Environmental Progress, has worked with some of the world’s leading climate scientists to prevent carbon emissions from rising. So far, we’ve helped prevent emissions increasing the equivalent of adding 24 million cars to the road.

I also care about getting the facts and science right and have in recent months corrected inaccurate and apocalyptic news media coverage of fires in the Amazon and fires in California, both of which have been improperly presented as resulting primarily from climate change.

Attributing single weather events like storms and hurricanes to climate change is common, and stupid. There’s no way of measuring long term effects against single events, which have had complex influences.

It’s as stupid to claim, as is common Kiwiblog and The BFD, that some snow somewhere somehow proves climate change isn’t happening (heavier snowfalls and worse cold storms are predicted effects of climate change).

Journalists and activists alike have an obligation to describe environmental problems honestly and accurately, even if they fear doing so will reduce their news value or salience with the public.

There is good evidence that the catastrophist framing of climate change is self-defeating because it alienates and polarizes many people.

And it provides fodder to the ‘nothing is happening, we don’t have to change anything’ brigade.

And exaggerating climate change risks distracting us from other important issues including ones we might have more near-term control over.

I think that’s the biggest problem with overstating and scaremongering.

“I want the issues I’m about to raise to be taken seriously and not dismissed by those who label as “climate deniers” or “climate delayers” anyone who pushes back against exaggeration”

I feel the need to say this up-front because I want the issues I’m about to raise to be taken seriously and not dismissed by those who label as “climate deniers” or “climate delayers” anyone who pushes back against exaggeration.

With that out of the way, let’s look whether the science supports what’s being said.

First, no credible scientific body has ever said climate change threatens the collapse of civilization much less the extinction of the human species. “‘Our children are going to die in the next 10 to 20 years.’ What’s the scientific basis for these claims?” BBC’s Andrew Neil asked a visibly uncomfortable XR spokesperson last month.

“These claims have been disputed, admittedly,” she said. “There are some scientists who are agreeing and some who are saying it’s not true. But the overall issue is that these deaths are going to happen.”

“But most scientists don’t agree with this,” said Neil. “I looked through IPCC reports and see no reference to billions of people going to die, or children in 20 years. How would they die?”

“Mass migration around the world already taking place due to prolonged drought in countries, particularly in South Asia. There are wildfires in Indonesia, the Amazon rainforest, Siberia, the Arctic,” she said.

But in saying so, the XR spokesperson had grossly misrepresented the science. “There is robust evidence of disasters displacing people worldwide,” notes IPCC, “but limited evidence that climate change or sea-level rise is the direct cause”

What about “mass migration”? “The majority of resultant population movements tend to occur within the borders of affected countries,” says IPCC.

It’s not like climate doesn’t matter. It’s that climate change is outweighed by other factors. Earlier this year, researchers found that climate “has affected organized armed conflict within countries.

However, other drivers, such as low socioeconomic development and low capabilities of the state, are judged to be substantially more influential.”

So should be getting more attention and resources.

Last January, after climate scientists criticized Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for saying the world would end in 12 years, her spokesperson said “We can quibble about the phraseology, whether it’s existential or cataclysmic.” He added, “We’re seeing lots of [climate change-related] problems that are already impacting lives.”

That last part may be true, but it’s also true that economic development has made us less vulnerable, which is why there was a 99.7% decline in the death toll from natural disasters since its peak in 1931.

In 1931, 3.7 million people died from natural disasters. In 2018, just 11,000 did.  And that decline occurred over a period when the global population quadrupled.

Also, far fewer people now die from medical epidemics. While the death toll from measles in Samoa is alarming and tragic, it is not anywhere as as bad as The 1918 influenza pandemic: “The total number of deaths attributable to influenza was later estimated to have reached 8500, or 22% of the population. According to a 1947 United Nations report, it ranked as ‘one of the most disastrous epidemics recorded anywhere in the world during the present century, so far as the proportion of deaths to the population is concerned’.”

What about sea level rise? IPCC estimates sea level could rise two feet (0.6 meters) by 2100. Does that sound apocalyptic or even “unmanageable”?

Consider that one-third of the Netherlands is below sea level, and some areas are seven meters below sea level. You might object that Netherlands is rich while Bangladesh is poor. But the Netherlands adapted to living below sea level 400 years ago. Technology has improved a bit since then.

What about claims of crop failure, famine, and mass death? That’s science fiction, not science. Humans today produce enough food for 10 billion people, or 25% more than we need, and scientific bodies predict increases in that share, not declines.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasts crop yields increasing 30% by 2050. And the poorest parts of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, are expected to see increases of 80 to 90%.

Those predictions of increased food production may be affected by climate change – but those effects could be positive as well as negative.

Nobody is suggesting climate change won’t negatively impact crop yields. It could. But such declines should be put in perspective. Wheat yields increased 100 to 300% around the world since the 1960s, while a study of 30 models found that yields would decline by 6% for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature.

Rates of future yield growth depend far more on whether poor nations get access to tractors, irrigation, and fertilizer than on climate change, says FAO.

So more tractors could be more important than more electric cars.

All of this helps explain why IPCC anticipates climate change will have a modest impact on economic growth. By 2100, IPCC projects the global economy will be 300 to 500% larger than it is today. Both IPCC and the Nobel-winning Yale economist, William Nordhaus, predict that warming of 2.5°C and 4°C would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by 2% and 5% over that same period.

IPCC reports are rubbished by some, but that is usually superficial dissing based largely on cherry picking and ignorance.

Does this mean we shouldn’t worry about climate change? Not at all.

One of the reasons I work on climate change is because I worry about the impact it could have on endangered species. Climate change may threaten one million species globally and half of all mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in diverse places like the Albertine Rift in central Africa, home to the endangered mountain gorilla.

But it’s not the case that “we’re putting our own survival in danger” through extinctions, as Elizabeth Kolbert claimed in her book, Sixth Extinction. As tragic as animal extinctions are, they do not threaten human civilization. If we want to save endangered species, we need to do so because we care about wildlife for spiritual, ethical, or aesthetic reasons, not survival ones.

And exaggerating the risk, and suggesting climate change is more important than things like habitat destruction, are counterproductive.

Scientists overwhelmingly warn of climate change risks, but some are concerned about the over-egging.

Climate scientists are starting to push back against exaggerations by activists, journalists, and other scientists.

“While many species are threatened with extinction,” said Stanford’s Ken Caldeira, “climate change does not threaten human extinction… I would not like to see us motivating people to do the right thing by making them believe something that is false.”

I asked the Australian climate scientist Tom Wigley what he thought of the claim that climate change threatens civilization. “It really does bother me because it’s wrong,” he said. “All these young people have been misinformed. And partly it’s Greta Thunberg’s fault. Not deliberately. But she’s wrong.”

And media who have promoted Thunberg as some sort of messiah should be more careful about the message they send.

Part of what bothers me about the apocalyptic rhetoric by climate activists is that it is often accompanied by demands that poor nations be denied the cheap sources of energy they need to develop. I have found that many scientists share my concerns.

“If you want to minimize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2070  you might want to accelerate the burning of coal in India today,” MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel said.

“It doesn’t sound like it makes sense. Coal is terrible for carbon. But it’s by burning a lot of coal that they make themselves wealthier, and by making themselves wealthier they have fewer children, and you don’t have as many people burning carbon, you might be better off in 2070.”

There have been similar ‘counter-intuitive’ arguments here about the problem with shutting down cleaner gas recovery which pushes is to rely more on dirtier energy from elsewhere.

Emanuel and Wigley say the extreme rhetoric is making political agreement on climate change harder.

“You’ve got to come up with some kind of middle ground where you do reasonable things to mitigate the risk and try at the same time to lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient,” said Emanuel. “We shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifting people out of poverty and doing something for the climate.”

Happily, there is a plenty of middle ground between climate apocalypse and climate denial.

Can our politicians put more focus and efforts in this middle ground?

And while our media has moved recently to not provide publicity to denialist cranks, they should apply the same sort of restrictions to apocalypse cranks. Neither are supported by most science, nor by common sense.

Brink of an antibiotic apocalypse?

Since the discovery of penicillin in 1928 the prevention and treatment of infections has been revolutionised, and many millions of lives have been saved.

Many different antibiotics were since developed and used. Unfortunately they have also been misused and overused, not just by humans but also with stock to improve production of meat.

The ability for new medical treatments to keep ahead of evolving bacteria is under serious threat.

Resistance of bacteria to antibiotics has become a major problem. Since 2009 only two new antibiotics have been approved in the US.

NZ Herald: The Big Read: Is the world on the brink of an antibiotic apocalypse?

Scientists are becoming increasingly worried about the threat of an antibiotic Armageddon but are Kiwis in the dark? As a week-long awareness campaign InfectedNZ kicks off, science reporter Jamie Morton talks to two leading Kiwi microbiologists.

Across the world, scientists and clinicians are becoming increasingly worried about bacteria and other pathogens, which are evolving to resist drugs at a rate outpacing the development of new medicines.

In a world without antibiotics, previously treatable infections will once again become deadly, or may require amputation to stop them in their tracks.

Because antibiotics are also used to prevent infection in vulnerable people, it will also become life-threateningly risky to perform routine operations such as caesarean sections and joint replacements, and treatments like chemotherapy for cancer.

In a series of recent reports commissioned by former British Prime Minister David Cameron, economist Sir Jim O’Neill estimated that without urgent action, antimicrobial resistance would kill 10 million people a year by 2050, more than will die from cancer.

Already, an estimated 700,000-plus people worldwide die each year due to drug-resistant infections.

But the effect could be much more devastating when even today’s easily-treatable diseases are found harder to combat.

As described it’s a big read, but an important one. It’s associated with a campaign this week.

New campaign launches

The new online campaign InfectedNZ, running this week, aims to boost awareness about the health, social and economic impacts of infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance across New Zealand.

The campaign will feature a series of research-driven blog posts and social media conversation.

It’s being hosted by Auckland University-based centre of research excellence Te Panaha Matatini, while data used in the discussions is collated and provided by Figure.NZ, a charity devoted to getting people to use data about New Zealand.

“We decided it was time we started a national conversation about infectious diseases and what we’re going to do about the looming antimicrobial Armageddon,” said Wiles, who has helped organise the campaign.

“That’s why we’ve asked leading health, social and economic researchers, and people with personal stories, to write for us this week at tepunhahamatatini.ac.nz and on social media with #infectedNZ.”

tepunaha_logo31

More at InfectedNZ.

 

 

 

Apocalypse imminent?

Tobias Stone, described as a leading British academic who specialises in archeology and anthropology, has written an article suggesting that another great war is looming. And the warning of impending apocalypse is apparently gaining traction.

Predictions of apocalypses are common so I’m not sure why this one is getting so much attention.

The Doomsday clock was left at 3 minutes to midnight in January this year by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists…

…recent progress in the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate accord “constitute only small bright spots in a darker world situation full of potential for catastrophe.”

But that was before the rise of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK.

NZH: Trump, Putin and Brexit all signs another world war is coming

Tobias Stone, who specialises in archeology and anthropology, has invoked the apocalypse in an article published this week that is rapidly gaining traction.

Stone argues that there are chilling similarities between the terrifying dictators who led us into WWI and WWII and modern politicians such as Vladimir Putin, Robert Mugabe and US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“Trump says he will Make America great again, when in fact America is currently great, according to pretty well any statistics,” he writes – an observation echoed by US President Barack Obama in his speech to the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.

“He is using passion, anger, and rhetoric in the same way all his predecessors did – a charismatic narcissist who feeds on the crowd to become ever stronger, creating a cult around himself.

“You can blame society, politicians, the media, for America getting to the point that it’s ready for Trump, but the bigger historical picture is that history generally plays out the same way each time someone like him becomes the boss.”

Stone says it’s a scenario that’s playing out across the world.

“Russia is a dictatorship with a charismatic leader using fear and passion to establish a cult around himself,” he writes.

“Turkey is now there too. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia are heading that way, and across Europe more Trumps and Putins are waiting in the wings, in fact funded by Putin, waiting for the popular tide to turn their way.”

Throw in Brexit and you have the perfect storm – conditions that are ripe for a Third World War, and a nuclear one at that. Stone paints a terrifying picture of how it could all play out.

“An example of how Brexit could lead to a nuclear war could be this: Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum,” he writes.

“Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU. The EU, for all its many awful faults, has prevented a war in Europe for longer than ever before. The EU is also a major force in suppressing Putin’s military ambitions.

“European sanctions on Russia really hit the economy, and helped temper Russia’s attacks on Ukraine (there is a reason bad guys always want a weaker European Union). Trump wins in the US. Trump becomes isolationist, which weakens Nato. He has already said he would not automatically honour Nato commitments in the face of a Russian attack on the Baltics.

“With a fractured EU, and weakened Nato, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people. He funds far-right anti-EU activists in Latvia, who then create a reason for an uprising of the Russian Latvians in the east of the country (the EU border with Russia).

“Russia sends ‘peace keeping forces’ and ‘aid lorries’ into Latvia, as it did in Georgia, and in Ukraine. (Putin) annexes Eastern Latvia as he did Eastern Ukraine (Crimea has the same population as Latvia, by the way).

“A divided Europe, with the leaders of France, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and others now pro-Russia, anti-EU, and funded by Putin, overrule calls for sanctions or a military response. Nato is slow to respond: Trump does not want America to be involved, and a large part of Europe is indifferent or blocking any action.

“Russia, seeing no real resistance to their actions, move further into Latvia, and then into eastern Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic States declare war on Russia and start to retaliate, as they have now been invaded so have no choice. Half of Europe sides with them, a few countries remain neutral, and a few side with Russia. Where does Turkey stand on this? How does [Isis] respond to a new war in Europe? Who uses a nuclear weapon first?”

Stone believes we ignore the warning signs, the unnerving feelings of déjà vu and allow history to repeat itself because most peoples’ perspective is limited to the experience communicated by their parents and their grandparents.

“My point is that this is a cycle,” he writes.

All sorts of things could and will happen. And have happened – the Highlanders didn’t make the Super final.

But is a World War more likely than usual?

Is the apocalypse really imminent? Just in case:

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ISIS – apostles of the Apocalypse

A caliphate established by radical Muslims that supports genocide and appears intent on precipitating World War 3 with an aim of engineering the Apocalypse – “that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.”

A chilling explanation of what is driving the Islamic State, by Graeme Wood at The Atlantic, and the deadly destination they are intent of reaching.

What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

Short version – they want to revert to practising Islam word for word as written 1500 years ago. This means reliigious law, genocide and precipitating the end of the world.

In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers.

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail.

And being fanalical religion based they are not the sort of people to be persuaded that they might be wrong.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable.

We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior.

Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

And holding territory is an important part of their plans – an essential part.

Control of territory is an essential precondition for the Islamic State’s authority in the eyes of its supporters. This map, adapted from the work of the Institute for the Study of War, shows the territory under the caliphate’s control as of January 15, along with areas it has attacked. Where it holds power, the state collects taxes, regulates prices, operates courts, and administers services ranging from health care and education to telecommunications.

So doing nothing and allowing them to capture and control more territory doesn’t seem a wise option.

But combatting their influence and their spread won’t be easy and it won’t be without paying potentially a heavy price.

They are provoking more and more countries. That must be deliberate.

They want to precipitate World War Three and want it to be the war that ends all wars, the end of human civilisation.

They only represent a small minority of Muslims. But they are growing in numbers and influence.

We should be worried.

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent – Edmund Burke

It’s a long article but worth wading through – What ISIS Really Wants

Caliphate (Wikipedia):

A caliphate (Arabic: خِلافة‎ khilāfa) is a form of Islamic government led by a caliph (Arabic: خَليفة‎khalīfah   pronunciation (help·info))—a person considered a political and religious successor to the prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire Muslim community.

The Rashidun caliphs, who directly succeeded Muhammad as leaders of the Muslim community, were chosen through shura, a process of community consultation which some consider an early form of Islamic democracy.

During the history of Islam after the Rashidun period, many Muslim states, almost all of them hereditary monarchies, have claimed to be caliphates.

The Sunni branch of Islam stipulates that, as a head of state, a Caliph should be elected by Muslims or their representatives. Followers of Shia Islam, however, believe a Caliph should be an Imam chosen by God from the Ahl al-Bayt (the “Family of the House”, Muhammad’s direct descendants).

In 2014, the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levantdeclared itself a Caliphate; nonetheless, its authority remains unrecognised by any country.