I was astonished to find out that the BBC linked to this “paper” in a recent article about eco-anxiety without explaining to the reader that it is just “crap”. There I'm quoting the distinguished climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. This BBC article is here:

All they say about it is

"Meanwhile, an academic paper on climate change - that is so grim it apparently resulted in people going to therapy - has gone viral, with some reports suggesting it has been downloaded more than 110,000 times."

They don't explain to readers how awful and poor quality it is. It is by a sociologist called Jem Bendell, and it relies on the worst kind of non peer reviewed junk science.

The author makes a big thing about it failing peer review as if that gave it additional credentials. But it was failed because it didn't pass the academic standards set by the journal, not because of the views peresented. It is by a sociologist, and uses another non peer reviewed article as its main source on the science which is a big no-no in publishing, to rely on another article rejected from peer review.That in turn uses the now largely disproved clathrate gun hypothesis.

The BBC talks about such matters as how it can help your mental health to do your bit to combat climate change. They cite several recent studies on the matter. They also talk about how there has been an increase in cases of eco-anxiety since 2018.

However what they don’t mention is fake news, and junk science, rather ironically since they start the article with a link to a junk science paper. In my experience, if you ask panicking people scared of climate change, the very people who are the subject of their article, most of what scares them most about climate change is fake news and junk science.

I find it makes a huge difference to many of them when they recognize that though there is much to be concerned about, the worst exaggerations such as this paper are fake news. Another example of fake and junk science is the work of Guy McPherson who in turn relies on sources such as Arctic News, a junk science site with the content written by Sam Carana who must have flunked physics and maths at school - he even uses a quadratic equation to extrapolate global warming temperatures! See my

Having no peer review does not make a paper better and that is one of the clearest examples for climate change. That would just be thrown out on the "slush pile".

This is another article I'm writing to support people we help in the Facebook Doomsday Debunked group, that find us because they get scared, sometimes to the point of suicide, by such stories.

This time I'm looking at the paper Deep adaptation. In its intro the author goes into much detail about how it failed peer review as if that gave it extra credentials.

The climate scientist Michael Mann’s comment on it is just four letters “Crap”. See the other responses to his tweet too.

The editors for the journal in question say

“The paper was not rejected, and was given a Major Revision due to the rigorous standards of the scholarly output of the journal.”

In other words the problem was that the paper was not of the standard expected of a scholarly paper.

Vice magazine reports that Bendell’s paper was used as a source for a publication by the Institute for Public Policy Research

Researchers from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), an established progressive think-tank, consulted Bendell's paper in the process of writing its new report, "This is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown." Laurie Laybourn-Langton, its lead author, told me via email: "I appreciated the frankness of the report in facing up to issues that so many in research and policy communities seem unwilling to. We don't subscribe to the view that social collapse is inevitable, however."

The Climate Change Paper So Depressing It's Sending People to Therapy

Puzzlingly, they didn’t cite it in their report which is here, and has no occurrence of the name Bendell in it.

In any case, if they did use his paper, this think tank is not a group of climate scientists, or scientists at all. They are experts in sociology and politics. And Jem Bendell, author of the deep adaptation paper is himself a sociologist, though apparently he has a degree in geography.

Michael Mann says this in comment to the idea of “uncontrollable levels of climate change”.

I read through his paper, looking for the science amongst all the sociology. What was his basis for his scary climate change claims? I eventually found it here, about half way through:

“In any case the IPCC estimate of a carbon budget was controversial with many scientists who estimated that existing CO2 in the atmosphere should already produce global ambient temperature rises over 5°C and so there is no carbon budget – it has already been overspent (Wasdell, 2015)."

If a high quality paper said “many scientists” you would expect it to cite papers in Nature or other high quality cites. Or perhaps to a review paper. This is one of the central points in his argument after all.

But instead Jem Bendell cites a paper by Wasdell.

WASDELLS RAMBLING JUNK SCIENCE PAPER

Wasdell describes himself as a system analysist and he says this paper was presented to a two hour session of the “Alternative Business Club” run by one of the two organizers of the “Global Leaders Academy” run by two business people Sue and Kent. You can read the “About” page of the group here.

He explains in his “About” page why he decided to present his paper to them instead of presenting it to a major climate change conference, “Our Common Future under Climate Change”being held in Paris in preparation for COP2.

This is the paper he read to this non notable group that nobody has heard of:

Of course he can present whatever he wants to whoever he wants. But there is no way that this is a respectable academic cite. The reason that peer review is required is because otherwise the paper can be full of mistakes, ones that are subtle and hard to detect that only an expert would notice.

The only cite of this unpublished paper in Google Scholar is Jem Bendell’s own “Crap” non peer reviewed article.

There is no wonder Jem Bendell’s paper as rejected from peer review when this was it’s main source for the central scientific claim. How could he think such a cite would pass peer review?

If either of these articles were good research, they would have found a home in some academic journal, and there would be climate scientists citing them in their papers.

His 5 °C claim is based on this paper which in turn seems to be based on the debunked clathrate gun hypothesis, which he claims has already started and can't stop.

CLATHRATE GUN HYPOTHESIS - EFFECTIVELY DISPROVED

This is how it is supposed to work:

Clathrate gun hypothesis scenario

Clathrates are a form of ice with methane locked inside it, which you find in the floors of the Arctic ocean, as well as other oceans worldwide. It floats in water like ordinary ice, so any that remains on the sea floor has to be bound to the sediment. It’s stable at higher temperatures than ordinary ice, up to a few degrees depending on pressure. There are thick deposits frozen into the sea bed below the Arctic ocean. The only ones that matter are the ones within 100 meters of the surface. Any deeper and the methane dissolves out of the bubbles into sea water on the way up to the surface, as the sea is very undersaturated in methane.

However it’s now known that only the top layers of the clathrates are warm enough to start to destabilize only the top 1.6 meters and they do so only very slowly (centuries) because they are only warmed sufficiently for less than half the year - and this doesn’t seem to be enough for fast destabilizing.

There have been skeptics all along- it is thermodynamically difficult for this to happen, because it's an endothermic reaction - the opposite of the idea of an explosion you get from the word "gun". If you try to get it going, some will dissociate, absorb the heat and that will cool down the rest and it just stops. Carolyn Ruppel, lead author of the USGS metastudy puts it like this:

So, the deposits locally can't explosively dissociate. It would need a huge feedback into the global climate to do this, but the metastudies show that this just isn't present. Instead it is a very slow burner over thousands of years, not even much affected by the increasing temperatures, since they have been warm enough to destabilize already for thousands of years.

The USGS metastudy in 2017 by the USGS Gas Hydrates Project concluded

“Our review is the culmination of nearly a decade of original research by the USGS, my coauthor Professor John Kessler at the University of Rochester, and many other groups in the community,” said USGS geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel, who is the paper’s lead author and oversees the USGS Gas Hydrates Project. “After so many years spent determining where gas hydrates are breaking down and measuring methane flux at the sea-air interface, we suggest that conclusive evidence for release of hydrate-related methane to the atmosphere is lacking.”

Gas Hydrate Breakdown Unlikely to Cause Massive Greenhouse Gas Release

That’s from the big USGS review in 2017, and the Royal Society did one too and then in 2018 the big gas hydrates research project CAGE finally proved that the methane has been leaking gradually for millions of years and is not a new thing . It is pretty much settled. It’s not even a consideration at all for climate modeling now.

For more about this see this, my update of the Wikipedia article which is now very dated on this topic and sadly they don’t seem likely to update it any time soon, so I’ve done my own update of it in our Doomsday Debunked wiki to include the latest research from 2017 though to 2018:

In his paper, then Wasdell talks about the distinction between faster and slower feedbacks and about the climate scientists leaving out some of the slower feedbacks - but what he doesn't explain is that they give good reasons for leaving them out.

WHY THE CLIMATE MODELS LEAVE OUT SOME OF THE SLOWER FEEDBACKS

They are indeed hard to model mainly because there are many unknowns in how they would respond. So, rather than attempt to model them directly, cliamte reviews typically have a section discussing them case by case and the maximum effect expected and timescale for each one.

In short

  • Permafrost - could contribute 12% to temperature rise by 2100 in worst case
  • Clathrates - basically debunked, negligible total effect
  • Amazon rain forest - transitions to a new state. Models that predict a major feedback may underestimate resilience by not including plant diversity.

See Royal Society review of research from 2017

There are several other such effects - generally they are local in effect only, or they are minor and not enough for a feedback or play out over centuries to millennia.

An example of a local effect would be the feedback on Arctic ice when melted leads to more ice melting because the water gets heated up more but only in the Arctic, not enough for global significance. Bendell makes much of this but it is taken account of in climate models already.

Example of long timescales - the Arctic permafrost is a multi-century effect, as it takes a long time to melt all that permafrost - and even so - the increase is relatively minor, with current policies already. it’s a rise of a fifth of a degree by 2200, most of that after 2100 as the worst case, best case is that it is carbon negative, a reduction by a fifth of a degree. A rapid warming this century, if we had no climate policies, would lead to a net emission from the permafrost in all the scenarios, but still, the maximum amount corresponds to about a half a degree by 2100.

There is nothing there baked in at present. Stop right now and the main effects of permafrost melting, on the basis of the evidence so far, are as likely to be carbon negative as positive and compared to the world as a whole very minor.

For more on this with cites, my:

There have been so many of these fake news stories recently. See also

WIDELY PUBLICIZED LOW QUALITY INSECT STUDY

Another recent example of this barrage of at least low quality news is this insect study which was not a systematic review and patchy in its choice of sources. It had only one study for the whole of China, of the domesticated honey bee - a bit like citing numbers of sheep in a report on wild animal diversity. Their only data point for Australia is again the honey bee, and where it is a non native species which was introduced in 1822 on the ship Isabella. It's not native to the Americas either. You don’t need to worry about a world without honey bees, any more than a world without sheep

The paper has nothing for India, Russia, the whole of Africa except South Africa, indeed, most of the map is just a complete blank:

Their methodology was described like this:

“We aimed at compiling all long-term insect surveys conducted over the past 40 years that are available through global peer-reviewed literature databases. To that effect we performed a search on the online Web of Science database using the keywords [insect*] AND [declin*] AND [survey], which resulted in a total of 653 publications. “ ScienceDirect

They were widely criticized for using a search for “declin*” to find the papers to summarize in their review. That seems likely to bias their review towards declining populations?

The BBC, like the rest of the mainstream news, just straight reported it “as is” and ran it as a feature on their mainstream News TV channel for the day. Here is their report.

For the criticisms of this study see my:

For a far more systematic study of insects see the UN study published just a week or two later:

However that flawed non systematic study got widespread publicity, while nobody ran stories about their section on insects based on reports sent in from most of the countries in the UN. They did not find a consistent decline of numbers.

JOURNALISTIC COVERAGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS

The journalist reporting of that insectstudy by the mainstream media has been appalling for its one sidedness, featuring on mainstream news, not presenting any criticism of the study and presenting it as if it were a landmark new paper.

Many of the stories reporting the IPCC report last year were also full of mistakes even in the sources that are usually highly regarded. For instance the claim in the NY times that it said that we would need a carbon price of $26,000 per ton by 2100. It actually recommended a price of $8 per year as an optional incentive along with other measures, and the 26,000 was to do with costs to the economy not incentives to reduce CO2 emissions.

The worst exaggerations gave many of the general public the idea that we risk extinction within twelve years or collapse of civilization. It said nothing of the sort, there was nothing in the article about human civilization or collapse of civilization. The 2030 timeline was for a 45% reduction in emissions if we want to follow the eassiest of the paths to remain within 1.5 °C. If we go up to 2 °C the only ecosystem of many worldwide that faced near extinction is the coral reef ecosystem. There is no risk at all of extinction of crop species, garden plants, domesticated animals or domesticated insects on any climate change scenario. We could live on the Moon or on Mars with enclosed habitats, from which it is clear that nothing is going to make Earth uninhabitable to humans. Indeed, a warmer world is more habitable for humans in many ways. It is the trnasition that is the issue and the rapidity of the change rather than the end state.

Panic is not necessarily the best way to behave. It can lead to making rash decisions which make things worse rather than better. It can also lead to people just despairing and giving up, in a sense of helplessness.

MUCH WE CAN DO

Actually there is a lot we can do. The IPCC report in 2018 outlined the issues highlighted in the studies and then it also covered recommendations on how to deal with it. It's message was that we can stay within 1.5 °C but need to increase our climate pledges. Many journalists reported it rather as "the situation is hopeless, and nobody is doing anything about it". But that is not true. For instance India, population nearly as large as China, is already 2 °C compatible and it is performing better than its pledges, is close to achieving a 1.5 °C compatible policy. Many countries are over achieving or have increased their pledges since 2016 and what many forget also is that it is only two years since 2016. We have ten more years to get down to 45% of current emissions which is what is needed for the easiest path to remain within 1.5 °C. China has one of the biggest challenges, and it is also expected to achieve its target to peak emissions by 2030, and to achieve 30% renewables. This is not nearly enough to make it even 4 °C compatible, but they need to establish a new renewables industry and make many changes before they can be expected to increase their pledges to make them eventually 1.5 °C compatible. This is one of the distinctive features of the Paris agreement, it gives a way for countries to make pledges that are within their reach, realistic and yet ambitious. And it is working.

Actually if you look back at what we have accomplished in just two years, and then project forward, if we keep up this momentum for the next decade, who knows what we can achieve. The IPCC made it clear in their report that 1.5 °C is scientifically possible and is affordable and achievable, and that all that is lacking is the political will to do it. And some countries already target below 2 °C, the most populous India, which is already not far from achieving a 1.5 °C compatible target.


SEVEN TIPS FOR DEALING WITH DOOMSDAY FEARS

If you are scared: Seven tips for dealing with doomsday fears which also talks about health professionals and how they can help.

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There are many others in the group who are available to support scared people via PM and who can also debunk fake Doomsday “news” for you if you get scared of a story and are not sure if it is true. See our debunkers list

If you are suicidal don’t forget there’s always help a phone call away with the List of suicide crisis lines - Wikipedia