It's so sad when people think they can't have children because of climate change. Two years ago most of these parents weren't despairing; they didn’t even give it thought. Climate change was not an election issue in the US elections in 2016, or the UK elections in 2017 even. Now it is one of the top issues for most governments worldwide. This gives so much more hope for the future, for those who have been following it all along, but many of those who have just begun to give it serious attention for a couple of years are already despairing only three years after the Paris agreement.

This is all topsy turvy. The underlying situation hasn't changed significantly. Scientists knew all of this (in less detail) decades ago.

We start to something about it in a serious way, and for the first time, many people feel like giving up. Meanwhile people are living longer, and our population is leveling off due to prosperity not scarcity, literacy is increasing, food security increasing, we have large food reserves, we have a new billion dollars a year fund to prevent famines before they happen, child mortality going down, greatly reduced poverty, access to clean water increasing, things are improving in so many ways and with roadmaps for the future, we know that we can continue to do this, it just needs the political will.

For goodness sake! We are only three years into the 14 years from 2016 to 2030, when we need to reduce emissions by 45% to stay within 1.5 C, and the 34 years from 2016 to 2050 when we need to reach zero emissions, and that’s for the easiest way to stay within 1.5 C. We have already knocked more than a degree off the projection for 2100 (down to 3°C) in just three years of our new policies. We are already ramping up on those commitments. We can do this!

This is another article I'm writing to support people we help in the Facebook Doomsday Debunked group, that find us because they get scared, sometimes to the point of suicide, by such stories. Do share this with your friends if you find it useful, as they may be panicking too.

There is plenty of reason for climate action. But there are also many non scientific and junk science scenarios being promoted by the media and stories exaggerated and untrue. Far more bleak than the science says. Then there are the exaggerations of David Wallace Wells and his "uninhabitable Earth" and of those two Australian businessmen none of whom are even trained in science or maths. David Wallace Wells himself says he has only been interested in climate scientist at all as a general journalist for two years, yet he writes a book about it. Then you get those who use hyperbole, exaggeration, a natural thing to do to try to get people to act faster.

Many people, including children, worry that we are headed for a desert world or some such. Movies like "Interstellar" promote those ideas. That's just fiction, it's not true in reality at all.

The IPCC’s own worst case climate change example is still a world with nature. We are going the opposite direction at present towards more climate action rather than less, but even if we completely scrapped the Paris agreement and only acted very late - you are not talking about a desert Earth.

The worst scenario is of parts of the Amazon turning to a species rich savannah, not all of it, by any means, just some of it, like this:

I live in Scotland for instance. This photo is of my sister’s meadow on the Isle of Skye.

It’s not going to change to a desert.

Click to watch on YouTube

Coral reefs are worst affected in this scenario, most of them turning to sponge or seaweed rich reefs. These are still rich habitats, related to the corals much as savannah is to a tropical jungle, not the incredible variety of the jungle or coral but not a desert at all.

Click to watch on YouTube

Insects do NOT go extinct in any scenario.

OOPS - Purto Rican insects in the forest canopy increase with warmth - not decline - and frogs like the warmth too

The original mistaken study was reported with titles such as:

And along with another study as:

There is no correction in those articles. I’d be surprised if as many as one in a thousand of those who read the original story know that it was mistaken.

Or even worse the insects study a while back, the one that’s the basis of that climate change slogan that we’d lose all our insects in 40 years. It had only one data point for the whole of China, for the domestic honeybee! Like using sheep in a study on declines of mammals. Most of the map is blank, and the few studies they do include come from a literature search for "DECLIN*", which surely biased their results towards studies that found declines.

Those purple bars in Australia and China are for the domestic honeybee

There were some points in it of interest to academic readers who knew how to evaluate its limitations, but it should never have got so much publicity.

This is what the insect ecologist Manu Saunders had to say about it in a tweet:

The key take-home is the amount of white space on this map of available data showing local/regional declines. Most countries have no data. N.B. the single data points in Australia & China are both managed honey bees, not wild insects

— Dr Manu Saunders (@ManuSaunders) February 3, 2019

It was even on TV prime time news in the UK with a live interview with one of the authors.

The idea that we will lose all our insects in 40 years doesn’t make scientific sense. Even deserts have insects and their own unique wildlife and we are not headed for a desert world, some countries get drier, some warmer. However those of us who live in colder climes know about how insects almost vanish in winter, and butterflies hibernate or lay eggs to overwinter, and as spring comes the flies, midges, caterpillars and then butterflies proliferate, flying around visiting flowers, and laying their eggs for the next generation.

Warmth strongly encourage insects in colder parts of the world. This is the infamous Highland midge at its most numerous, a tiny biting insect, each one is just a tiny pinprick but they affect you by the sheer numbers:

Click to watch on YouTube

Much though holiday makers and locals might wish for it in some ways, we are not headed for a world without the highland midge.

Insects can increase hugely in a short time, if they meet optimal conditions, as for a locust swarm. Their populations can crash as quickly. But they can't just all vanish. Whatever happens, there's still all the soil, dung, dead plants and animals, rotting wood etc and soon another lot of insects will return.

Also, we can’t have a world without domestic honey bees either. That also makes no sense as it is a domesticated insect, like sheep are a domestic animal. When colonies started to collapse, then beekeepers needed to split colonies more often to compensate.

Click to watch on YouTube

From the FAO, counting beehives rather than bees, numbers have increased from 66 million to 90 million in the world from 1994 to 2017:

And reasonably steady in the US


How many shared the positive insect stories in the FAO report that came out only a week or two later?

What can happen is a loss of biodiversity of pollinators. More flowers get pollinated if you have a wide variety of pollinators so this helps with crop yields.

There are many measures that countries are taking to help support pollination of their crops. For instance Malaysia’s “stingless bees” project.

These are a different species from honey bees that are adapted to tropical and subtropical species and are better able to pollinate their crops than traditional honey bees. And they do also produce honey. Stingless Bees - Facts, Information & Pictures

Germany has started an Action Programme for Insect Protection which is here (you can use google translate to see it in English): Insektenschutz

UN report is far from bleak - an encouraging survey of measures being used to preserve biodiversity - many knowledge gaps and issues but also much we can do

Indeed, you can do your own bit to help with insect biodiversity. Plant insect friendly flowers in your garden. Put insect homes in your garden for them to live in. Make sure you have piles of old logs. Ideas on attracting wildlife to your garden; expert advice from the RHS

You can also make “bug hotels” for your garden. it may look something like this:

Bug hotel (C) Alex McGregor

Or for a more natural look:

Bug Hotel Spiers

More tips here from AutumnWatch

And of course farmers can do similar things in their fields. It’s not something we need to watch helplessly.

Try reading my 24 ways the world is getting better for a different perspective on some of this.

We have a huge media bias here. Any mistake or exaggeration that says things will be terrible in the future get shared around the world, and exaggerated more and more with repetition as journalists vie with each other to make their stories more scary so that more people click and share.

Meanwhile positive news stories about climate change don’t fit the mood of readers. If a big study has positive stories in it, they are ignored and the journalists focus with a laser like focus on anything negative or scary in it.

Even when journalists write these positive stories, many don’t believe them or are not interested in them, and don’t share them at all. They rarely get into mainstream TV or news.

One-third of Earth’s vegetated lands are greening, while 5 percent are growing browner. The study was published on February 11, 2019

This shows the greening or browning from 2000 to 2017 - the change not the overall greenness. China and India stand out and account for a third of the greening, although they have only 9% of the area of vegetation in the world.

42% of China’s greening contribution is from it’s forest conservation and expansion program, much of the rest (32%) from intensive cultivation of food crops.

For India, it’s the other way around, 82% of the change is from the intensive cultivation of food, with an increase of a remarkable 35 to 40% since 2000, alone, mainly through multiple cropping where a field is replanted to produce more harvests several times a year.

The world as a whole is greening by 2.3 % per decade, but China is greening by over 10% per decade and India by over 6%

China and India Lead the Way in Greening

See also my

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 (Loess Plateau - Wikipedia) in September 2009. See Greening the desert (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.

Video here:

Click to watch on YouTube

Fish in the sea can just swim a few hundred kilometers as the world warms up to go to water that is more to their liking.

As the world gets warmer then the extreme north particularly gets favoured for agriculture. 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.

See also my answer to What is the impact of global warming on agriculture?

There is desertification still going on but also reversing desertification, reafforestation and reclaiming of land that hadn't been cared for properly before.

We are not in this worst case and the way things are it would take a lot to go wrong and reverse to end up in a situation like this.

And - if you are worried about population explosion, then our population is leveling off naturally due to prosperity rather than scarcity. We can feed everyone through to 2100 and beyond.

The humpback whale is another example, moved from vulnerable to least concern in 2008.

Click to watch on YouTube

This magnificent creature will still be here for our generations grandchildren, and this is entirely due to conservation action

Humpback whale on road to recovery, reveals IUCN Red List (Humpback whale on road to recovery, reveals IUCN Red List)

There are many examples. They are often misreported, for instance the recent beachings of grey whales in California were small numbers in a population that has probably already reached close to the carrying capacity for that migration route:

The IPBES report earlier this year was widely misreported. It was only talking about “threatened” species, the number of a million species included microscopic sea creatures and insects, and their message was that we can save them. Their central message was “Make biodiversity great again” - repeated in various ways throughout the press conference. That we know how to do this. They explained how to do it, with a special focus on doing something about the perverse subsidies that encourage non sustainable agriculture.


There is nothing remotely like extinction or end of civilization in the IPCC’s example worst case climate change scenario. We are classified as of least concern by the IUCN. We have increasing numbers and are a species with many habitats we can survive in.

Pic by Neil Palmer (CIAT). A rice farmer in Kantuta, near Caranavi, BoliviaOur natural habitats include: "Grassland, Artificial/Terrestrial, Forest, Shrubland, Desert, Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks), Savanna".

I have used the entry for humans in The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and added a photo of a rice farmer to it.

With minimal technology / clothing / fire / housing we can live anywhere from the Kalahari desert to the Arctic. We are warm blooded omnivores which means we an eat almost anything and live almost anywhere especially with our technology.

Our technology is so good, we could even have a reasonably self sustaining habitat in space, where there is no nature at all, not even an atmosphere

It is not just us. Our sheep, cows, dogs, cats, pet rabbits, goldfish, they aren’t going to go extinct either, because we look after them. Also all our crops, domesticated insects like honey bees, our garden plants, as long as we have gardeners we’ll have gardens. We are not headed for a world without anemones

Click to watch on YouTube

Or lotuses

Click to watch on YouTube

Our gardens will still be full of flowers.

Click to watch on YouTube

This is obvious when you think about it, but the climate slogans can have a powerful effects on our minds, blind us to the obvious, and shortcut our thinking processes.


We are blessed with a wonderfully biodiverse world with habitats from Siberian permafrost to tropical jungles, and not only that, the same niches are occupied by radically different species in say, Australia, or China, Africa, or South America. Any species loss is sad, and it's important to preserve this wonderful diversity we have for many reasons. However ours will still be a biodiverse world whatever happens.

You get extinctions anyway if you merge together two ecosystems that evolved separately. For instance, 54 million years from now Australia will crash into China.

From this video:

Click to watch on YouTube

Even if humans had evolved, this future collision would mix together Australian and Chinese species that had never encountered each other before - so that would then lead to many extinctions.

But the resulting ecosystem in China / Australia, though with fewer species in total, would likely be a richer ecosystem than the separate ones are now.

One interesting biologist, Chris Thomas argues that this is a good analogy to most of what is going on right now. It is much like merging of continents via tectonic plate movement, except that humans are doing the merging by moving things about across the sea, rather than continents.

Click to watch on YouTube

I go into this in more detail here

Nor will any major ecosystems go extinct, except potentially the corals. You'd barely notice this extinction in the fossil record a few million years from now. Kelp forests, sea grasses, even deep water corals, they won’t go extinct. They have a vast range from near the poles to equatorial regions, many different species and unlike corals they can’t go extinct.

The corals won’t all go extinct either. As it gets warmer, they could survive by migrating to cooler places or by evolving to adapt to warmer conditions. The problem is that with global warming, the seas get warm too quickly for that. However, there are some places with corals that are already adapted to warmer conditions than they are in already, such as the northern Red Sea corals;

We can also transfer adult corals from warmer temperatures. According to Mikhail Matz, professor of integrative biology at the University of TExas:

“Averting coral extinction can begin with something as simple as exchange of coral immigrants across latitudes, which will happen naturally through larval dispersal but can be jump-started by humans moving adult corals. … This is occasion for hope and optimism about coral reefs and the marine life that thrive there.”

26 June: Corals already have the genes to adapt to warmer oceans


This is an argument made by some advocates of fossil fuels. The idea is that the more energy you get for less work (energy invested), the more energy you have to spare for your civilization. It is a controversial way of looking at things because it doesn’t include the effect on the environment and nature services, and other impacts. It’s discussed by Carbon Brief here Energy return on investment - which fuels win? | Carbon Brief

But in any case, it’s not true that fossil fuels are best. Hydro tops the list by far for the amount of energy you get back for the amount you use to get the power.

Meanwhile most renewables are comparable to fossil fuels. Here are some estimates for the US from 2014. The longer the blue bar, the better it is:

As you can see, for the US, back in 2014, then photovoltaic were already better than shale oil (fracking) and wind turbines were right up their with oil and gas. This is only getting better as they find improved ways to make solar panels and wind turbines.

As for the total amounts of energy available, enough solar power falls on a small fraction of the Sahara to power the entire world. It is also inexhaustible, continues for as long as the sun shines, for billions of years into the future.

Offshore wind in the US has the potential to generate double the electricity demand of the States.

This is for 2005, and the power requirements from all forms of power would require five times this area:

“The red squares represent the area that would be enough for solar power plants to produce a quantity of electricity consumed (as or 2005) by the world, the European Union (EU-25) and Germany (De). (Data provided by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), 2005). To replace all energy consumption (not just electricity), areas about 5 times as large would suffice.” Fullneed.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Another argument you hear is that there isn’t enough space for renewables. Well, wind turbines have almost no footprint in fields. Solar panels can provide shade which is useful in semi-arid regions, so long as they are raised above the ground, this can make the grass grow faster. It also is ideal for the clear cloudless skies of many deserts and can be used on roofs and in other ways combined with other land use. Hydro power also is often sited in deserts, and doesn’t usually replace good agricultural land. More about all that here, where I discuss a case study for the US:

You will also sometimes hear people say we have to keep the fossil fuels as “base load power” to compensate for the variability of renewables. Actually that’s not much use for renewables, not once you get close to 100% renewables. Coal and nuclear produce a steady base load and can’t easily ramp up and down. To deal with the fluctuations of renewables we need a power source that can ramp up and down at short notice. This is called “peaking power”.

Pumped hydro is ideal for that. It can generate power when needed and then use power to pump water back up into the dam when there is too much power in the grid.

There is a lot of potential for pumped hydro in many countries. To take an example, the Australia National University has found 22,000 potential pump hydro sites in Australia. They found so many they only need the best 0.1% (details here).

Then another way is to use UHVDC cables to transport power over vast distances. For instance there’s a UHVDC line between Norway and the UK under construction that will permit load balancing between the UK and Norway.

With the Australia example again, then there will usually be wind power somewhere in Australia which you can use to balance the load during calmer days elsewhere.

Another way to supply peaking power is with molten salt energy storage. This is especially suited for systems where tracking mirrors (heliostats focus heat on a tower) because they may be using molten salt anyway. Then, there are batteries. In a zero emissions future most vehicles may be electric, and the car batteries are useful for load balancing, letting you earn money from your car by buying electricity from the grid and selling it back again automatically while it is parked. For more about the Australian example, see my:

So, there are many ways to deal with the fluctuations in renewables, and which you use will depend on your situation, most usually a mix of many methods. I go into this some more in my

Critics also sometimes say that fossil fuels are needed for GDP growth. However when you take into account CO2 emissions, just looking at this financially, fossil fuels harm GDP growth. The 2018 IPCC found that our future GDP is improved if we keep global warming below 2 C with medium confidence and may be improved below 1.5 C. A 2018 paper came to a stronger conclusion, a potential saving of US$20 trillion by 2100, which is more than a fifth of the world GDP for 2016!

It’s the same also for things like cobalt and lithium, critics say we need them for batteries, and you often hear only one side and you don’t hear about the many solutions there are for shortages, some already in commercial use. See the COBALT AND LITHIUM section of my


Also you may worry about how we can continue to improve our quality of life on a finite planet. Don’t we need more and more resources for a better quality of life? Doesn’t an increase in GDP mean the planet has to deteriorate?

Well, not really. The thing is GDP doesn’t just measure the production of goods, but also services. For instance, spending on the efficiency of houses, on better transport, investment in better solar panels and wind turbines, less polluting power stations, investment in conservation and sustainability - that all is GDP too.

Also production can be done sustainably, if materials are cycled more, then that’s still the same GDP, but with much less impact on the environment . You can increase GDP with less and less impact.

The GDP can also be used to reverse desertification, again there is a lot of economic growth and benefit there, but the result will be new forests and grasslands, the world becoming a better place, more biodiverse, more healthy as with the Chinese Loess plateau project.

We can even use ideas from space habitats to support ourselves in deserts, in this self sustaining way, using only the desert sands, sea water and the air. We can, quite literally, generate GDP growth on the basis of mainly air, sea water and sand!

Click to watch on YouTube

The sea water is used as a source of water. The desert sunlight evaporates the water, which cools down the greenhouses.

Diagrams by Raffa be from wikipedia SG phase II)

Hot dry dusty air from the desert blows through a honeycomb wall soaked in sea water. Humid air blows across the growing area and some of it condenses on a second panel. The moist air blows out of the greenhouse, and not only lets you grow crops in the greenhouses - it can also help make the surrounding areas more habitable, so you’d get trees and crops growing in an area around the greenhouses as well.

Seawater Greenhouse in Tenerife two years after being installed

All this vegetation has grown spontaneously around the Tenerife seawater greenhouse due to the moist air, just two years after it was installed:

This is what it was like before:

All that economic value, all that GDP is created from nowhere basically, improving the world rather than depleting it. It's much the same as for the Loess plateau and other methods of reversing desertification, but I think this is particularly clear and simple because literally there was nothing there before, just sand. And all you do is to import seawater and use sunlight, along with the structure of the greenhouses, and solar energy for the power.

So yes, improving GDP can be combined with sustainability and a circular economy.

To take an example, North Korea’s forests have shrunk by around 2% a year for 20 years, and South Korea’s are stable.

Deforestation Has Caused an Environmental Crisis in North Korea

South Korea of course is the stronger economy here. The long view

So far our improvement in standard of living has been accompanied by increasing negative effects on the environment. But it is turning around. Now in many places economic growth is accompanied by positive effects on the environment.

See also

Co-chair Eduardo Brondizio, one of the co-chairs for the IPBES report put it like this:

Click to watch on YouTube

I think one of the most important things that we could do, and I hope will be the impact of the global assessment, is to reverse the perverse narrative that environmental degradation you know social inequality are in a inevitable outcomes of economic growth. We need to change that narrative we need to make economic growth as a means not an end. Quality of life is the end we've all right there is hope We need to build on the efforts that are there we need to build on the knowledge that we have to be able to revert those changes. People need to feel empowered. Policymakers need to view empower everyone contributes it. We have the tools to implement policy to make a difference on people's lives and a difference on the global environment

The IPBES report - which will come out later this year in full, is a major study that brings together all these factors, economic, social, climate change, biodiversity and provides a roadmap to economic growth and prosperity while preserving biodiversity.

So, yes, continuing GDP growth is possible on a finite planet - and sustainable living can help us to do that. GDP growth can also help with sustainable development. However, quality of life should be our end and economic growth should be used as a means towards quality of life.


We are acting together on these issues in a way that is already remarkable. We can continue to do this.

When I see the school striking children and the climate activists, I see great hope for the future. They are the ones who will be voting for new initiatives and decisions in the 20s and 30s. They also include our future politicians; some may be future presidents of the great countries in the world, and world leaders.

As time goes on and the effects of climate change become more and more obvious, surely these children as they grow to adulthood are going to be more motivated to work on it, not less. Surely we are headed to a world where more is done about climate change, not less.

Click to watch on YouTube

One of the largest environmental protests ever is underway. It’s led by children.

I would never have guessed we would pull together, and so quickly. Even in the US, climate change is already a major election issue for the 2020 elections with the leading Democrat candidates pledging to 1.5 C compatible targets. It was hardly mentioned in 2016. Major changes are underway in Europe too, with the recent “Green wave” in the EU elections.

This sort of thing is surely going to become stronger, not weaker, as changes due to global warming become more noticeable.

The young children doing “School striking” around the world today are tomorrow’s voters and politicians.

Greta Thunberg at the EU Parliament

We should see a greatly changed politics they grow up to maturity. We aren’t there yet, not nearly, but with more and more ambitious new policies in the next decade, we can target 1.5°C. Some countries are already. For more of this positive background, read my:

Surely at a minimum, as the century progresses, we will improve on our current 3°C target?

It won’t take much to reach 2°C. For that we need to reduce our emissions by 20% by 2030 and taper down to zero emissions by 2070, not a big ask. There are many possible scenarios, we can also end up at say 1.9 or 2.4 degrees, or anywhere in between. Myles Allen put it like this:

Bad stuff is already happening and every half a degree of warming matters, but the IPCC does not draw a “planetary boundary” at 1.5°C beyond which lie climate dragons.

Why protesters should be wary of ‘12 years to climate breakdown’ rhetoric - by Myles Allen

Here are some more positive stories you might not have seen:

The IPBES report was hugely misreported

As was the 2018 IPCC report

Also the FAO report


We have had an extraordinary number of exaggerations and mistakes about climate change in the media this year. I’ve been writing debunks of over the top and just plain wrong stories just about every day, for some weeks now, and I have a backlog of ones to write that I haven’t done yet.

I’ve never seen so much misinformation in the press on a single topic in such a short period of time. It does lead to more action, on climate change, you can say that’s a good thing. But it also leads people to panic and get scared unnecessarily about an over-bleak future that is not a true picture of what can happen.


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


Tip, bookmark those links to search for debunks more easily. Here is a screenshot of my bookmarks


Facebook group Doomsday Debunked has been set up to help anyone who is scared by these fake doomsdays.

Wiki Doomsday debunked wiki


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