It’s so good to see some climate scientists at last starting to speak up about the awful over the top things Extinction Rebellion activists are saying, though I wish more would speak up and speak up more strongly.
Here is a meme that may help with sharing:
Yes XR activists, climate change is a serious issue BUT “Please STOP telling kids they may not grow up”
IPCC author Dr Tamsin Edwards
Background image: Smiling child at school by Shlok Nikhil
Rupert Read is a philosophy professor. He is also a frequent spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion on national TV here in the UK where I live.
Yes we do need to act on climate change. But we need to be informed by science. He is surely well grounded in philosophy. However, what he says in the video about climate science is mistaken.
He titles his video:
Dr Tamsin Edwards, senior lecturer in Physical Geography at Kings College London is a lead author of the upcoming IPCC sixth Assessment report to be published in 2021. She is an expert on quantifying uncertainties in model projections, particularly for the contributions of the Greenland ice sheet to sea level rise.
Here is how Dr Tamsin Edwards responds in her tweet:
@GreenRupertRead Rupert, I am shocked at this talk. Please stop telling children they may not grow up due to climate change. It is WRONG and deflects from the fact it is poor people who are at risk due to inequality exacerbated by shifts in weather. https://t.co/rxcwi2Okdo— Dr Tamsin Edwards (@flimsin) October 26, 2019
(I quoted Dr Tamsin Read in the title of this article).
This is an academic talking to school children, and his title “How I talk to children” would encourage school teachers and other academics to follow his example.
How many teachers have watched this and are now teaching their classes at school in the same way? What is this doing to our children? It is not without consequences.
Well, I can tell you some of the effects of these false beliefs. I am constantly helping people via PM and comments in our group, Doomsday Debunked, who have become terrified, even suicidal, about climate change.
This has to stop. I have just come across this video from a young child Lauren Jeffrey giving this message - please watch.
(click to watch on Youtube)
Congratulations. Your constant doomsaying and reliance on worst-case scenarios is unscientific and has ruined the lives of many people from my generation.
See her other videos on this topic here: Lauren Jeffrey
As Lauren Jeffrey said to Extinction Rebellion - you say to look at what the scientists say. So when the kids look at the IPCC reports and the actual peer reviewed scientific reports, they are not saying what you say. So then you say the scientists are being too conservative. So, who are they supposed to listen to? Non scientists and random activists, and newspaper reports?
Yes, I understand that his goal Is to create awareness, and to encourage action, which is good. But this is not the way.
This is scaring kids by presenting extremely exaggerated claims. This will just paralyse many of them with fear which can have serious consequences.
At least some of those children may have gone home sobbing, and scared that they have no future. Many of those we help in the Doomsday Debunked Facebook group are under treatment from therapists, and some were suicidal when they found us. You can read some of their stories here (search for “Climate Change)
His message to these children is that they risk not having a future at all unless we do immediate urgent climate action (zero emissions by 2025). He bases this on two “facts”. Both of these claims are incorrect as we’ll see.
If what he said was scientifically accurate then it would be okay but it is not. He has not produced a single cite, nor has anyone else, except Jem Bendell's paper which is based on a blog post by Wasdell, a system analyst describing a talk he gave to a group of businessmen. Neither Wasdell nor Bendell's work has passed peer review by any climate scientists.
I will go into his reasoning below, first his "two facts" from that video that he presented to the children, and then his own blog post about it based on Jem Bendell's unpublished non peer reviewed paper.
I am writing this to support the kids like Lauren Jeffrey to tell them that yes they will grow up, can plan for a future as adults, that there is much they can do. That they do have a future, don't listen to those who say you are doomed because as she says they are not basing this on science.
They can be part of this transformative change we need and can be the first carbon zero generation in a world with biodiversity preserved and nature services and a fully functioning happy healthy planet.
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 feeling suicidal about it, by such stories.
Do share this with your friends if you find it useful, as they may be panicking too.
WATCH YOUTUBE VIDEO
This is a YouTube video I did about this page:
(click to watch on Youtube)
EXTINCTION REBELLION SPOKESWOMAN ON THE ANDREW NEIL S
It was great to see the hard hitting UK interviewer Andrew Neil challenge the Extinction Rebellion. This is the first time someone actually challenged their claims that I know of, rather than just talk to them about how they are inconveniencing ambulances and communters..
It’s been frustrating for someone who cares about global warming and biodiversity loss to have so much screen time on the UK TV about the demands of the Extinction Rebellion, while what the IPCC say is hardly ever mentioned, or at least, not accurately.
(click to watch on Youtube)
This is the first time I’ve seen any of them challenged on TV here. Usually it’s just them being asked to explain their ideas and the only dialog is about the way their protests obstruct hospitals and commuters.
He had done his homework too and was able to challenge her with the science. He made it clear that he agreed that the situation is serious and that we need to do something about it - but asked her to explain why they are saying billions will die, and why they are saying that we have to reduce to zero emissions by 2025 in only six years.
She had nothing to answer. No explanation for their 2025 zero emissions target and nothing to offer by way of evidence to support their claim that billions would die.
As Andrew Neil rightly said there is nothing in the report about 2025. They say that the easiest way to target 1.5 C in their P1 path is to cut emissions in half (45% reduction) by 2030 and reduce to zero emissions by 2050.
Also, there is nothing in the report about billions of people dying on any scenario even if we do nothing about climate change.
On this basis of no logical reasoning, she was yet willing to say to him in the interview that we should stop just about all plane flights to achieve their goals. Even though, as he correctly said, plane flights are only a tiny percentage of global emissions.
At the same time she was saying that we have to listen to the scientists - when she is clearly not doing this herself.
MORE ABOUT THE BILLIONS DYING
Extinction Rebellion don’t give cites for this. But let’s look at some of the relevant findings.
We are currently headed for around 2.9°C by 2100 according to Climate Action Tracker: with plenty of leeway to increase on those pledges.
In the 2018 report the IPCC’s own worst case climate change example (just meant as illustrative) was one where we abandon the Paris agreement and do too little too late and just manage to get within 3 C. It's not plausible we do nothing.
This is the most recent research I can find on this. The cite on the Persian Gulf is from 2015 and it is possible the research has moved on a bit since then. It doesn't get much coverage in the IPCC reports because their focus is on things that can happen this century.
- 4°C: The first point where in small regions you can't work in humid out of doors conditions for as long as six hours a day for a few days during the worst heatwaves. We can withstand high temperatures by sweating but in conditions of high humidity such as paddy fields you can’t lose heat in that way.
This starts to happen around 4°C, in the hottest paddy fields of China and some other very hot places for a few days a year (2018 paper here).
- 7°C : The first point where in some regions you need air conditioning to survive at all on the hottest day in the hottest heat wave every decade or so?
Starts to happen in the Persian gulf at around 7°C according to one paper, see the MIT press release - not likely to get there this century (2015).
- 2.9°C On our current path - every year already 30% of the population experience heat waves such as the one that we had in Europe this summer 2019. This increases to possibly over 50% by 2100 on the RCP 4.5 path or 2.4°C rise, not far off the present and would be considered an unambitious goal to increase pledged to.
This does not lead to billions dying though. Nobody needs to die in such a heat wave.
You may have a 1 in 10,000 chance of dying if you don't take the proper precautions such as drinking enough water, seeking shade at hottest times of day etc (definition of "deadly heat" in this paper). If you take the precautions you don’t die of heat in a heat wave - see Global risk of deadly heat’ is about heatwaves that already affect 30% a year - elderly and vulnerable should take precautions
The last one is the only one that’s possible on the path we are on at present (headed for 2.9 C) and it’s not a case of billions dying. Nobody needs to die if they take the right precautions.
It may lead to migrations yes, but not people dying of heat. Indeed it’s hard to predict what will happen because a warmer world may lead to people moving or adapting.
Here is what they say about climate migrants in chapter 3:
Displacement: At 2°C of warming, there is a potential for significant population displacement concentrated in the tropics. Tropical populations may have to move distances greater than 1000 km if global mean temperature rises by 2°C from 2011–2030 to the end of the century. A disproportionately rapid evacuation from the tropics could lead to a concentration of population in tropical margins and the subtropics, where population densities could increase by 300% or more
page 245, 22.214.171.124 The changing structure of communities: migration, displacement and conflict from chapter 3 of the IPCC report in 2018.
This is due to multiple stresses and they can all be adapted to if they choose to remain, especially if they have lots of resources. It's not too hot for humans. If this happens, it is because of crops failing, conditions they find personally uncomfortable, habitat degrading etc. All of that can be counteracted / prevented / adapted using methods we already have for living in hot dry conditions.
For poorer people there would be no choice e.g. if crop yields go down, and habitat degradation - unless they have a coordinated response, and work together. It makes a big difference if they have something like the Green Climate Fund to help.
Nothing here remotely resembles what the Extinction Rebellion talk about on TV and in these talks!
- you can't work in the paddy fields for a few days during the worst heatwaves? Starts to happen for hottest parts of China (for instance) at around 4 C (paper here)
- need air conditioning to survive on the hottest day in the hottest heat wave every decade or so? (Starts to happen in the Persian gulf at around 7 C according to one paper, see the MIT press release - not likely to get there this century
- that there's a 1 in 10,000 chance of dying if you don't take the proper precautions such as drinking enough water, seeking shade at hottest times of day etc (definition of "deadly heat" in this paper) - see Global risk of deadly heat’ is about heatwaves that already affect 30% a year - elderly and vulnerable should take precautions
RUPERT READ AS SPOKESPERSON FOR EXTINCTION REBELLION
I'm in the UK, we have had wall to wall Extinction Rebellion on TV during the protests and this is what they tell our children on TV too. It is rarely challenged.
Rupert Read is a philosopher lecturer and a colleague of Jem Bendell author of Deep Adaptation. He acts as one of the spokespeople for Extinction Rebellion on TV.
Speaking on TV:
At 29 seconds in: " I actually know Boris Johnson I was at college with him at Oxford and he's actually a lot smarter than he likes to let on and so I've got a message for him and the message is that this rebellion is about whether or not we have a future whether or not our children have a future ;..."
"I'm doing this for Poppy and Rosie and Rosie yeah because I love them."
"How old are they?"
"One of them is about 10 and the other is in her teens and I'm doing this for them and if more of us don't do this we're not going to have a future"
So now let's go back to this video talk he gave
RUPERT READ'S TWO "FACTS"
The first is a claim that if the UK expands its airports, we won’t be able to meet our target of zero emissions by 2050, and weather will spin out of control.
A bit of background may help. Currently 2% of world emissions are from aviation. How is a fraction of 2% of global emissions supposed to cause our weather in the UK to spin out of control?
He then says that some UK crop yields are down by a third because of the heat wave in summer 2019. He tells these children that this is the first step on the road to a near future collapse of civilization and to them not having a future at all.
As we’ll see only onions and potatoes are down in yield, and these are only a few percent of our crops.
The UK’s main crops are small grains such as wheat and barley. These are way up this year.
MASS EXTINCTION CRISIS
Let's test your understanding of this extinction crisis. As many of you probably know, amphibians are going extinct faster than birds, reptiles, fishes, or mammals. What would you guess is the extinction rate of amphibians? In percentage points per century?
I will give the answer after first quoting from the talk again.
Rupert Read mentions this early on but doesn't elaborate, he assumes everyone knows about this "crisis" which in the popular imagination unfolds in a devastating way in a few decades or less: 0:50
That the so-called leaders of this country have failed you. That your teachers for the best of their intentions are failing you. That your parents and their generation again with the best of it their intentions are failing you and that so far I'm failing you and we're all failing you.
Because you are in a terrible predicament. Ii's worse than you've been told almost certainly probably a lot worse. Dangerous climate change and the extinction crisis, the crisis of many many species going extinct as we speak if they're not stopped will mean that you do not have normal lives like your parents have.
This is about whether you have a future. People probably sometimes ask you what are you going to be when you grow up but we've reached a point in human history where the question also has to be asked:
"What are you going to do if you grow up?"
I am really really sorry to have to say this to you. But this is the truth and I think it is too late for anything but the ruth.
This "extinction crisis" meme has reached the point where many people just accept as meaning most species will soon be extinct. We read that all insects will soon be extinct, trees, higher animals, birds, you name it. Few in the audience would give this as much as a second thought:
Dangerous climate change and the extinction crisis, the crisis of many many species going extinct as we speak if they're not stopped will mean that you do not have normal lives like your parents have.
Scientists working on extinction rates have a different idea of what counts as the onset of a mass extinction than the general public or even other scientists. Most would probably guess something like 90%?
It's 2% (calculated as 146 amphibians gone extinct out of 6414 species in 114 years from this paper)
That is really really high on a geological timescale - you can't continue like that even for millennia. At that 2% per century we risk losing 20% of the amphibians in a geologically brief period of a thousand years.
But it doesn't mean they all go extinct this century and we know what caused it and can stop and reverse it. We are already doing a lot to help the amphibians. The killer frog disease peaked in the 1980s. Killer frog disease - the declines peaked in 1980, it’s nothing new
The IUCN 27% figure is for all "threatened" includes ones with very small or small but fragmented stable populations and ones with an extinction risk of at least 10% by 2100 which again corresponds to a similar extinction rate of at most a few percent per century.
Yes, a few percent extinct this century if that happens is far too high and if we don't act it can go higher than that. We must stop that. But we can do that. The IPBES report explained how to do it.
The point of the IPBES study is that we know what is causing this, with perverse agricultural subsidies that encourage harm to biodiversity as their top reason why creatures are going extinct.
Their report was about how we can SAVE a million species (half of those million are insects BTW, which is only 10% of insects and many others are minute sea creatures).
So what about all those extinction stories you read?
These often have serious mistakes in them and exaggerations. They need to be fact checked. You also need to know that they need to be fact checked because the mainstream press are reasonably reliable on most topics but on climate change they are thoroughly unreliable sadly, especially since 2018.
As an academic friend I help put it (expert in a different area of science from climate change):
I like to think of myself as a smart person, I am a tenured professor, a scientist, so I should be able to judge the credibility of these stories. However, oftentimes scientists would not speak up against these stories or even tweet about them in a way that implied endorsement. This is not my area of expertise and if scientists in this field agree they these stories are accurate, if high quality newspapers write these things, then I start believing that they must be true.
Here are a couple of examples of what happens if you read the papers, and read the criticisms of them to fact check the news:
Insects could vanish within a century - FALSE
- Massive insect decline 'catastrophic' for planet (CNN)
Plummeting insect numbers 'threaten collapse of nature' (The Guardian)
Exclusive: Insects could vanish within a century at current rate of decline, says global review
Non systematic study, most of the map blank, numbers for China and Australia are only based on data for the domestic honey bee! Contradicted by more systematic study from the FAO published a week or two later.
My debunk: We Are NOT Headed For World Without Insects - Insect Decline Survey Hitting Headlines Non Systematic, Patchy & With Limited Data - and see tweets by insect ecologist Manu Saunders
Insect collapse in Costa Rica - FALSE
- Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’ (Guardian) “Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished”
Research shown to be mistaken a year later, confused by effects on the forest of Hurricane Harvey - no correction of original story.
Debunk: OOPS - Puerto Rican Insects In Forest Canopy Increase With Warmth - Not Decline - And Frogs Like The Warmth Too
extinction stories you may have read and believed in the last year see the extinctions section of:
HEAT WAVE AND CROP YIELDS
Here is Rupert Read at 03:20
We had a terrible heat wave last summer. I mean it was nice for some of the time, you could go onto the beach and stuff like that. But it went on and on and it got hotter and hotter.
And then what started to happen is, our crops started to die. many crops in this country their yields were down by about a third I mean there was a third less food coming from them,
Now that heatwave stopped in July, but what if they had gone on into August or September well then the crops would have been now by 50% 60% and sooner or later you reach a point where there just isn't enough food.
That's the kind of thing that is likely to happen very likely to happen during your lifetimes unless we manage to address this crisis/
He doesn’t mention that he is talking about perhaps around 2% of our produce and that most of our crops are well up this year.
Then he continues:
Henry mentioned that we have a target in this country now it's go carbon net zero by 2050. That means no carbon emissions in this country in 31 years time;
And that's an ambitious target compared to many countries but as I only said it's not ambitious enough.
Why is it not an ambitious enough? Because if that's our target then what that means is we're going to make this situation worse for the next 31 years. We're going to not stop making this situation worse till people like you are, provided you get there, in your 40s and 50s that's just not good enough.
Because unless everything changes and really fast there isn't going to be a future.
We're on the path to the collapse of our civilization, to there not being enough food on the table, to not having a future, and that is unacceptable.
2019 HAD LOW YIELDS FOR ONIONS AND POTATOES BUT A GREAT YEAR FOR GRAINS
Well, it is true that the UK had a bad summer for onions and potatoes.
James Pearson, of Suffolk Produce, which grows about 10 per cent of the UK’s onions, and is also a major supplier of potatoes, carrots and parsnips, told The Independent their farms have seen yields fall by 50 per cent for onions, and by 20-30 per cent for potatoes.
Mr Pearson said some supermarkets have offered some price increases to compensate the growers for potential losses. But “we’re not making gold out of that”, he said. “We need that purely to break even.”
UK growers warn of vegetable shortages as extreme weather halves crops
But they only account for a bit over 2% of the agricultural area. See
From: Farming Statistics Provisional crop areas, yields and livestock populations At June 2019
We have had a great year for wheat, oats and barley. The UK is a significant producer of cereals in the EU:
Agricultural production - crops
The crop yields for wheat, barley and oats in tonnes per acre are all at their highest since 2000 this year and oilseed is above average:
UK crop yields between 2000 and 2019
From: Farming Statistics Provisional crop areas, yields and livestock populations At June 2019
The provisional 2019 wheat harvest for the UK is 16.3 million tonnes, an increase of 20.1% on 2018. It is above the five year average 2014-2018 of 15.2 million tonnes.
The provisional barley production figure for the UK has increased by 25.6% to 8.2 million tonnes in 2019 above the five year average of 6.9 million tons
The provisional oats production has increased 27.2% to 1.1 million tonnes in 2019.
Farming Statistics – 2019, UK wheat and barley production first estimate
This is common that farmers’ yields go up and down. When their yields are low then prices in the shop go up and we have to import crops from other countries sooner.
So what about onions? Well the UK is not a major producer of onions in Europe.
Most onions in the EU come from Spain and from Netherlands, and Turkey is also a major source of onions.
This is for 2017:
The Netherlands and Spain were the EU’s main onion producing Member States, together accounting for 46.0 % of EU-28 output in 2017.
Agricultural production - crops
The UK can hardly be too hot for onions, when many of our onions are grown in Spain and Turkey!
It has to be to do with the varieties they use and the way they grow them. If London gets as hot as Barcelona - we are not going to be unable to grow food here. We will grow new varieties and maybe new crops that do better here.
So far global warming has been beneficial for crop yields, they have increased worldwide have increased due to the CO2 fertilization effect as well as the longer growing seasons at higher latitudes. That is in addition to the constant improving of varieties and methods of agriculture.
Eventually this tapers off and at high temperature rises global warming no longer benefits the crop yields and even reduces yields slightly.
The effects of CO2 fertilization are highly uncertain so they publish figures both with and without it. In their summary in this table, the results are with CO2 fertilization, and the uncertainty range is shown after the figures in square brackets:
Figure from: Differential climate impacts for policy-relevant limits to global warming: the case of 1.5 °C and 2 °C
As you see, the projections show an increase in productivity through to a 1.5 °C rise. But for a 2 °C rise just about all those benefits cancel out and we are actually worse off for some crops than we are today.
But this is mainly in the tropical regions. In northern latitudes crop yields continue to increase because of a wetter climate in winter, warmer weather, and a longer growing season. In a warming world, in the far north in places like northern Russia and Canada areas open up to conventional agriculture of small grains like oats, wheat and barley that could never grow them before.
This figure is from: Northward shift of the agricultural climate zone under 21st-century global climate change
The region between the magenta and blue lines is the extra area that could open up to small cereal crops, such as barley and oat, and used to describe the minimal climatic requirements for agriculture.
(I'm not sure what the scenario is here but I think it may be "Business as Usual" - any climate experts here, if you know do say in the comments - the paper is rather techy, It might possibly be the a1b scenario here Scenario Data for the Atmospheric Environment).
For more on this see my answer to What is the impact of global warming on agriculture?
We already have grapes growing in the south of England. We expect increased yields of our crops as well as opportunities for new crops and varieties.
There is nothing here to suggest a collapse of civilization. Children in the UK won’t go hungry because of a shortage of onions one year - we import half our food anyway.
What’s more, we used to grow just about all our own food in WWII because of the German blockade, which made it hard to import food. We did that with a system of rationing (especially of meat).
We import 40% of our food, but our agriculture is rather inefficient in terms of land use as we have a lot of corn fed beef, which means that crops are grown that could be fed to humans, that instead are fed to cattle.
Then, it may surprise you to know that we actually produce more than enough food to feed the world. We have starvation for political reasons at present. It's an income and distribution problem. As an example, the world had a food surplus of 510 kcal / cap / day in 2010 increased from 310 kcal / cap / day in 1965. All the indications are that we should be able to feed 10 billion people.
We can make up for reduced yields in the tropics at higher temperatures with improved crop varieties, and in sub Saharan Africa, the country most in need of more food for its inhabitants as its population grows - much of the agriculture in Africa has a tenth of the yields it would have in China because the green revolution passed it by in the 1950s and 60s - this can be changed. That’s the motivation behind the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). See also AGRA . We can also potentially feed large numbers, as much as billions of extra people with the existing food supply simply by reducing food waste. We can grow enough food for everyone through to 2100 and beyond on all scenarios.
CAN THE UK FEED ITSELF THROUGH TO 2100 ON FOOD GROWN ONLY IN THE UK?
The answer seems to be Yes.
Kenneth Mallenby in 1975 in his “Can Britain Feed Itself?” came to the conclusion that we could feed 100 million people if we ate less meat. See review here.
This was the subject of a 2008 symposium
Colin Tudge following a similar approach to Kenneth Mallenby reasoned that we certainly could.
This is based on the calories from our crops. One kilogram of wheat produces 3,500 calories which is more than enough for your daily calorie intake. That is about a third of a tonne of wheat a year. Average wheat yields in Britain are 8 tonnes per hectare, so each hectare can feed 24 people. If our population rises to 70 million mid century, then we could get all our energy and protein from 3 million hectares.
The UK had 18.62 million hectares of agricultural land in 2007 so we have more than enough land.
Not all that is used to grow crops, but - updating his figures, our croppable area is currently 6.1 million hectares (From: Farming Statistics Provisional crop areas, yields and livestock populations At June 2019)
Using the 3500 calories per kilogram, so make it a kilogram a day of grain, and wheat yields of 8 tonnes per hectare, oats and barley 6 tons per acre, that 6.1 million hectares can feed between (6.1 million * 6)/0.365 = 100 million people if it all is used to grow oats or barley, or 133 million people if it all is used to grow wheat. The UK population is 66.44 million so we can produce enough calories and protein for everyone.
Or looking at it another way, the actual tonnes of food we produce, from that same source :
In 2019, we produced 16.3 million tonnes of wheat, 4.6 million tonnes of spring barley, 3.5 million tonnes of winter barley, and 1.1 million tonnes of oats.
Calories content are
- Wheat 329 calories (kCal) per 100 grams (3.29 million per ton)
- Oats 374 calories per 100 grams (3.74 million per ton)
- Barley 333 calories per 100 grams (3.33 million per ton)
So we produced 16.3 million*3.29 million + (4.6 million + 3.5 million) * 3.33 million + 1.1 million * 3.33 million = 84.3 trillion calories in crops in 2019. A woman needs around 2000 calories a day and a man around 2,500 a day. What should my daily intake of calories be?
(I am using “calories” for kilocalories here as is the popular usage)
So, at an average of 2,250 calories a day for 365 days we can feed 84.3 trillion / (2,250*365) = 102.6 million people from those grains. That’s from 3.181 hectares for cereal - another 1.396 million is used for oil seeds, potatoes horticultural crops and other arable crops. As with Mallenby then we can use some of the freed land for grain to expand our production of those other crops to produce enough of them too.
That leaves a lot of land to supplement their diet - as this is just using the croppable area. It doesn’t need us to dig up any of the 10.172 million hectares of permanent grassland (not rough grazing), 1.186 million hectares of grassland under five years old, the 0.01 million hectares used for outdoor pigs, woodland etc.
So we would have lots of meat as well, and milk, from dairy cows. The UK exports milk, in 2017/8 we produced 14.7 billion liters of milk and consume 104.7 liters per capita per year, so that’s enough milk for 140 million people - we are a major exporter to the EU.
Of course, many of our cows are grain fed, so we’d produce less milk than that on the same land. But we still do have plenty of land for meat, milk,
It gets tricky if we feed grain to animals because that is a very inefficient way to use land. However, if we just feed them on grass and food wastes, then we could have a significant amount of meat as well.
Following the same methods and refining Kenneth Mallenby’s calculation, Simon Fairlie came to a similar conclusion, though he cautions that these are all rough calculations. He presents a balanced diet with 56 grams of beef a day, and 14 grams of sheep a day.
That’s a total of 70 grams of meat a day, the same as the average daily consumption in the UK.
That is for 2005, and he works out that his diet uses 4.4 million hectares of arable land, 6.4 million hectares of pasture.
In his calculations, if he's right, we also we have 7.6 million hectares free which could be used, for instance, to grow biofuel for the tractors.
These are rough calculations but it’s clear that there is a fair bit of leeway here and one way or another we could feed everyone on an adequate diet and perhaps even with the same (or not far off the same) average amount of meat too, if we did things differently and were optimized for feeding everyone rather than exporting a lot of milk and beef based on grain fed animals.
We don’t have to cut down any of our forests to do this, we even have spare land.
He also looks at organic farming, permaculture and effects of a vegan diet, which are more challenging, and issues with milk.
I know this is a little sketchy. But nobody seems to have done a thorough study of this, so this is the best I can find. I think this is enough to show that the UK could grow all its own food again if we had a situation like WWII where we had to do it. This is not taking account of initiatives like the “Dig for victory” where Britons were encouraged to dig and cultivate allotments to supplement their diet.
For details see Can Britain Feed Itself?
(click through to the pdf to see the details)
CAN THE WORLD AS A WHOLE FEED ITSELF THROUGH TO 2100?
When it comes to the world as a whole, we can certainly feed everyone on all scenarios. We have more than enough food for everyone and starvation and hunger is a matter of distribution not the ability to grow the food.
Also our population is increasing because we are living longer - the number of children remains almost the same as ten years ago. In many places in the world it is already stabilizing and in many places it is decreasing outside of Africa. Our birth rates are decreasing, not because of scarcity (as they assumed in “Limits of Growth”) but because of prosperity - with reduced child mortality and better health and more security, then people tend to have smaller families, devote more energy to fewer children, and many don’t have children.
Although the population is still rapidly increasing in sub saharan Africa, this is the part of the world with the greatest opportunity for increasing yields, in some cases as much as a tenfold increase seems likely because they are so much below the comparable yields in the US and China.
Almud Arneth talked about this in the 2019 report by IPBES:
(click to watch on Youtube)
Hello, my name is Almut Arneth. I am professor at Kayati in Germany, and my role in this assessment was coordinating lead author in the chapter about future scenarios. So with scenarios what we are trying to do, we are exploring how the world could look like in 2050 or even in 2100. Fortunately the scenarios where we try to drive a more sustainable future, more equitable distribution of resources, is a much better outcome in terms of both still providing food, to feed and fibre to everyone on this planet, but at the same time decoupling that increasing provision of ecosystem services from the destruction of nature. We can do it if we choose to operate along those more sustainable distributions of resources.
And then in Q/A about whether we can feed everyone through to 2100:
So could I perhaps ask Sandra Diaz if you could please respond to the AP question from Seth Borenstein about plain language by 2050.
Well plain language means that if we keep doing things that the way we do in technology population growth per capita consumption and trade we are not going to be able to meet at the same time global objectives in terms of human wellbeing particularly regulating benefits to people, food for all and biodiversity/For more precise numbers I would again invite our coordinating lead author Almud Arneth .Well your challenge required a lot about numbers I think I'm going to I'm going to I'm going to chicken out of the numbers but I think the question is what will the world look like in 2050. It is our choice it is purely our choice.
None of the scenarios we've been exploring would indicate that we cannot feed the world or cannot provide water cannot provide shelter that's for sure. But we can do it in a sustainable way or we can do it in an unsustainable way and that is really our choice.
That is about how even if we do nothing and temperatures soar and the biodiversity is devastated we still feed everyone in 2100 but in biodiversity reduced world and with reduced safety net and food security.
WORLD POPULATION STABILIZING NATURALLY
If you read the story on the news that 11,000 scientists had signed a paper that said we need to urgently stop and reverse our population growth - this was NOT from the United Nations Population Division, or the FAO, IPBES or the IPCC Those 11,000 scientists are not authors - they are just signatories and one of them is the illustrious professor Micky Mouse of the Micky Mouse Institute of the Blind in Namibia. Of course they removed those names once they were discovered, but this shows how easy it was to add signatures to it.
Their only cite on population perpetuates the myth that we can solve population problems in third world countries by flooding them with family planning and contraceptives! This was not quality research.
The basic problem here is high child mortality in third world countries, including children dying of diarrhea and easily cured diseases. They need to have many children so that some reach adulthood and look after their smallholding, Contraceptives can't help their children to grow up safe and healthy! That has to be high priority, as well as education and opportunities for women. None of this is mentioned anywhere in the paper or the paper they cite
It had numerous other mistakes. See:
- 11,000 Scientists + Micky Mouse Sign Climate Paper Without Fact Checking Cites - Carbon Tax Error - And Uncited Fate Of Humanity
First, our population is already stabilizing naturally. It is set to level off at 11 billion by 2100 with the middle of the range projections, and 9 billion by 2050 with more optimistic projections.
This is not because of scarcity and lack of resources. It is because birth rates fall as nations become more prosperous Indeed we have already almost reached peak child.
When will the world reach 'peak child'?
Our population is growing still mainly because we are living longer, between ten and twenty years longer than 50 years ago (sometimes more than twenty years longer in the poorer countries).
For more details see also charts from: World Population Growth
The population is expected to peak in Asia long before 2100, around 2050:
Chart from: World Population Growth
The projections for 2100 are very dependent on projections for Africa. If there is greatly increased food security, education for women, higher education, women in work, reduced child mortality, then the African population may also peak by 2050 like the Asian one.
The problem in Africa is that families feel they need to have many children to make sure at least one or two of their children reach adulthood and are also well enough and strong enough to look after their farm or smallholding when they get old.
There are signs already of the younger population having lower birth rates. If you factor in changes due to higher levels of education, the result can be anywhere between 6.9 and 12.6 billion by 2100 according to another study. See The human core of the shared socioeconomic pathways: Population scenarios by age, sex and level of education for all countries to 2100
- By 2100 world population ranges from 6.9 (SSP1) to 12.6 billion (SSP3).
Here are three of their six scenarios, notice what an effect higher education has on the population growth:
It’s interesting to notice how much of an impact tertiary education (dark blue) has. Education of women is especially important because almost universally, the more educated women have lower levels of fertility.
They found that more education for women can knock a billion people off the projection for 2050, that's really near future!
SUBSAHARAN AFRICA HAS GREATEST POTENTIAL FOR POPULATION GROWTH
Although sub saharan Africa is the region with the greatest projected population growth, it is also one of the least developed regions, with a low population density, 51 people per square kilometer compared to 460 per square kilometer for India, and 153 per square kilometer for China (which has large areas of desert).
It is also one of the regions with the greatest potential for increasing crop yields to feed everyone. That is because the green revolution which made such a difference to crop yields in Asia, Europe and the Americas in the 50s through to the 70s largely bypassed Africa.
This shows how much crop yields increased as a result of the Green Revolution, notice how they more than doubled in Asia but hardly changed at all in Africa
That’s from this page from the FAO from 1996
It continues to use unimproved crops and low yield methods of irrigation and agriculture. It can’t just import methods from the rest of the world, but needs local solutions adapted to their specific needs and crops, including work on crop improvement for Africa.
This chart shows how big the gap is between the African countries and the top yielding countries in cereal yields per hectare.
There is a remarkable ten-fold difference between the yields in sub-Saharan Africa and the yields in the US and China.
There’s a huge potential for improvements in African agriculture. That’s the motivation behind the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). See also AGRA
WHAT ABOUT FISH?
The FAO looked into this, and it is unsustainable to feed us all from wild caught fish with the increasing demand on fish.
However, what is happening there is a big increase in farmed fish. That is new, it was very rare historically. By 2020 the FAO estimate that half of the fish we eat will be farmed fish and by 2030 then 54% will be farmed.
In 2030 capture fisheries production is expected to reach about 91 million tonnes, slightly higher (by 1 percent) than in 2016.
The major growth in production is expected to originate from aquaculture, which is projected to reach 109 million tonnes in 2030, with growth of 37 percent over 2016. However, it is estimated that the annual growth rate of aquaculture will slow down from 5.7 percent in 2003–2016 to 2.1 percent in 2017–2030 (Figure 49), mainly because of reduced growth of Chinese aquaculture production, partially compensated by an increase in production in other countries. Despite the lower growth rate, aquaculture will still continue to be one of the fastest growing animal-food sectors. The share of farmed species in global fishery production (for food and non-food uses), 47 percent in 2016, is projected to exceed that of wild species for the first time in 2020 and to grow to 54 percent in 2030
From their 2018 report: "The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture"
Huge reductions in large scale famine and increases in food security
The FAO has an Early Warning Early Action initiative to help reduce the impact of disasters at an early stage before they escalate into an emergency. They publish their reports quarterly, looking into the world regions in detail with recommendations for specific countries at risk.
The Early Warning Early Action initiative has been developed with the understanding that disaster losses and emergency response costs can be drastically reduced by using early warning analysis to act before a crisis escalates into an emergency. Early actions strengthen the resilience of at-risk populations, mitigate the impact of disasters and help communities, governments and national and international humanitarian agencies to respond more effectively and efficiently.
Early Warning Early Action report on food security and agriculture
This for instance is their global risk analysis for April - June 2019. The report includes specific recommendations for each of the at risk regions highlighted in red or pink in this map.
As an example, the FAO forecasted the 2005–6 Niger food famine, due to locusts
We have an emergency food fund now of $1 billion a year - originally it was $50 million, then increased to $500 million and this was doubled in December 2016 in the UN resolution A/RES/71/127
Since its inception, 126 UN Member States and observers, as well as regional Governments, corporate donors, foundations and individuals, made it possible for humanitarian partners to deliver over $5 billion in life-saving assistance in over 100 countries and territories. Many recipient countries also become a donor to CERF and contribute, making CERF a fund for all, by all”
Who We Are | CERF
(click to watch on be)
And undernourishment is down from nearly 35% in 1970 to 13% in 2017 in developing countries.
For all cereals the stock to use ratio is 30%. I.e. if we had a world shortfall of 30% in one year, we could supply it with left over cereals from previous years. Also in sugar (50% stock to use ratio)
- FAO Cereal Supply and Demand Brief and more extensive summary for two year period ending 2018
- USDA-Office of the Chief Economist - World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates
Of course they don't keep vast stocks of meat in the same way but the very worst case of a shortfall of 10% is that you don't eat quite as much meat as usual, you are not going to starve as we are already resilient to a shortfall in cereals.
Child mortality (before age 5) way down
The number of hungry people is down
(though with some setbacks due to conflict and global warming effects)
2.4. Feeding the planet from the deserts
One of the ways we can ease the pressure on nature will come from reversing desertification, feeding some of the world’s population from some of that barren land area, as with the Sahara great green wall project, which we’ve already touched on.
Techniques to help with this include improving irrigation, and using water more efficiently, using wastewater from cities for irrigation, and the saltwater greenhouses projects. Many desert areas are close to the sea or salt water and the desert sunshine can be used to evaporate water for the greenhouses which can also green the surrounding desert.
There is a lot of potential. The Sahara - Wikipedia at 9.2 million km² is not far off the area of the US (9.8 million km²) and more than twice the area of India (3.3 million km²) List of countries and dependencies by area
I can’t find much about this in the summary for policy makers, nor did they touch on it in the press conference, but they must cover it in the full report.
As an example, this project in China greened the Löss Plateau, which is the size of Belgium - you might think this is image manipulation, but no, this is a real project:
Loss Plateau in September 1995
Loess Plateau in September 2009. See Greening the desert
It is amazing what they did in China's Loess province,. This documentary, “Hope in a Changing Climate” - by the soil scientist John D. Liu (2009) covers the project right from the start when it was almost a desert landscape. The second half of the video covers how similar projects have transformed regions in Ethiopia and Rwanda.
(click to watch on Youtube)
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment programme puts it like this, (27 minutes in)
"Why do we not invest an equal amount if not more into a shovel-ready technology so to speak which is nature's way of sequestering and storing carbon.
It is actually by investing in our ecological infrastructure and ecosystems in expanding the ability of nature to sequester and store carbon that we have the greatest opportunity to do something.
And the wonderful thing is it's not only carbon sequestration, we're also faced with loss of ecosystems that will affect our food security, our water security, we're losing species on an unprecedented rate, so maintaining, restoring, protecting, expanding natural ecosystems has multiple benefits, immediate in terms of climate change but also fundamental to the future of many of the services that we simply take for granted from nature."
This is another such project in Kenya
This is about several similar projects in the Peruvian coastal zone, which is arid but has moist air comes in from the Pacific. Four new agricultural projects there are growing pomegranates, sweet potatoes, asparagus and cut flowers.
This is a similar project in Jordan: Celebrating 10-Years at the Greening the Desert Project, Jordan. - The Permaculture Research Institute
I cover many more such projects and initiatives here
- We can grow enough food for everyone through to 2100 and beyond on all scenarios
- my article about the IPBES report Let's Save A Million Species, And Make Biodiversity Great Again, UN Report Shows How
RUNNING OUT OF WATER
This is not something people think about much in the UK, though occasionally we have shortages of water for agriculture and hose pipe bans. But it is a big concern of some in the drier areas of the world.
Climate change does mean that some areas will face serious issues, some already are, and for instance India and China have to do careful planning and work to make sure they have enough water in the second half of this century as the Himalayan glaciers shrink significantly (except parts of the Western Himalayas where they are growing because of the increase in snowfall). See for instance my post about water supplies in India and China affected by changes in glacier melt and other effects in a warming world.
- Accelerated Himalaya glacier melting confirms previous results - projections are for increased water through to 2050, after that reduced - needs adaptation and resilience even at 1.5 C
But we can do this. It’s a case of using water more carefully, as they already do in desert areas, collecting more of it and retaining it, actively replenishing aquifers in various ways (e.g. slowing down rivers), and desalination has become so low cost that it is now a practical way to supply water in many places. For instance 60 to 80% of Israel’s municipal water is supplied from coastal desalination plants.
For more on this:
CHILDREN IN LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
As Tamsin Edwards says in her tweet:
@GreenRupertRead Rupert, I am shocked at this talk. Please stop telling children they may not grow up due to climate change. It is WRONG and deflects from the fact it is poor people who are at risk due to inequality exacerbated by shifts in weather.
- children in the least developed countries do risk not having a future, literally so. We have children right now dying of diarrhea. It is the leading cause of death of children under age 5, and one in 9 of the child deaths worldwide are from this, which is easily treatable with simple and effective interventions. This shouldn't happen in an advanced civilization and any extraterrestrial if we were to ever communicate with them would likely be shocked by the primitiveness of our civilization, that we still have children dying of easily preventable causes like that.
In terms of children globally, what is at risk is falling back on the sustainable development goals
Graphics for the first six of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals
We are making considerable progress, for instance here is what's happening to under 5 and neonatal death rates (a neonatal death is a death during the first 28 days of life).
Progress report for goal 3: Good health and well-being.
For more data like that on the goals see
The Sustainable Development Goals Report, 2019
What we risk, within a few decades, by way of children not having a future because of climate change is those goals being reversed. Worst case is that after decades of progress, that the pressures of climate change take us back to a situation like the world of my youth in the 60s and 70s - when everything seemed great in Europe / US but we had mass famines, high child mortality and people on average living only to their 30s or 40s in the least developed nations. With climate change it would be because of drought, sea level rise, flooding, heat waves etc, conditions that like diarrhea are easily adapted to in developing countries where the main risk is of extra costs, but in the least developed countries can mean a child like the one in the meme not having a future. Dies young, or never is able to go to school, because their parents can't afford it or they have to work at home, or is too sickly and has no access to treatment to live a healthy adult life.
That is a real and serious future risk.
We do NOT risk children in the UK not having a future.
WE NEED OUR YOUNG CHILDREN
If your children, as they grow up, live in a carbon zero country, their emissions are zero. If you are still alive, in the society they helped create, your emissions become zero also.
Your later zero emissions may indeed depend on the work of the young children who you brought into your society.
Our children are part of the transformative change of society. Many of them are in the forefront of changing society.
We need our young.
We have more than enough food for everyone on all scenarios and especially if we transition to more sustainable lifestyles, less food waste, and eating less meat and the right kind of meat.
My post here goes into the population growth question in detail with many cites:
A paper published in 2017 claimed that the most effective climate action you can do at a personal level is to have one less child.
This was criticized for multiple accounting - it attributed CO2 emissions for children and even grandchildren to their parents, and it also assumed that we will never achieve carbon zero.
For instance Finland aims for zero emissions by 2035, and after that, to be carbon negative. The UK and California aim for zero emissions by 2050. These pledges may increase. By 2035 people in Finland including their children, will be contributing zero emissions.
So no, we don’t have to urgently stop and reverse population growth, though it is beneficial to reduce child mortality, increase access to medical care and midwives, increase prosperity, improve education standards and health care. As part of that process then it is appropriate of course to have effective family planning advice and work with related issues in society such as child marriage as Bangladesh has done. A very important component is also deploying midwives and and clinical teams to help with childbirth, ending child marriage, and helping adolescents. Family Planning 2020
We don't have a world population problem despite many people who haven't looked into the research saying it. We need our young children. Some developing countries do have population problems but it's solved by reducing child mortality paradoxically as well as increasing child health and improving child education.
Healthy secure children with a positive future and prospects and a good education are the key to dealing with population issues and they are also needed to carry through the transformative changes we need.
We need our young children,they are the hope for the next generation, they are the voters, the ones that are driving this transformative change and if we get to net zero they will be the first zero emission generation.
WHAT ABOUT THE PLANES?
You need to understand what's been done so far in terms of the international climate negotiations to try to secure your future is absolutely not enough the targets are inadequate and countries do not have plans to meet their targets and countries have other plans which will mean they definitely won't meet their targets.
For example you might have heard that there are plans to expand most of the airports in this country if those plans go ahead there is just absolutely no way we can meet our targets under the international climate agreements and if we don't meet those targets then our weather is gonna carry on spinning out of control and we're gonna have more heat waves and they're getting worse and it's gonna go on and on.
Aviation amounts to 2% of global emissions. How is a tiny fraction of 2% going to cause our weather to spin out of control? It is possible to keep flying, we have to make it carbon neutral, not stop flying.
The aviation industry is currently committed to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards and to cut CO2 emissions to half 2005 levels by 2050. It's one of the few global industries to take on such a comprehensive target industry wide.
IATA Forecast Predicts 8.2 billion Air Travelers in 2037
Flying is only 2% of emissions and there are many ways to deal with it. Right now we can use carbon offsetting mainly, however there are planes already flying on low carbon fuels which were made with biofuels. In future we can make aviation fuel using renewable power. From water, and CO2 or other methods. This may sound like science fiction to make fuel from water, electricity and CO2, but actually, it is already feasible.
Audi for instance already produce carbon neutral biodiesel. Here are some of the demonstration plants.
- Carbon-neutral fuel - Wikipedia They get the CO2 from the flue exhausts of power stations. So they are offsetting the CO2 by turning it into biodiesel which of course eventually is burnt, so it is really using the CO2 twice.
But they could later on use CO2 from biofuel plants, for instance from agricultural wastes, or algae. In that case, the biofuel is already carbon neutral because it grows again each year. Turn its CO2 emissions into aviation fuel and you then have aviation fuel for free.
There is also research into electrically powered planes which are just beginning to become feasible due to increases in battery power densities. Small short haul planes in Norway, where there are lots of flights over short distances as you can imagine. There is a company that is already working on electric planes. This is a small two seater plane that took off and flew around Oslo airport.
(click to watch on Youtube)
It works only for small planes at present but those ones with maybe half a dozen passengers are often used in remote rural places.
They hope to start commercial flights by 2025.
- Norway's plan for a fleet of electric planes Also, in the IPCC projections they have an offset due to reafforestation. Things that are hard to reduce to zero quickly can be offset like that. They can also do carbon capture and storage directly from the atmosphere, if that technology is mature. Or carbon capture and storage of the output from biofuel plants. If agricultural wastes are being burnt as biofuel, and some of them are converted into fuel for planes, that would mean zero emissions. If the CO2 from the biofuel power stations is also captured, the result would be net negative.
I cover aviation in more detail in my
CONNECTION WITH DEEP ADAPTATION PAPER
In a tweet he says he is a friend and colleague of Jem Bendell, author of “Deep Adaptation”.
Jem Bendell's paper didn't pass basic standards of peer review. Michael Mann summarized it in just one word, “crap”
I read through Jem Bendell's paper, looking for science amongst 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 non peer reviewed talk given by Wasdell to some businessmen!
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 advisors Sue Cheshire and Kent Allan. You can read the “About” page of the group here.
It’s no wonder that his paper was rejected:
The journal was the "Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal" who said about it, as interviewed by Vice magazine:
The decision was arrived at based on the merit of the submitted article and the double blind peer review process integral to academia and the advancement of knowledge. SAMPJ, and [editor Carol Adams] are proud members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and adhere to the highest ethical standards in publishing.
We see no evidence that the decision of Major Revision was politically motivated.
Emerald requested the author correct their blog post to reflect the facts. This request was unfortunately ignored. The post continues to imply the paper was rejected because it was deemed too controversial. The paper was not rejected, and was given a Major Revision due to the rigorous standards of the scholarly output of the journal.
RUPERT READ’S BLOG POST
His article is here, where he largely supports Jem Bendell - but claims not to be a catastrophist because he thinks there is a chance we don’t head to catastrophe:
After the IPCC report, #climatereality
Let’s take a couple of Rupert Read’s points in that blog post he linked to:
The situation is particularly grim in the Arctic. The albedo loss there is highly disturbing, threatening in itself to blow the IPCC scenarios away, as Jem details.
This map shows the change in total solar energy input from 2000 to 2012 where red and orange means it got more solar energy input, and blue and green means it got less:
“Change in total solar energy input from 2000 to 2012 as measured by the CERES dataset” Units: watts per square meter per decade
Arctic albedo changes are small compared with changes in cloud cover in the tropics
There you can see that the Arctic did have a big increase in solar flux. But at the same time some areas, especially in the Pacific had major decreases in solar flux shown in blue. Presumably they are becoming more cloudy in the warming world.
Averaged over the whole world the changing albedo since then has lead to a reduction in the global flux by 0.14 watts per square meter. Most of that reduction is in the southern hemisphere (reduction of 0.26 watts per square meter average). However even the northern hemisphere has had a net reduction in the solar flux (reduction of 0.03 watts per square meter). The increasing cloudiness elsewhere has more than compensated for the Arctic albedo effect.
So, it is not a valid way to argue, to say that an increase in solar flux over a small region in the Arctic should be averaged out as a global increase. This is an example of a scientist who ignores this global averaging process.
The climate models do not find any tipping point. It's neither irreversible nor does it take us into a new state of the climate, instead if temperatures overshoot and then come back down the ice will return to its previous extent
The IPCC say in chapter 3 (in the 2018 report on the difference between a 2 C and 1.5 C rise):
"Sea ice is often cited as a tipping point in the climate system. Detailed modelling of sea ice, however, suggests that summer sea ice can return within a few years after its artificial removal for climates in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Further studies modelled the removal of sea ice by raising CO2 concentrations and studied subsequent regrowth by lowering CO2. These studies suggest that changes in Arctic sea ice are neither irreversible nor exhibit bifurcation behaviour. It is therefore plausible that the extent of Arctic sea ice may quickly re-equilibrate to the end-of-century climate under an overshoot scenario. "
126.96.36.199 Sea Ice
Rupert Read continues:
And above all there is the methane time-bomb. If that gets unleashed — if the staggeringly vast amounts of methane buried below now-thinning ice and ‘permafrost’ (sic) start to get liberated — then we will be not looking ‘only’ at the end of human civilisation, but at the possible extinction of humanity and of most animals: Dragon Watch - Reef To Rainforest Media, LLC | CORAL Magazine | Microcosm Publishing . Perhaps within a decade.
How is a 10 C warmer world meant to make humans extinct anyway?
Even if you thought civilization would collapse and we’d lose our technology (and there is nothing in the IPCC reports about that), this idea doesn’t work.
With business as usual, burning fossil fuels at current rates, amd with no carbon sequestration all the way through to 2200, it takes until around 3000 for all the ice in Greenland to melt.
How long does it take for the Greenland ice to melt completely?
With primitive tools, humans can survive even in the Kalahari, and that we can live on almost anything - for instance shellfish were the stable for early humans in the upper latitudes.
How is this a world which is beyond the limit of human survival?
But this is out of date science. He cites a blog post from 2016 there.
That methane bomb / clathrate gun hypothesis is effectively disproved now. This is my summary of the most recent major reviews on the topic:
In December 2016, a major literature review by the 2107 USGS Hydrates project concluded that evidence is lacking for the original hypothesis. In 2017, the Royal Society review came to a similar conclusion that there is a relatively limited role for climate feedback from dissociation of the methane clathrates.
The 2018 Annual Review of Environment and Resources on Methane and Global Environmental Change concluded that "Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that catastrophic, widespread dissociation of marine clathrates will be triggered by continued climate warming at contemporary rates (0.2◦C per decade) during the twenty-first century". In 2018, the CAGE research group (Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate) came to a much stronger conclusion when they published evidence that the methane clathrates formed over 6 million years ago and have been slowly releasing methane for 2 million years independent of warm or cold climate, rather than releasing methane only recently as had previously been thought.
The 2019 report on Ocean and Cryosphere came to a similar conclusion. It found that on the most extreme methane emissions scenario, reductions in anthropogenic sources can help mitigate natural increases in emissions of methane from all sources.. They cite a paper by Christansen et al (2019) which concluded that with a committed global effort to reduce anthropogenic emissions has far more effect on climate change than natural increases in emissions from even the extreme methane emissions scenario. 
The IPCC 2019 Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate mentions recent reports of an estimated increase of natural methane by 10 to 60 Tg a year
Furthermore, most models described above do not include many of the abrupt thaw processes that can result in lake expansion, wetland formation, and massive erosion and exposure to decomposition of previously frozen carbon-rich permafrost, leading to medium confidence in future model projections of methane. Recent studies that addressed some of these landscape controls over future emissions projected increases in methane above the current levels on the order 10-60 Tg CH4yr-1 under RCP8.5 by 2100
However the range is so great that some of the more detailed models suggest that if you include the effect of the land based permafrost changes, the Arctic could remain a net sink through to 2100. Some models predict a net sink even with high emissions scenarios.
Figure 3.11 Estimates of cumulative net soil carbon pool change for the northern circumpolar permafrost region by 2100 following moderate and high emission scenarios (e.g. RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 or equivalent).
The dates shown at the bottom or the dates the assessments were made or models run.
From the context of the previous paragraph I think this includes all the Arctic sources: “Methane from northern lakes, ponds, wetland ecosystems, and the shallow Arctic Ocean shelves
From section 188.8.131.52.1 of the 2019 Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate
They cite a paper from 2019 in the last paragraph:
As with total carbon emissions, there is high confidence that mitigation of anthropogenic methane sources could help to dampen the impact of increased methane emissions from the Arctic and boreal regions (Christensen et al., 2019).
The paper is here:
- Tracing the climate signal: mitigation of anthropogenic methane emissions can outweigh a large Arctic natural emission increase
These are the four scenarios they look at in that paper:
- No change - Arctic emissions unaffected
- Modest: Tundra increases markedly, rest unaffected (50 Tg a year)
- Large: Tundra and lakes increase markedly, ocean emissions double (100 Tg a year)
- Extreme: Tundra and lakes increase markedly, extreme increase in ocean emissions (150 Tg a year)
Current legislation emission (CLE) and maximum technically feasible reduction (MFR) scenarios for anthropogenic methane reduction
They comment that the extreme level is less likely with the maximum technically feasible reduction in anthropogenic methane levels.
Their conclusion is that if we keep to existing legislation on methane then even with no increase in natural emissions, methane levels almost double by 2100 from 1423 to 2842 ppb. With the maximum reduction of anthropogenic emissions levels decrease on all except the extreme natural emissions scenario and even the extreme case only increases it by 42% over the case of no change in natural emissions, increasing it to just a little over present day levels.
So with a committed global effort to offset methane emissions we can compensate for just about all the effect of any increase in natural emissions, even with the extreme scenario, and reducing anthropogenic emissions has far more effect on climate change than even the extreme scenario.
More details in:
- Twitter Panic Over 5 Square Meters Of Bubbling Methane - Natural Arctic Methane Increase Is Comparable To Human Emissions
- Arctic Canadian and Siberian permafrost carbon release significant but exaggerated in news stories - fraction of a degree rise in worst case - and can even be a carbon sink instead of emitter
- Debunked: Blue ocean event - Earth will not suddenly warm up and go ice free year round if Arctic goes ice free for a month in summer
CORRECT APPLICATION OF THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE
Based on his belief in a methane bomb, in an Arctic albedo effect transforming the climate (which is junk science) and all the rest he says:
I think that we need to be wary of hostages to fortune. If in 2028 we are somehow still standing, then people will come back and refer negatively to Jem’s ’10 years’ semi-prediction.
So I’ve even started doing a little ‘prepping’. E.g. I’ve bought a bullet-proof vest for my partner and I.
Does that mean that I >do< after all accept that collapse is entirely >inevitable<?
No. Rather, I’m acting precautiously. That’s the beauty of the precautionary-principle-style approach; we don’t NEED to make predictions about ‘inevitability’ or about a specific time-period. …
(My actual rough best guess right now would be that we are facing a very very severe but probably nontotal collapse, that will unfold over a generation or so.)
However the precautionary principle doesn’t mean you have to believe junk science.
Rupert Read is an expert on the Precautionary principle, as philosophy, and he summarizes it as:
It is applied in circumstances where there are reasonable grounds for concern that an activity could cause harm, but where there is uncertainty about the probability of the risk and the degree of harm and some gaps in the information currently available.
For example, it is wise to design the San Francisco bridge to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis. You need to overengineer and deal with the possibility of an earthquake that may not happen in our lifetimes. That is correct use of the precautionary principle.
However, it is not necessary to build it so that it can withstand a megatsunami 300 feet high because the geology is such that such a megatsunami is impossible in the San Francisco area (San Andreas is fiction).
For details see
It says (in one statement, the Wingspread statement)
When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.
It doesn't say
When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken to prevent any claimed catastrophic event that someone says could happen even if it has no scientific basis and all the scientific evidence is against it.
JEM BENDELL AND WASDELL'S WORK IS NOT AT FAR END OF BELL CURVE
The megatsunami of San Andreas is not at the far end of a bell curve. That is not science at all for two reasons, the sea there is not deep enough for a 300 foot high tsunami, and because the San Andreas fault is mainly on land and is a side-strike fault that can't produce the vertical motions needed for a tsunami. The megatsunami in the movie is a movie maker's imagination and is not supported by science at all and you shouldn't design the golden gate bridge to withstand it because it is not scientifically possible.
As a very outlying theoretical possibility that probably would never happen, it just possibly might get a 16 foot tsunami which would probably not even crest the concrete footings of the pillars of the bridge.
It is the same for Jem Bendelll and his "source". It is not based on science, only imagination and creative manipulation of figures. It has never been through peer review which means nobody has looked at it to catch the errors - everyone makes errors. This is not credible science
The IPCC assesses many peer reviewed credible scientific reports and they span a very wide range of projections and results. But it is a systematic review which means they weigh them according to the validity of the science, weight of evidence etc. It does involve including unpublished research because of selection bias.
But they would NEVER consider this because it doesn't follow the scientific method, never been peer reviewed. There are journals with very lax standards of peer review that publish almost anything and neither Wasdell or Jem Bendell's papers have even been published in those.
There is a reason it was rejected. This is not good enough for anything except vanity press where they publish anyone who pays them enough.
THE IPCC AS AN EXAMPLE
The precautionary principle itself is of course of great importance.
IPCC itself is an example of the precautionary principle in action.
We could have just said "we have no proof of bad effects of global warming yet, so we can ignore it". But by the precautionary principle we have to investigate such things. The IPCC was set up to investigate them.
Many of the cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.
As an example, we are not able to show for a certainty that 99% of the coral reefs will be gone at 2C. It’s hard to predict how rapidly they can adapt to warmer conditions, especially since many corals do exist at those warmer conditions already.
However, since we can’t establish all the cause and effect relationships yet, we have to take precautions for that case and not just say "we don't know so we can assume they will be okay".
For another example - in the case of the Amazon, early papers suggested that if another 5% of the Amazon forests are cut down they reach a tipping point beyond which much of the Eastern Amazon turns to Savannah and restoring the Amazon is impossible.
The balance of research is more in the direction of a continuous change rather than a tipping point beyond which you can't restore the Amazon. The older research used simple models with only two plant functional types and not accounting for details like a range of tree ages and nutrients and other details. Recent more detailed models find it more resilient and likely to change in patches rather than all at once.
Although a mass dieback is not looking likely it is 100 times less expensive to act to prevent it using no regrets measures that help anyway. See
I summarize it here:
Those are both appropriate situations to apply it.
However, it is not appropriate to apply it to, say, the Arctic albedo effect. There aren’t any reasonable grounds for concern because the authors who claim there is ignore the way the rest of the world is becoming more reflective as the Arctic becomes less so.
The precautionary principle doesn’t require the IPCC to take account of papers like that.
EXAMPLE OF SAN ANDREAS MOVIE TSUNAMI
If you base our climate policies on Jem Bendell’s paper, or a belief in an Arctic albedo tipping point, or the methane bomb, that is like designing the Golden Gate bridge to withstand a 300 foot megatsunami on the basis of the San Andreas movie clips such as this screenshot:
There are no reasonable grounds to do that. It’s not a geologically feasible tsunami height. The area is not prone to tsunamis because the faults are on land and side slip faults. The 1906 earthquake only generated a four inch high wave. Instead the tsunami risk is from Japan, Russia and Alaska. The highest tsunami in recent history is the four foot one in 1974 from a 9.2 earthquake in Alaska. The 2011 Japanese tsunami was only one foot in San Francisco.
The highest theoretically possible might be a 16 foot tsunami which would be amplified to 30 foot by the time it got to the bridge. It probably wouldn’t even rise as high as the steel pylons and just lap over the concrete foundations of the bridge, and then would reduce to three feet as it fans out into San Francisco Bay
What Would Really Happen if a Tsunami Hit the Bay Area?
It’s impossible hydrodynamics too. As Seismologist Lucy Jones put it (reported by CBS news)
"Here's where we start entering fantasy territory. Tsunamis are not cresting waves. They can't be bigger than the ocean is deep."
"San Andreas": Fact or fiction?
Just as we shouldn’t use the precautionary principle to upgrade the Golden Gate bridge to withstand a 250 foot tsunami, we shouldn’t use the principle to prepare for a methane bomb or Arctic ice tipping point.
WE NOW HAVE AN EXTNSIVE RELIABLE BODY OF CLIMATE SCIENCE AS A BASIS FOR OUR PRECAUTIONS
The IPCC reports, as a systematic review present the full range of views in the literature and weight them according to how thorough the study is, and its quality which depends on the design and how the research is done.
They don’t attempt to force a consensus when there are wide ranging values - that is just a myth.
The graph I just shared is a striking example:
Figure 3.11 Estimates of cumulative net soil carbon pool change for the northern circumpolar permafrost region by 2100 following moderate and high emission scenarios (e.g. RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 or equivalent).
From section 184.108.40.206.1 of the 2019 Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate
This could hardly be more non consensus, it's all over the place from a significant source to a sink, even with high emissions. The response of the organics, microbes, vegetation, and soil to the thawing permafrost is hard to predict.
The consensus is only over whether they have presented the full range of views in the literature correctly.
When there is no literature to review they present this as an identified knowledge gap together with estimates of how much of an effect it could be, as for the sea level rise estimates in 2013 when there was a knowledge gap about ice melt processes for ice sheets and glaciers. This is now changed, we now have models of these processes (though the range of predictions is still large).
Also - eventually we will get a consensus. This is how science works. If it is a system with chaos / unpredictability in it like short term weather, say, you have consensus about the range of possibilities (e.g. 20% chance of rain on monday, when taking account of the natural variability, 20% of the model runs have rain on Monday).
We have total consensus on many areas of science now, our technology is based on that consensus. You couldn't build the keyboard I'm typing this on or the laptop I'm typing it into without consensus science.
The wide range of views in the science on climate change arise because it is a really tough scientific problem and we have not yet reached the total consensus we will have when we finally it reaches maturity.
It's already developing e.g. with the ice sheet melt at least we can now model the ice sheets as we couldn't in the 2013 report, and they report a range of figures for the sea level rise by 2100 based on solid science but it is already narrower in 2019 than in 2018. Those ranges will be narrowed down further with more observation and better understanding and modeling of ice processes.
The climate we have now is tracking the 1970s predictions, so even back then our science was already able to give a reasonably accurate broad brush projection. It’s advanced a lot since then of course. There's a good carbon brief article about it. Analysis: How well have climate models projected global warming? | Carbon Brief
YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE CONTENT OF THE RESEARCH TO APPLY THE PRINCIPLE
It is all about the border between uncertainty/ implausible/ impossible. What you think are “ reasonable concerns” and whether you accurately identify the probability of the risk and the degree of harm.
So to apply to principle to any topic that had been researched you do need to understand the content of this research.
His reading of the science is incorrect
BACK TO HIS TALK
Why should we go to school if we're being taught to grow up in a future which may not exist and some adults have said yes we're not going to go on obeying the law when the law is committing us to a future which is going to be no future for our children
I was asked when I came here this morning tell the truth Rupert but you mustn't encourage students to break the law so I'm not gonna encourage you to break the law I'm simply going to draw attention to the fact that sometimes when you do something disruptive you can get people's attention
In another talk he says
It's not I think fair to say that targeting the tube is in itself an illegitimate thing to do let me explain that there is a rationale for for doing it one really important rationale is to say look this disruption is just a tiny fragment of the vast disruption that will come if the whole tube network gets knocked out and that is what will happen if London floods and that is what will happen if we allow dangerous climate change to continue unabated.
And more generally it's perfectly legitimate potentially to target things that ordinary people are doing like driving and even taking public transport roads are perfectly legitimate targets because of course they have cars and lorries and so forth on but even public transport if you're drawing attention to that vulnerability if you're saying small disruption now to stop vast endless disruption later that is a case that can be made.
(click to watch on Youtube)
He goes on to say that they should target richer people and especially those who fly a lot and most especially private planes.
The tube is surely about the most green and climate friendly means of fast transport we have in the UK. Fast transport of large numbers of people, using electricity which will eventually be 100% renewables, and efficient.
And no - the London tube is at ZERO RISK of flooding from climate change.
Figure 4.3: Additional risk related to sea level rise for low-lying coastal areas by the end of the 21st century. The second column with the tick shows the result of adaptation. With adaptation then megacities are at moderate risk on all scenarios (Miami would be a rare exception because of the limestone that makes it vulnerable at high sea levels because the sea seeps through it).
from Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate
There is of course a long and respected tradition of civilian disobedience. But what the Extinction rebellion demand is deeply non democratic.
EXTINCTION REBELLION'S THREE DEMANDS
Tell the truth
Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
Their three demands are all problematical.
- 2025 date - no science behind it
- Require the government to tell the truth - the truth as they see it (so activists work out privately what the “truth” is and the government has to say these things to the public). This truth that they have decided on in advance includes declaring an emergency - the UK government has already done that but it is clear they mean something far more serious, a war like footing, with possible actions including rationing, forcefully limiting the number of flights you can do in your lifetime, and many other direct enforced changes in our society.
It would have to be a very drastic change with repercussions for us all in the UK, to achieve zero emissions as soon as 2025.
- Citizen’s assembly - as they envision it this would have far reaching powers. A 2/3 majority of these randomly elected 500 to 1000 people would be able to override parliament so long as it didn’t require new budgets.
This is the bill they want Parliament to pass as a private members bill, to set up the citizen’s assembly
Three Demands Bill - version of 12 September 2019
If we really did have only six years then we would need to use emergency powers and a war like approach. But that would then inevitably lead to a huge mess and a need to try to pick up all the pieces.
Of course if we can find a way to do it in 6 years that would be brilliant. But to say that we HAVE to do that - as a demand - whether or not the science says it is possible, and with little thought about how this is going to dovetail into our future after 2025 - that’s where it goes wrong.
The citizen assemblies idea has its merits. The UK government has actually used that idea, and has invited thousands of people to join the first such assembly. But its remit is rather different from the one envisioned by the Extinction Rebellion. It is just advisory / informative and can’t override parliament.
They are sending letters to 30,000 households across the UK inviting them to join it, and once they are selected, it will meet in 2020 and the outcome of their discussions reported back to parliament.
Quoting Rachel Reeves, chair of one of six select committees who commissioned the climate assembly
Finding solutions which are equitable and have public support will be crucial/
Parliament needs to work with the people and with government to address the challenge of climate change.
That much is a good idea. This of course doesn’t satisfy the extinction rebellion.
The group said they welcomed this as a first step, but warned that the assembly should be focusing on cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 not 2050.
We have a style of government that was developed over many centuries, and they say we should override this with a citizen assembly - even if just for one topic, climate change but with far reaching consequences
As Winston Churchill once put it:
‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’
Also they have no control over such an assembly. What if the citizen assembly decides to try to solve it in an eccentric way against advice of experts?
This is an example of how the precautionary principle needs care - in some cases applying the prevention measures is not without harm.
POTENTIAL HARM FROM A WAR-LIKE EFFORT TO RETOOL SOCIETY
This massive war like effort to retool our entire society in six years has significant risks of harm, both social, economic, and in terms of the legacy. The future beyond 2025 would have to cope with the retooled society done in a hurry and likely with numerous mistakes both technical and social.
We’d also have protests and riots like the yellow vests in France. What do you do when the citizen’s assembly votes for a measure that turns out to be deeply unpopular with the general public?
Their intentions may be good, they want to save the planet. But their answers show that they have no science behind the 2025 date or the claim that there is a risk of billions dying from climate change. None of them explain this.
More about that here:
- Andrew Neil vs Extinction Rebellion with accurate climate science - no answers on their claim that billions will die or their 2025 deadline - so what would they do if more clued up about climate change?
Why not put their weight behind the IPCC and the Paris agreement and the proper democratic processes?
MAY BE BENEFICIAL TO REACH CARBON ZERO SOONER
And yes, it may well be beneficial to reach carbon zero before 2050. Finland are aiming for 2035. Bernie Sanders and the labour party in the UK have 2030 in their manifestos. These are ideas that we should certainly consider.
But we have plenty of reason to motivate them already. See for instance my:
Carbon zero by 2030 might be possible. This is very ambitious, as the typical life cycle of a car is 15 years so, to convert the majority of cars to electric in ten years would require a massive buy back program which has to be carefully thought through and financed.
To convert the majority of cars to electric in five years is vastly more ambitious even than that. You also have to bear in mind that technology is advancing all the time. The cars, solar panels, wind farms etc that we build in 2025 are going to be lower cost, use less resources and be more efficient than the ones we can build today. Even with half of them built after 2025 that can be a significant saving.
Also a rapid transition like this, even ten years, involves many people employed making the new electric vehicles, insulating the houses, building the windfarms and solar panels in five years. Some of them can then be employed keeping the new renewables stations running but it’s double the workforce to do it in five years instead of ten and it is already something that needs careful thought for a ten year program.
WHAT CAN EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVISTS DO?
As for the Extinction Rebellion spokespeople and activists, it is up to their own conscience what to do but I think the least they could do is to apologize to these children for saying such things to them.
A heartfelt apology on national TV would do wonders and would restore confidence in their own movement too. There is nothing makes you more approachable and relatable to than an apology.
They could then do as they are asking everyone else to do, listen to the scientists. Also the social scientists working on this, for instance for IPBES. Study their recommendations and conclusions. Work with them.
For instance a top priority identified by IPBES is to stop the perverse incentives for agriculture that damage nature services and to put in place new incentives to promote a circular economy. This is going to meet considerable resistance from vested interests. Extinction rebellion can help.
Let’s save a million species, and make biodiversity great again - UN report says we know how do it
However I am writing this primarily to help the people they have scared and continue to scare every day.
WHAT WE DO WITH DOOMSDAY DEBUNKED
We help these people and counter it with the true information of our situation. No sugar coating of anything, just tell things as they are. It is very important for them to hear the truth, they often say to me that they just want to know the true situation and that they can then come to terms with it, whatever it is.
However neither are we trying to help people come to terms with existential grief based on stories that are false. Our role is to help them find out the truth.
Do you think you are well read on climate change? Read all the media stories?
If you are worried or scared about these things, this article may surprise you in a positive way:
FINDING FROM 2018 - NOT A CLIFF EDGE BUT EVERY HALF DEGREE MATTERS
This was the big finding in 2018. In their review of the literature, they didn’t find any tipping points for climate change over a century timescale. But they did find that there is a significant difference between 2 C and well below 2 C.
There are tipping points for the Greenland and West Antarctic ice, but these unfold over thousands of years, plenty of time to step back from that particular cliff using carbon capture and storage over many centuries.
Techy detail: Greenland ice has a tipping point between 0.8°C and 3.2°C, median 1.6°C. If we cross that tipping point (it is possible we already have) the result is very dependent on future climate, between 80% loss after 10,000 years and complete loss after 2,000 years. The threshold for Western Antarctica (and sectors of Eastern Antarctica) is hard to estimate but probably between 1.5 to 2°C. Most of Eastern Antarctica continues to accumulate ice, as it did through the previous interglacials. See 220.127.116.11 Sea level
The melting of the Arctic sea ice is not a tipping point either, according to the report (see 18.104.22.168 Sea Ice). As soon as we reach zero emissions the Arctic ice then is in steady state and will slowly being to heal as some of the excess CO₂ leaves the atmosphere.
The idea that the climate will suddenly go haywire once all the Arctic ice melts is junk science. The ice only melts in summer and if the entire Arctic melts one year, then that means it freezes much faster the following winter (the ice forms an insulating layer which stops the oceans from freezing so quickly in winter).
The ice albedo effect in the Arctic is not a tipping point because other areas such as the southern Pacific around Australia and Malaysia are getting significantly brighter as a result of global warming and you have to look at the whole picture, which actually is of a planet that is getting slightly brighter, less absorbing of heat as it warms up. See my:
They found no other climate tipping points.
As for ecosystems, the corals go nearly extinct at 2°C but no other major ecosystem is affected. They do not turn to deserts either, sponges may take over for instance.
(click to watch on Youtube)
Some corals such as the ones in the Red sea will survive, because due to a historical accident they are pre-adapted to higher temperatures. Some individual species of coral in the barrier reef are more resistant than others, and corals can certainly adapt given time, since there is a range of several degrees in the temperature conditions that corals do survive in. The issue is that local corals are so finely tuned to local conditions they die after just the minutest of increases. So the problem here isn't really a coral species hard edge for temperatures either, it is more a question of whether they can adapt or move in time. It might be that humans can help to some extent by translocating them artificially, but this is not easy if you have an entire coral reef to maintain. For more about the corals, with a focus on the Australian great barrier reef, see the second half of my
Other coastal ecosystems such as sea grasses, kelp forests, and salt marches span wide ranges of conditions. However, like many of the terrestrial ecosystems, they would be largely unaffected, with many of the species surviving over a wide range of conditions. There are vulnerable spots near the warm edges, however again other species will take over in time, and fish especially can move easily in response to climate change.
- Yes kelp and seagrass also have issues like coral bleaching - but only vulnerable spots near the warm edge of the species range
Even the mangroves, sensitive as they are, survive a 2°C rise fine. This is a major thing to happen to our world, to lose most of the corals, but it does not endanger the planet as a whole or human survivability.
No Scientific Cliff Edge Of 12 Years To Save Planet (or 18 Months)
YES THINGS CAN GET BAD IF WE DON’T ACT - THE IPCC WORST CASE
This is one of the IPCC’s scenarios from chapter 3 of the 2018 report. There is nothing remotely like extinction or end of civilization in this scenario. We can still feed everyone as well, though with less food security. It is still a world with much of our natural world still here, the majority of the species survive, not a desert. However it is a world we would not want to head for, with the corals nearly all gone, many areas of the world facing problems, severe loss of biodiversity and increasing rather than decreasing world poverty by 2100.
We are also working on climate resilience, retaining nature’s services, biodiversity, sustainable development, and adaptation. The more we do that, the better our world will be, whether the temperature rise is 1.5°C, or 3°C.
The worst case here is one where all that stops as well. Not likely.
You might wonder why their worst case isn’t “Business as usual”, keeping at our current emission levels through to 2100, and a nearly 5°C rise. However, how likely is that, that we do nothing at all all the way through? It is useful for climate modeling, but not very plausible as a scenario.
Instead their worst case is one in which we do act, but only later in the century. In this future, the Paris agreement falls apart by 2020, and though there are many initiatives locally and nationally they are not enough to make much of a difference. There is little work on climate resilience either, or mitigation, and it’s not until the late 2030s that we start to step up our activity in earnest, with various uncoordinated emergency responses. Sadly, it’s too little, too late, we end up at 3°C by 2100, and then they describe what the world would be like in that scenario.
The IPCC’s own worst case climate change example - a 3°C rise by 2100
WE DON’T RUN OUT OF FOOD ON ANY SCENARIO
The world currently produces plenty of food - the problem is distribution not growing enough of it.
For anyone panicking, we do not risk human extinction, nor do we risk not being able to feed everyone. The experts for the UN IPBES report were asked what the world looks like in 2050 in the worst case. One of their experts (Almud Arneth) said:
None of the scenarios we've been exploring would indicate that we cannot feed the world or cannot provide water cannot provide shelter that's for sure. But we can do it in a sustainable way or we can do it in an unsustainable way and that is really our choice.
We can grow enough food for everyone through to 2100 and beyond on all scenarios
YES GOVERNMENTS ARE ACTING
And the governments are acting. Not enough yet. But it was never the idea of the Paris agreement that we would be able to pledge to 1.5 C right away. China, for instance, is rapidly industrializing, and didn’t yet have a large scale renewables industry in 2015. The state of technology back then was such that to supply all of Chinese electricity from renewables would have been very expensive, technologically challenging and there would have been possibilities for large scale problems.
Fossil fuel power stations have low start up costs but high on going costs, both economically (the cost of the fuel) and to our world (from the CO2 emissions).
Renewables have high start up costs, originally very high, but minimal ongoing costs as there is no need for any fuel.
In this situation it makes sense for an industrializing country like China to continue to build fossil fuel power stations. If China and India increase their pledges to 1.5°C compatible, then they will need to be used for less than the industrial average of 53% capacity for 40 years. But it still makes sense as a way to keep the lights on as they industrialize.
Coal is already uneconomic to the point that for most of the world population, a renewables power station makes more financial sense. Indeed, even in the UK, solar is competitive with the lowest price fossil fuels power station.
- New study does NOT conclude that we have too many fossil fuel power plants and vehicles to stay within 1.5°C
THREE THE TOP SEVEN EMITTERS ARE OVER ACHIEVING ON THEIR PARIS PLEDGES
What I’ve done is to look at the top seven emitters. These emit three quarters of global emissions.Of those, China, the EU, and India are over achieving on their pledges. Russia is keeping their pledge from 2015 (Russia is critically insufficient according to CAT but the question is whether they are keeping their very inadequate Paris pledge and the answer is yes).Japan is not quite on track. While Brazil is under achieving (basically not trying under Bolsorano) and the US is going to withdraw from the agreement but does have reducing emissions almost tracking its Paris pledge so far.
How well are countries doing with their 2015 Paris pledges?
MANY MISTAKES IN THE MEDIA
If have come to think from media stories that we risk running out of oxygen, or deadly heat that would kill billions, or that all the ice in Greenland could melt this century or that insects can go extinct or that we will run out of topsoil, or face a world without higher animals, birds or common trees, see my fact checker - you’ll be surprised in a positive way.
Some of the worst doomsday fear fact checking errors in the mainstream press - most are about climate change
SO MUCH YOU CAN DO YOURSELF
Many feel helpless, faced by climate change and biodiversity loss. Other people and governments seem to be doing nothing (actually they are doing lots but the news is not shared). There seems nothing they can do personally and the whole thing seems hopeless.
This is so far from true. One person can’t do much but collectively through our life choices we can help transform the planet. Indeed, governments can’t do it by themselves, we are needed too.
The IPCC, and IPBES say a transformative change is needed at all levels in our society to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. This is empowering because it means there is much we can do ourselves already, even if we are in a country where the government is not yet doing anything.
They say that we need changes at a personal level complemented by changes at community levels, and government levels. We also need intergovernmental co-operation and co-operation of cities and communities that cross national boundaries as well as collaboration between governments and local communities.
To take a familiar example, recycling would never work if people didn't separate their rubbish and put it in the appropriate recycling bins. That transformation happened in the UK in my lifetime - in the 60s and 70s hardly anyone recycled. Now just about everyone does, in the UK at least.
It’s the same with food waste, once consumers realize that it is a significant issue for the environment and the planet, they are likely to voluntarily choose to act to reduce the amount of food they waste in the kitchen.
It’s the same also with meat. Once we know about the impact of intensively farmed meat on the planet, then many may choose to eat less meat. This is working already. We don’t all need to act, it’s enough if a significant number of us do, to make a big difference.
You do not have to do all of these things, or any of them. It may help to think it more in a positive way. If you want to help the planet, these are all things you can do that will make a difference, if significant numbers of us do the same.
There are many excellent and strong reasons to act promptly on climate change. It is important to combine food security with preserving biodiversity and nature services. But IPBES made it clear we don't face a future where it is impossible to grow enough crops to feed everyone.
12 Simple lifestyle changes to help reduce global warming and biodiversity loss
Also this talk may help you if you are thinking about how to motivate both yourself and others, and also governments, to act on climate change:
The biggest obstacle to dealing with climate disruptions lies between your ears, says psychologist and economist Per Espen Stokes. He's spent years studying the defenses we use to avoid thinking about the demise of our planet -- and figuring out a new way of talking about global warming that keeps us from shutting down. Step away from the doomsday narratives and learn how to make caring for the earth feel personable, do-able and empowering with this fun, informative talk.
If you see any mistakes in this however small, or have any suggestions or questions, be sure to comment below, thanks!
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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.
If in the middle of a panic attack, see
- Breathe in and out slowly and deeply to calm a panic attack by Robert Walker on Debunking Doomsday
- Tips from CBT - might help some of you to deal with doomsday anxieties
- STOPP skill
Facebook support group
Facebook group Doomsday Debunked has been set up to help anyone who is scared by these fake doomsdays.
If you need help
Do message me on Quora or PM me on Facebook if you need help.
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