Skip to content

Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong

November 29, 2019

By Paul Homewood

Well worth a read. Environmentalist Michael Schellenberger attacks climate apocalypse claims:


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

Few have underscored the threat more than student climate activist Greta Thunberg and Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The latter said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” Says Thunberg in her new book, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”

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

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

Apocalyptic statements like these have real-world impacts. In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change. In October, an activist with Extinction Rebellion (”XR”) — an environmental group founded in 2018 to commit civil disobedience to draw awareness to the threat its founders and supporters say climate change poses to human existence — and a videographer, were kicked and beaten in a London Tube station by angry commuters. And last week, an XR co-founder said a genocide like the Holocaust was “happening again, on a far greater scale, and in plain sight” from climate change.

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

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

Journalists and activists alike have an obligation to describe environmental problems honestly and accurately, even if they fear doing so will reduce their news value or salience with the public. There is good evidence that the catastrophist framing of climate change is self-defeating because it alienates and polarizes many people. And exaggerating climate change risks distracting us from other important issues including ones we might have more near-term control over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full article here.

  1. grammarschoolman permalink
    November 29, 2019 12:06 pm

    Great article, Paul, but I’m afraid the link to the full piece doesn’t seem to work.

  2. fretslider permalink
    November 29, 2019 12:19 pm


    ” Full article here” link can’t be reached…


    Has Channel 4 been reprimanded for deliberately melting ice and causing sea levels to rise even faster? I think we should be told.

  3. john cooknell permalink
    November 29, 2019 12:21 pm

    The paradox is the more extreme the “climate emergency” exaggeration becomes, it actually increases sceptic people.

    • November 29, 2019 3:30 pm

      The peak of the warm period from about 1980-2005 has long gone, so we’re just left with warmists trying to milk the after-effects like the occasional heat-shedding El Niño.

  4. Paul Reynolds permalink
    November 29, 2019 12:24 pm

    The global group hysteria is itself becoming catastrophic because of the untold damage its actions will have on man’s future. Rational scientific debate and raw common sense are now excluded from the conversations between the vast majority of influential leaders and policy makers. It is a disaster and I am relieved, in my ninth decade, from the likelihood of being a victim of the disaster. But appalled that my descendants will suffer.

    • November 29, 2019 5:57 pm

      Using your terminology, Paul R, I’m in my 8th decade and told my then-MP that I’m determined to live to be 100 so that I can tell her “I told you so!”

  5. Stonyground permalink
    November 29, 2019 12:25 pm

    Yes the apocalyptic predictions are absurd. But I have eventually come round to believing that the lukewarmers are wrong as well. As far as I can see, the climate hasn’t changed much over the last few hundred years, and what change there has been has been for the better. The lack of correlation between CO2 levels and temperatures is now as plain as day. The question to ask now is, if CO2 causes temperatures to rise why doesn’t it? All the natural disasters that are being cited by the milder alarmists are nothing new and have been occurring since records began. Since they are nothing new, in what way are these events evidence that the climate is changing? Answer, they aren’t, they are in fact evidence of the climate being more or less the same as it ever was.

  6. swan101 permalink
    November 29, 2019 12:31 pm

    Reblogged this on ECO-ENERGY DATABASE.

  7. rafs permalink
    November 29, 2019 1:03 pm

    i guess the strategy is to shock. billions is obviously an exaggeration, if caveated within a timescale. The sky interview did not state a timescale, although i have heard this with ‘in your grandchildren’s lives’ caveat from other extinction rebellion sources.. i.e. to clarify point.. stating that billions of people are going to be killed from transportation accidents, is probably accurate.

    what i guess this shock strategy is aiming to do. is start the discussion, if ecological and climate change is man made … what is an accurate approximation of deaths globally in the next 100 years if we do nothing. In many societies in the world, peace is precariously balanced, and resources being made more scarce, might result in a escalation in indirect deaths.

  8. Gerry, England permalink
    November 29, 2019 1:42 pm

    It is quite funny that we non-believers in the global warming religion can now quote the flawed IPCC reports when slapping down the alarmist claims. Having mentioned Andrew Neil giving the XR dolly a tough time by quoting the IPCC her response was to laud leading climate crook Michael Mann as one of those now saying the IPCC reports are not scary enough.

    This must put the IPCC in a quandary as to how to do their next report. In order to make it scarier they will have to include more lies and misinformation than they currently do. Assuming there are any honest scientists still working for the IPCC, will taking the next report further into fairy land be the point at which they call it quits and leave just the high priests of global warming?

    • Harry permalink
      December 1, 2019 2:59 pm

      I thought the Arctic is melting faster than ever? Why would scientists make up global warming? They have no vested interest, unlike the corporations.

  9. November 29, 2019 3:45 pm

    The link to the full article is broken

  10. M. Drake permalink
    November 29, 2019 3:59 pm

    Is Schnellenbeger conflicted? I agree there is no existential threat, but, at the same time he says that his organization “Environmental Progress, has worked with some of the world’s leading climate scientists to prevent carbon emissions from rising. ” This action admits acceptance of the belief that CO2 is a threat instead of an actual benefit to the greening of the planet. He seems conflicted to me.

  11. Pancho Plail permalink
    November 29, 2019 4:53 pm

    Wild fires in the arctic. How does that work?

  12. November 29, 2019 5:23 pm

    I think it is pretty obvious-

    Agriculture yields are up-
    Poverty has decreased-
    Life expectancy has increased-
    Deaths from weather related disasters have declined-
    oh and the planet and deserts are greening from the increase in CO2-

  13. November 29, 2019 7:28 pm

    I have been on Huffpost in Canada and getting targeted real hard by the alarmists groups.They are in my opinoin being desperate to make people believe their nonsense.They will not listen to any real science. It is a religion with these people and most of the nonsense is coming from the UK and Europe. Somehow this craziness has to stop

  14. Ray Sanders permalink
    November 29, 2019 9:02 pm

    Today in this Guardian article
    Marina Hyde states
    ” while the rest of the UK’s party leaders discussed an impending planetary catastrophe ”

    So I opted to post a link to Michael Shellenberger’s article in Forbes (as above) to indicate that more serious.scientists and activists did not hold the catastrophic view.
    Several posters replied in agreement with my remark but then …………..not only was my remark “deleted by the moderator” but also my entire profile was erased from their system.
    I now no longer exists on the Graun’s website.. Censorship or what?!!!

  15. November 29, 2019 9:44 pm

    Reblogged this on Utopia, you are standing in it! and commented:
    “I looked through IPCC reports and see no reference to billions of people going to die, or children in 20 years. How would they die?”

  16. C Lynch permalink
    November 30, 2019 1:14 am

    November here in the south West of Ireland has been cool. Day time maxima have been in single figures generally and night frost has been frequent – down as low as – 4.
    I had a drink tonight with a friend of mine who is a intelligent well educated guy who told me how everyone was remarking on how freakishly mild November had been. Narrative obviously now trumps lived experience.

    • David Parker permalink
      November 30, 2019 7:56 am

      FYI November in South Oxfordshire has been about 0.5deg C below average.

    • dave permalink
      November 30, 2019 9:04 am

      Interesting. A new metric for me:

      I thought our children (MINE are now in their thirties) were not going to know what snow, lying on the ground, looked like?

  17. John Hadley permalink
    November 30, 2019 12:18 pm

    Before the advent of the preposterous apocalyptic claims and predictions about the impact of climate change Michael Schellenberger was an Alarmist who believed that the minuscule amount of man made CO2 in the atmosphere was a major driver of the fantastically complicated climate system and so detrimental to the health of the planet that it must be all but eliminated.
    Since these claims and predictions he is still the same Alarmist holding the same views.
    I appreciate that publishing his article on a Climate Realist site might help knock the apocalyptic claims on the head but we mustn’t be diverted from the real battle of exposing Man Made CO2 Induced Catastrophic Global Warming, as espoused by the likes of Michael Schellenberger, for the fraud it is.

  18. john cooknell permalink
    November 30, 2019 1:15 pm

    The final comment on weather related losses.

    Results show a clear decreasing trend in both human and economic vulnerability, with global average mortality and economic loss rates that have dropped by 6.5 and nearly 5 times, respectively, from 1980–1989 to 2007–2016.

  19. Vernon E permalink
    November 30, 2019 3:52 pm

    My great concern is that we in the sceptical “community” (as like thinkers now call themselves) are just not getting through – the alarmists are winning hands down. I suggest that our message needs to be more focussed and the one variable that is un-arguable and most precisely factual is sea level. This issue is always thrown into the mix by the BEEB
    et al but the facts of sea level are doubly verified by terrestrial and satellite monitoring and it is universally 1 – 3 mms per year, about a foot per hundred years (and actually reducing). Of course there are anomalies – they always quote Bangladesh which is one huge delta from which no conclusions can be drawn. But we have somehow to get to grips with this mania and undermine their false claims. Rant over.

  20. Ian Vernon permalink
    November 30, 2019 3:59 pm

    Cannot get full report on download as it gives an error. I would really to read it.

  21. December 1, 2019 7:58 am

    Why apocalyptic claims about climate change are wrong:
    Answer: They’ve made too many of them

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: