It’s nothing new for the Guardian to say the climate is approaching a scary tipping point. But would you believe five tipping points? Yet there it is: “World on brink of five ‘disastrous’ climate tipping points, study finds”. Which is also an impressive feat of mangling metaphors because once you tip over and fall, what can another tipping point mean? That you hurtle sideways? And if you’re thinking being on the brink isn’t the same as it being all over, the piece immediately continues “Giant ice sheets, ocean currents and permafrost regions may already have passed point of irreversible change”. So we’re on the brink and past it, falling fast and entering the fifth dimension. Maybe. Brutal.
That the story is implausible may go without saying. But we’ll say it anyway. The text begins “The climate crisis has driven the world to the brink of multiple ‘disastrous’ tipping points, according to a major study. It shows five dangerous tipping points may already have been passed due to the 1.1C of global heating caused by humanity to date.” Which passes two scientific-gibberish tipping points because, first, no reputable scientist believes that humanity caused the entire small increase in global blazing away since the mid-19th century and, second, if 1.1° of warming could demolish the ecosystem it never would have made it this far anyway.
Still, if you’re wondering from which directions doom will converge on your hapless self, the “tipping points” include “the collapse of Greenland’s ice cap, eventually producing a huge sea level rise, the collapse of a key current in the north Atlantic, disrupting rain upon which billions of people depend for food, and an abrupt melting of carbon-rich permafrost.” Which is only three but never mind because:
“At 1.5C of heating, the minimum rise now expected, four of the five tipping points move from being possible to likely, the analysis said. Also at 1.5C, an additional five tipping points become possible, including changes to vast northern forests and the loss of almost all mountain glaciers.”
An additional five? How many is that?
Math being hard, at least for alarmists, it’s not 10 as you might naively have thought. Rather, “In total, the researchers found evidence for 16 tipping points, with the final six requiring global heating of at least 2C to be triggered, according to the scientists’ estimations. The tipping points would take effect on timescales varying from a few years to centuries.” So forget that fear of gravity as you drift gently downward over centuries.
Also forget history as well as science. “‘The Earth may have left a “safe” climate state beyond 1C global warming,’ the researchers concluded, with the whole of human civilisation having developed in temperatures below this level.” Oh really? So we didn’t invent agriculture and cities at the peak of the Holocene Climatic Optimum, considerably warmer than today, and writing and metallurgy toward its end when it was still warmer than today? Though not as warm as during the subsequent Minoan Warm Period, despite which the planet somehow avoided this whole panoply of “multiple dangerous tipping points that will be disastrous for people across the world” in the words of one researcher quoted in the Guardian.
Still, must have more adrenaline. Thus “Passing one tipping point is often likely to help trigger others, producing cascades. But this is still being studied and was not included, meaning the analysis may present the minimum danger.” So the minimum danger is 16 cascading tipping points of deathly doomhoodship. Or just of journalists babbling at a bemused public. Including USA Today, which did manage to count to 16 but insisted that a few tenths of a degree and we were going down, up and sideways in a handbasket: “An international team of scientists looked at 16 climate tipping points… None of them are considered likely at current temperatures, though a few are possible. But with only a few more tenths of a degree of warming from now, at 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit warming since pre-industrial times, four move into the likely range, according to a study in Thursday's journal Science.”