Climate tipping points: What do they mean for society?

From the “no tipping points observed, though many have been predicted” department and Rutgers University

Rutgers and Harvard scientists lay out strategy for investigating societal consequences

The melting Thwaites Glacier in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a climatic tipping element that global warming may have committed to an irreversible shift.CREDIT NASA

The melting Thwaites Glacier in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a climatic tipping element that global warming may have committed to an irreversible shift.CREDIT NASA

The phrase “tipping point” passed its own tipping point and caught fire after author Malcolm Gladwell’s so-named 2000 book. It’s now frequently used in discussions about climate change, but what are “climate tipping points”? And what do they mean for society and the economy?

Scientists at Rutgers University and Harvard University tackle the terminology and outline a strategy for investigating the consequences of climate tipping points in a study published online today in the journal Earth’s Future.

“I hear from a lot of people in the general public who wonder whether we’ve passed a tipping point with respect to the climate, but frequently they don’t know precisely what the term means,” said Robert E. Kopp, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers. “And that’s on the scientific community. Oftentimes, we use the term in a way that doesn’t quite jive with popular understanding.”

“In the climate science world, the consequences of what are sometimes called tipping points may take decades or centuries to play out,” Kopp added. “By contrast, many people think, ‘OK, we’ve crossed a tipping point now, something is going to happen quickly.’ That’s more consistent with the way the term was popularized, before it was adopted by the climate science community, and that’s a terminological confusion we wanted to clarify.”

The authors recommend using the phrase “climatic tipping elements” to describe portions of the climate system that may be abruptly committed to major shifts as a result of the changing climate. Arctic sea ice, the Antarctic ice sheet, and the Amazon rainforest are examples of elements to which the term may apply. They also draw a connection to “social tipping elements,” such as public opinion and policy changes, technological or behavioral changes, mass migrations and conflict-development traps.

Social tipping elements may be influenced by climate change. And some climate tipping elements and social tipping elements may have the ability to trigger economic shocks – large, rapid losses in a country’s economic capacity. Civil wars, which are made more frequent by temperature extremes, are an example of a social tipping event associated with economic shocks.

But not all climate tipping elements play out quickly enough to have major economic impacts in time frames relevant to policy or economic decisions.

“We wanted to clarify the difference between a ‘tipping point’ the way that Malcolm Gladwell uses the term and a ‘critical threshold’ in a system, which may or may not lead to a quick change,” Kopp said. “You cross a critical threshold with respect to the Antarctic ice sheet, which we may have already crossed, and we may be committed to multiple meters of sea level rise, but those may play out over centuries.”

Study authors include Rachael L. Shwom, an associate professor in the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers; Gernot Wagner, a research associate at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Jiacan Yuan, a post-doctoral fellow in the Kopp-led Rutgers Earth System Science & Policy Lab.

“We’re worried about mass migration or increases in poverty and civil conflicts that lead to destabilization of societies following climate change,” Shwom said. “That certainly will increase suffering among people.”

The literature on the costs of climate change often links climatic “tipping points” and large economic shocks that are often called “catastrophes,” according to the study. The phrase “tipping points” in this context can be misleading because the subsequent changes can be either abrupt or slow.

If the lag between crossing a critical threshold and an impact is too long, we may not notice until it’s too late to do anything about it, Kopp said. If we notice that we’ve done something wrong, it may be possible to intervene and limit the damage.

The authors propose a research agenda that advances the study of the social and economic consequences of climatic tipping elements, social tipping elements sensitive to climate change, and climate-economic shocks.

Shwom wants to look into any cases where it looks like social tipping elements have been tipped and the underlying conditions.

“There’s been a lot of attention paid to climate tipping points where some major change in the climate happens, but this study gave me a chance to think about how social systems will respond to climate change,” she said. “Social system tipping points can worsen or reduce the impacts of climate change.”

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136 thoughts on “Climate tipping points: What do they mean for society?

  1. With “studies” like this one, it’s easy see that the “stupid” tipping point has been reached.

    • We are far beyond the only tipping point which was when Gore got involved and replaced science with conformance to a political narrative. Overcoming political bias is exceptionally difficult and usually occurs only with the demise of the supporting political ideology which always seems to require force. History is full of bad ideas that had significant political support. Oppressive colonialism required the Revolutionary War, oppressive fascism required WWII, an oppressive dictator required the Gulf War (although without a plan to replace him was foolish) and oppressive slavery took the Civil War. While I’m certainly not advocating war to overcome Green oppression, there’s so much wrong with the pseudo science supporting them, a scientific revolution will be required. Unfortunately, those in the position to correct the science by correcting their own mistakes are far too vested in the political ideology supporting their broken science and the political consequences of the scientific truth are devastating to that ideology.

      • Slavery was ended in the rest of the British empire without a civil war.
        Buying the freedom of every slave would have cost less than the cost of the civil war and gotten nobody killed.

      • I am not sure of much of your argument as having any value. WW2 wasn’t about “oppressive fascism,” not sure the revolutionary war was about “oppressive colonialism,” and for sure, I don’t see the Gulf War about an oppressive dictator. After all Hussein was an elected president.

        But more to the point, or is that element, a tipping point always seemed to me to be a point of no return. That is, once passed the tipping point, there is no going back to what it was. If we have passed “tipping points” or elements, then we should be seeking mitigation for the issues, not attempting to reverse that which, by definition, can’t be reversed.

      • Tom,
        Taxation without representations was the oppressive colonialism that precipitated the Revolutionary war.

        The Nazi’s most certainly promoted oppressive fascism and if you did share a generic connection to the master race, you were not only oppressed, but systematically denied the right to life.

        The first Gulf War was in response to Hussain’s invasion of Kuwait, which by itself is an act of oppression. While weapons of mass destruction were the prima facia ‘reason’ for the second Gulf War, what swayed many on the left to agree with action was the oppression of Shiite Muslims and Kurds. Another point is that while Hussain was ‘elected’, he effectively ran unopposed as he killed off any serious opposition.

        My points were twofold. First is that the Gore’s insanity was the tipping point for getting the political left to buy into the lies, hook line and sinker that if not fixed, we will not recover. Second is that bad ideas with significant political support can be reversed, but it takes serious action.

      • MarkW–I too have wondered what would have happened had the colonials not rebelled. But writing hypothetical history is a lot like studying climate change. You can’t just change one variable and assume that all the other variables stay the same. Eliminating slavery in the UK was a struggle that lasted many years, with forward and backward steps taken by very small vote margins in Parliament. Had the American colonies stayed under British rule, the strong political and economic interests favoring American slavery could very well have further delayed the end of slavery in the British Empire.

        As for buying out the slaves–continuing to treat the slaves as property implies that the transactions would be subject to normal market forces. As the available slaves become scarcer, their value goes up. The cost of buyout implemented over time would not be exactly linear and would generally be a great deal more than a straight line extrapolation from a fixed starting price. And a buyout implemented all at once would likely induce a (delayed) rebellion in the American colonies.

      • “We are far beyond the only tipping point which was when Gore got involved and replaced science with conformance to a political narrative.”

        No, it was when Thatcher made it an international issue.
        http://www.john-daly.com/history.htm

        “took the Civil War. ”

        No, the Civil War was between Parliamentarians and Royalists. Perhaps you mean the American Civil War.

  2. The authors make a couple of references to “social tipping points”. If they really want to look at that, I suggest they look no further than Venezuela. From 20 years ago to today, what was done, and what happened.
    Was there a “tipping point”, what was it, what happened next?
    What lessons to be learned?
    From a messy and sometimes chaotic, but workable democracy to famine in one generation.
    Crickets. Crickets.

    • I am assuming, TonyL, you are referring to the external intervention to what was being attempted in Venezuela, not Chavez’s socialism, right? After all had Venezuela been left alone by certain hemispheric powers, they might have continued to evolve a successful national socialism, somewhat like Libya before certain hemispheric powers intervened there as well. Thus you seem to be referring to the “tipping point” of kicking western oil companies out of control of a nation’s wealth, which I guess really is a social tipping element, so to speak.

      • Tom O Typical socialist nonsense. Name one instance in history where socialism has been successful. Always if this and if that. If the dog didn’t stop to take an **** he would have caught the rabbit.

      • Tom O

        Had Chavez been able to manage the Country into a short term success (to this point in time), the tipping point for that success could have been when he stole the resources that allowed for it. But said resources were neglected, misused, and mismanaged & Chavez did not know how to compete with those that he had stolen from.

        [note: the resources that are still there, in the ground, were not stolen; they are still there … relatively unused]

  3. I always leave a good tip when I go out to eat. My sister, my older sister, is a crappy tipper – as anyone who knows her would expect. So I have tried and tried to give her proper tipping points, but to no avail.

    Has anyone noticed that the people with the most money tend to be the worst tippers? My older sister (as she will readily tell you) has more money than me.

    There’s a moral in all of this somewhere. I guess we should just confine the verb, ‘tipping’, to the food and beverage industry. It really has no application to science.

    Nor my older sister.

    • It really has no application to science.

      Not at all . It is really a condescending way to refer to a system dominated by a positive feedback. Nice everyday analogy of a vase tipping over. It can wobble within a small range but once it goes too far in one direction it carries on falling. It is beyond the point of no return.

      It is layman’s talk but there is a clear scientific meaning behind it.

      The original tipping point was the rapid warming leading up to 1998. When that didn’t work out, the most frequently referred to ‘tipping points’ in climate is Arctic sea ice.


      https://climategrog.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/on-identifying-inter-decadal-variation-in-nh-sea-ice/

      However, as we can see the rate of loss of ice area has been slowing since around 2007. Once the vase has started falling, it can not slow down half way down.

      This is formally incompatible with the claim that the system is dominated by a positive feedback hence formal proof that we have not reached a tipping point in the Arctic.

      Until 2007, the hypothesis of a positive feedback was a credible proposition, provided it was accompanied with suitable caveats about the very limited length of the data.

      Now that one’s fallen apart too they are going for Antarctica.

      “In the climate science world, the consequences of what are sometimes called tipping points may take decades or centuries to play out,” Kopp added.

      Well if you want to talk about tipping points that take centuries to “play out”, you are going to need a lot more than 35 years of rather uncertain data to detect it. Certainly much shorter and even more uncertain GRACE data on ice volume will tell you nothing useful for determining whether the system is dominated by a positive feedback. But the longer the period you talk about, the more scary you can be. Safe in the knowledge that everyone will have forgotten you even existed before before your unfounded claims can be checked or invalidated.

      “By contrast, many people think, ‘OK, we’ve crossed a tipping point now, something is going to happen quickly.’ That’s more consistent with the way the term was popularized, before it was adopted by the climate science community,

      No, that is exactly the way it was adopted in climatology. As an alarmist “wake up call”, etc. The Arctic was to be ice free in the summer within just a few years. Many were foolish enough to make such claims, such was their own hyperventilating panic.

      • Its just the AMO.. a natural north Atlantic oscillation of some 60-70 years.

        The AMO now looks like its heading back down,

        I suspect that Arctic sea ice will start to increase again over the next several years.

      • Agreed. In the context of climate activism, the notion really really is: The Point of No Return.

        There are several problems with this, not least that climates are plural (local and regional) and always in flux.

        Alarmists have always believed that the future can only be warmer, never cooler, because they take it on faith that the climate system has been irreversibly altered by our use of fossil fuels. There have been repeated announcements (famously by Prince Charles) of last chances to change the direction of catastrophe.

      • “Not at all . It is really a condescending way to refer to a system dominated by a positive feedback.”

        Except that the Earth’s climate is dominated by negative feedback, otherwise the climate would have been pushed to an extreme billions of years ago and would have never recovered.

        The very idea of domination by positive feedback is the result of a significant errors made first by Hansen and made worse by Schlesinger when Bode’s control theory was subverted by individuals who clearly didn’t understand it in order to prove a point that’s demonstrably false.

    • “people with the most money tend to be the worst tippers”

      That’s one reason why they have more money !!

  4. I thought when I saw this article that someone in the climate science area was finally going to define the term “tipping point” for me, but I was mistaken. These folks do not seem to have a clear definition in mind. Surely, they mean something like a positive feedback mechanism, but they cannot articulate that clearly.

    Not being able to define your own terminology is a clear identifier of junk science. I teach this characteristic of junk science in my class on critical thinking. I will use this article as a (bad) example of poor thinking.

    • When dealing with pseudo science, not clearly defining your terms is a plus, not a negative.
      That way each person defines it based on their own preconceived notions. Additionally when challenged, you can hide behind the fact that you and your challenger are defining the term differently.

      • My personal favorite is “extreme weather”. If you get pinned for specifics, you can add “such as” which allows you to appear specific without actually being specific — “extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods, forest fires, hurricanes, tornado outbreaks, locust invasions, frogs, lice, fiery hail, water turning into blood, cats and dogs living together, weeks of darkness, plague, and total planetary annihilation.”

        Because you said, “such as” — heat waves only has to be correct and the sentence is true.

    • “Tipping point” usually means a threshold at which a positive feedback accelerates, and becomes less likely to reverse, either by natural balance mechanisms or intervention. An example is in a flood, when an upstream house comes loose from its foundation, jars the next house loose, and so on, in a domino effect.

      Doomsday prophets find those kinds of tipping point analogies politically useful, even if they don’t apply, and/or ignore the Yogi Berra Rule (“It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”)

      When your shtick is doomsday, the cry is invariably, “Do what I say NOW, or else!” As in Albert Gore’s & others’ repeated imprecations to dismantle the hydrocarbon industries. As long as he can keep his palace in Montecito, who cares how much the hoi polloi have to pay for transportation, home maintenance, food, etc.? Or if their faux jobs take them backwards towards an imagined past. (Returning to subsistence gardens, for instance.) A demoralized populace in a declining economy is easier to intimidate with the next doomsday scenario, no matter how false.

      A social tipping point is reached when Chicken Lichen achieves such a position of power that he can induce mass panic in order to keep the sky from falling. We have already seen this in the U.S. for decades in the crusade against nuclear energy. Even though it’s safer than any other form of electric generation in measurably death & injury per megawatt, and throws off the least carbon dioxide, it’s been successfully demonized on the basis of unprovable scenarios. Because nukes are the safest, they will inevitably be replaced by electric generation that is less safe, emits more CO2, and is more expensive. So the hoi polloi will suffer more. In which case the doomsday prophets will find it easier to intimidate the public with their next bonehead scheme.

      The Chicken Lichen tipping point is the one we should worry about, but few do. Another indicator of how hypochondriacs prefer anecdotes to statistics.

      • Actually, I think the nuclear industry stymied itself when it couldn’t find a way to successfully store the waste products. If there had been a better plan than storing rods in pools waiting for something to happen, it might have had the support and recognition that it should have gotten.

        Also, I personally found that nuclear power aficionados tend to come across a bit arrogant about how good they are. I recall a nuclear power plant having an earthquake of moderate size not far away bragging about how well constructed it was that it didn’t even feel it. Of course when they found minor pipe damage and looked at the seismometer and found it so corroded that it could not function, which was why it didn’t register the quake, a bit of that arrogance went away, and a lot of faith in the industry with it. When the industry doesn’t report its own mistakes and openly show everyone that they are taking measures to correct them, a lot of people start to wonder about the industry, and rightly so. In this case, the “social tipping element” is the nuclear arrogance tipping element. And no, I am not against nuclear power, but I would like to see real movement in safe storage.

      • Tom O,
        You must have read by now that ponding used fuel rods is the method of choice that uses the best of known physics.
        The duration of such storage depends on the availability of the next management stage. In the USA, this wasn’t be Yucca Mountain, where successive governments banked the levy on operators than declared the site unsuitable.
        The physics of optimum fuel rod storage is well known. Governments that interfere for political purposes are to be blamed for you to comment as you did, being indoctrinated by propaganda that is false.
        Geoff

      • Tom O,
        You must have read by now that ponding used fuel rods is the method of choice that uses the best of known physics.I’m
        The duration of such storage depends on the availability of the next management stage. In the USA, this was to be Yucca Mountain, where successive governments stole the levy on operators then declared the site unsuitable.
        The physics of optimum fuel rod storage is well known. Governments that interfere for political purposes are to be blamed for you to comment as you did, being indoctrinated by propaganda that is false.
        Geoff

    • I’ve been stuck with having to address the term “tipping point” in my work, since so many people in marketing and consumer products deal in the “fad du jour”. I define a tipping point as an instant where the specification of the “best” prior model, (typically a structural model, or at minimum a multi-variate equation), is no longer the “best” specification, and a new model specification becomes the “best.” From a modelling standpoint it’s just a regime change. From a prescriptive standpoint it means your focus and tactics must change in order to effect outcomes within the system, even if the short-term outcomes don’t change all that much. For what it’s worth the only time I’ve seen a “tipping point” is when some major technology hits a critical mass, like cable TV penetration in the mid 80’s, or the rather sudden advent of cell-only supplanting the land-line.

      This is a definition I use for folks who don’t know any better, so feel free to improve on it and I will agree to shamelessly rip-you-off and profit from it.

    • Tipping point is defined in a catastrophe theory – see Wikipedia. An example of a catastrophe is when you miss a train. Your history evolves differently when you come one second before departure, or one second after departure. The departure time is a tipping point.

    • The lack of a coherent of the tipping point has bugged me since I got involved in this sordid field. I gradually realized that people were talking about multiple tipping points, but just as ill-described. Or more like, not described at all.

      At least James Hansen referred to 350 ppm CO2 as a tipping point, but never described what would tip if we passed it. It appears to me all it meant was that we were 50 ppm away from 400 ppm.

      I guess tipping points will come be to things described after they occur once we figure out what really happened. E.g. when did the UK get fed up with the EU? When did the US get fed up with politicians to consider voting for Donald Trump? When did people realize subsidizing wind and solar was a bad idea?

      I for one, enjoying seeing wind turbines tip over, but that’s a different sort of tipping point.

  5. Two problems with the ‘tipping point’ theory.

    1 – How do you know there aren’t other ‘tipping points’ that tip the opposite way further down the line?
    2 – How do you know that future technology won’t find a way to reverse bad effects?

    • Well, in fact, the opposing forces would be a negative feedback: one which opposes change ( whatever directions it takes ).

      All systems which have existed for say, 4.5 billions years under drastically varying conditions, can be assumed to be inherently stable by the fact that they have lasted that long.

      Any positive feedbacks are ultimately constrained by dominant negative feedbacks. The swings between glacial and inter-glacial states are probably an indication of positive feedback bounded by a stronger negative feedback: the Planck radiation feedback.

    • That tipping point in the sky, the sun, controls the temperature overall and it has a dangerous history of not being totally uniform in energy output.

  6. “tipping point” suited their purposes just fine..as long as they thought it would happen…until it didn’t happen

    Now they want to back pedal…and call it multi-century weather

    • Indeed. The science was settled, once the tipping point occurred the catastrophe followed. In the absence of catastrophe, and the science is still settled, the meaning of “tipping point” had to give. In clisci, anything can change but the science.

  7. on the plus side the phrase tipping point carries a sense of urgency but the negative is that it implies that we can stop fighting climate change because it’s too late to do anything about it. this is why tipping points are withdrawn soon after they are announced.

    the new phrase i hear these days is that it is almost too late and that we have a very narrow window of opportunity to fight climate change and win.

  8. She just admitted that mass migration/immigration…..destabilizes societies

    But I’ll bet if you ask her….she’s all for it

      • Indeed, here in Panama we have the spanking new Rio Hato International airport which sports not one scheduled flight. It is entirely reserved for chartered 747s full of Canadians fleeing the cold before returning to cash in their health care. Shopping centers and luxury hotels have sprouted up all around to more efficiently separate them from their money. Viva imagracion!

      • LOL Mark, we have the same thing where I live….we call it the annual migration of the Winnebagos

      • emsnews on July 11, 2016 at 10:28 am

        Note that many of the northern people are, when retiring, migrating south, not north.

        Not here in the southern hemisphere 😁

  9. What utter nonscience . Tipping points are rare , sets of measure 0 , lines on a plane .

    The only tipping point around is 273.15K ( 0c ) . And that is spread over an annually oscillating cosine projection of the Sun on our sphere which obliterates its effect .

    The greatest mathematician who ever bought me lunch Christopher Zeeman who brought the ideas of Rene Thom catastrophe theory into the English language died just last February . That’s the real math of “tipping points” .

    It was the utter incompetence displayed by such crap , second only to Hansen’s provably quantitatively absurd at an undergraduate level that Venus’s surface temperature was 225% that of a gray body next to it due to some spectral phenomenon , which diverted me into this determined global statist criminally malfeasant stupidity .

  10. I hear that Michael Mann’s tipping point is three double scotches downed in 10 minutes.

  11. ‘Tipping Point’ is used as fear-mongering propaganda. Authors can define it in such pleasant terms as a means to influence the public – it appears so formal and academic (I’m not impressed), but those definitions have an ulterior purpose in actual use.

    • They have to have an excuse for why the horrible, terrible, irreversible, climate tipping points they have proclaimed have turned out to mean as much as Obama’s “line in the sand” did.

      • @ RAH, Obama’s line in the sand? Yeah right , a line in the sand has never worked, especially in the ME when the west decided to divide all those sandy countries with straight lines during the Colonial days.

  12. “In the climate science world, the consequences of what are sometimes called tipping points may take decades or centuries to play out,” Kopp added.

    “Tipping points” = Unverifiable hypotheses.

    • Not necessarily. The Arctic tipping point can already be refuted, see above.

      Tipping points which take centuries to ‘play out’ are unverifyable. That is why the author chose to talk about Antactica rather than the Arctic. ;)

  13. The road to maximum entropy does not produce a smooth ride. The picture of the ice shelf ready to fail is an example. So are hill sides just before the big slide, which often account for the sudden shifts in the courses of rivers. Earthquakes are the punctuation of the motion of tectonic plates. But in general, nature does not produce cones nature standing on their tips, nor round boulders perched on the surface of hillsides. These are all microviews. In the macroview of long term averages, e.g., climate or continental drift, tipping points do not exist.

    Tipping points are fantastic narratives to convince governments to do something now, before its too late, for God’s sake! While I’m still eligible for grants. Or the latest supercomputer. It’s political. Gun control on steroids.

  14. “…tipping points may take decades or centuries to play out,….” we’ve already passed ‘decades’ so the goal post has been moved to ‘centuries’. Can’t catch these silver tongued devils leaving a falsifiable rock unturned.

  15. Somewhat off topic, recently, while cleaning my office I ran across a copy of an SPE(Society of Petroleum Engineers) paper, SPE #109292, titled “Humans are not responsible for Global Warming,” written in 2007 and presented at the 2007 SPE Annual Technical Conference. The authors G.V. Chilingar and L.F. Khilyuk are (were?) at USC. An interesting technical paper that is based on reasonable science.

    • @Stan can you copy and post it , it would be interesting ( I tried getting it on line but some of these papers are pay-walled)

  16. “Civil wars, which are made more frequent by temperature extremes ….. “.

    Not sure what data they are using to justify that statement.

    Of course, silly me, no-one uses data any more.

    • That’s not quite correct.
      They do use data. It’s just that they feel free to make up whatever data they need to support the position du jour.

    • Yea, civil wars are obviously caused by extreme weather. I read just the other day that the only reason for the American Revolution is that George W. and his boys were on a lark at Valley Forge when they got caught in a very cold winter, which they blamed on the British. First chance they had, crossed the Delaware and let ’em have it. /sarc

      Last time I checked, most civil wars happen when half the people hate the other half and are willing to kill them to make the point, weather be damned.

  17. “The authors propose a research agenda that advances the study of the social and economic consequences of climatic tipping elements, social tipping elements sensitive to climate change, and climate-economic shocks.” Ah, an unashamed plea for more funding, now there’s a surprise! Crap like this makes me ashamed to be a Rugers grad… and is one reason why I won’t send them any money.

  18. Since Earth’s beginnings, there have been countless “tipping-points” and Earth has survived the lot.

  19. At first read I thought this may influence my favorite anti-AGW point: I learned about it in 1988 and have seen a lot of TPs come and go. On second thought, I’ve been looking at this crap for so long that i think the “long-term” should have kicked in.
    I also enjoyed the Venezuela comment: if you’re looking for something to sorry about, try the growing popularity of socialism among millennials in the face of an object lesson.

  20. 1)
    “Civil wars, which are made more frequent by temperature extremes…”

    Well, yes, of course – I mean, that’s just obvious, isn’t it? I mean, we sure as heck shouldn’t have to actually PROVE it to be so, should we?

    ————————————–

    2)
    “The authors propose a research agenda that advances the study of the social and economic consequences of climatic tipping elements, social tipping elements sensitive to climate change, and climate-economic shocks.

    “Shwom wants to look into any cases where it looks like social tipping elements have been tipped and the underlying conditions.”

    But not because this would provide additional lucre to our industry; rest assured, that plays no role in any of this. Unlike other human beings, you see, the people in our industry simply do not respond to financial and status incentives in any way at all. It’s a “scientist thing” – you wouldn’t understand. [Sarcasm mode exited.]

    Ahhh, yes. It would all be so very very funny if it didn’t contribute so very very much to the dumbing down of democratic citizenries everywhere. But it does, and that sucks.

    • OK – just noticed Oldseadog and Cube beat me to the punch. Well, “great minds think alike” and all that ;^>

  21. “Oftentimes, we use the term in a way that doesn’t quite jive with popular understanding.”

    Should someone who doesn’t know the difference between “jive” and “jibe” be defining “tipping point?”

    Jive means informal language that includes many slang terms; also deceptive or foolish talk.

    Jibe means to agree with (second definition to the nautical term).

    • I noticed that, too, and thought that at least the proofreader should have included a [sic]. But then I thought, “Silly me. The ability to speak your own language is just so 20th Century.” I’ll bet a thousand bucks that same person also says things like, “After I explained it all to she and Greg, everything was OK.” Any takers?

      All pedantry aside, everyone knows the one true meaning of the word “jive:”

  22. The real tipping point coming at us slowly is the acceptance of online learning models and content at the expense of over priced, over opinionated, and over rated institutions of higher education. The volume-based publication system in hiring and promotions will go down with them.

  23. Tipping points are unlikely as long as the current temperature doesn’t exceed the temperatures achieved in the last ten thousand years. If it was warmer during the Holocene climate optimum, the Roman Warm Period, and the Medieval Warm Period, and they didn’t experience a tipping point, why would we expect a tipping point with our current temperatures?

    Michael Mann had to kill the MWP so the fiction of a tipping point could be maintained.

  24. The first time I heard an adult (non school teacher) talk seriously about global warming was in the late 1990s. My dad had just watched a CBC ‘documentary’ (aka propaganda), and told me that indeed, we had already crossed the tipping point; Siberian tundra was now melting, releasing heaps of CO2 and methane. The end was nigh. Oh well, this is just one more in the long line of so called tipping points.

    This would actauly make a fun list, like the failed predictions list or the reasons for the pause list. This could be the Tipping Points that Didn’t Tip list.

  25. I understand…

    All Tipping Points are irreversible, but some Tipping Points are more irreversible than others.

  26. “In the climate science world, the consequences of what are sometimes called tipping points may take decades or centuries to play out”.
    Translation:
    We can move the goal posts as we see fit to promote our agenda.
    Pathetic.

  27. “In the climate science world, the consequences of what are sometimes called tipping points may take decades or centuries to play out,” Kopp added. “By contrast, many people think, ‘OK, we’ve crossed a tipping point now, something is going to happen quickly.’ That’s more consistent with the way the term was popularized, before it was adopted by the climate science community, and that’s a terminological confusion we wanted to clarify.”
    I really can’t be bothered to list the innumerable occasions the phrase, “tipping point” has been used by warm-mongers to describe an event in a few years time that never happens. What’s the scientific term for frantically rowing back from an untenable position? Is it “correction” or “retraction” or do we need to invent a new word?

    • ? Is it “correction” or “retraction” or do we need to invent a new word?
      __________________________

      jagger/richards : who wants yesterday’s papers.

    • criminal minds/Shakespeare :

      They have more tricks up their sleeves
      Than are dreamt of in your philosophy

  28. We do have three Major social tipping points that have already tipped, and none are concerned with Climate;
    1. Social media
    2. Immigration
    3. The religion of peace/birth rate

    The three combined will shift the current culture in one generation into a condition we can only speculate on.
    My speculation leads me to thank the powers of the past 80 years for being born in the middle 30’s of the past century.

  29. Tipping Point: An ephemeral constantly moving goal post that is always about to occur but never does.
    Kind of like Evolution. Evolution : Any change that I prefer or seems to benefit me.
    Tipping Point: Any potential change I’m scared of.

    • A balanced troup simultaneous beach landing on all sides will avoid that, although it may sink the island.

      /sarc

    • He later said he was joking, but he’s an alarmist and I’d bet he was dead serious.

  30. Brexit vote 52/48
    Clinton/Trump poll 50/50
    Climate is recoiling in horror as society tipping points are reached.

  31. Actually, consulting the every-useful Internet dictionary, there is nothing in the definition of tipping that requires passing a point of no return. A tipping point thus might be the angle at which a desired beverage begins pouring into your mouth, or the angle at which no more is available. Maybe this would be a tippling point?

    Changing “point” to “element” makes the phrase utterly without meaning. Nothing I can think of in the climate involves “tipping,” much less being an “element.” Since they think it’s a good idea to change words, you might want to play with synonyms for tipping like: bending, dumping, leaning. spilling, tilting, toppling upsetting, canting, capsizing, careening, heeling, inclining, listing, slanting, sloping, upending, toppling, etc.

    I am in fact preparing a grant proposal to study “Extreme climatic listing elements” which cause people to lean un-naturally into stiff breezes, requiring mitigating payments from the UN High Commission on Tipping Element Compensation.

  32. Tipping point= runaway positive* feedback.

    No sign of it anywhere.

    * in the engineering sense, i.e. feedback that tends to amplify the input signal;.

  33. The Earth’s climate has been stable enough over at least the past 500 million years for life to evolve. We are here. Over that time CO2 levels were at times more than 10 times what they are today and no tipping point was ever encountered. Our climate is inherently stable. The previous interglacial period, the Eemian, was warmer than this one with more ice cap melting and higher sea levels yet CO2 levels were lower than today. No tipping point was ever encountered. The Eemian was followed by the last ice age. There is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate. There is plenty of scientific reasoning to the idea that the climate sensitivity of CO2 is very close to zero. The climate change we have been experiencing is caused by the sun and the oceans over which Mankind has no control.

  34. Always a crisis. Here’s a tipping point we passed a long time ago: the ability to tolerate more climate change alarmist….crap….

  35. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”, has nothing to do with climate, but instead, how certain social trends evolve along the lines of an epidemic. When a certain “weight” of factors (often a large number of little things) accumulate, they can precipitate a big event suddenly, almost inexplicably. Of particular timeliness was his support of the James Wilson “Broken Windows” policing strategy, which involved quick responses to little problems like broken windows in vacant homes and warehouses, and rousting panhandlers and vagrants — and stopping and frisking suspected criminals — caused crime in several inner cities to plummet dramatically. It was an effective technique which had a big impact on violent crimes. In this case (Gladwell backs claims with convincing graphs and statistics) lawfulness, peace and quiet spread like a virus, just as the inverse, lawlessness, looting and violence, spread in a medium of no policing.

    His book deals with issues as diverse as why Hush Puppies became a leading shoe brand (lousy shoes, by the way – I bought a pair); and yawning – why yawning is contagious. But he also points out why the phenomenon of “white flight” to the suburbs occurred with such apparent rapidity, leaving inner cities vulnerable to certain pernicious aftereffects. As Gladwell himself points out, this is the source of the term.

    “The expression first came into popular use in the 1970s to describe the flight to the suburbs of whites living in the older cities of the American Northeast. When the number of incoming African Americans in a particular neighborhood reached a certain point – 20 percent, say – sociologists observed that the community would “tip”: most of the remaining whites would leave almost immediately. The Tipping Point is the moment of critical mass…”

    The writer’s reference to Gladwell in the OP seems to credit Gladwell’s use of the term with some connection to climate science. To my knowledge, none of his books have an association.

  36. “I hear from a lot of people in the general public who wonder whether we’ve passed a tipping point with respect to the climate …”.
    =============================
    I don’t believe that.

  37. “Civil wars, which are made more frequent by temperature extremes”
    NO. Civil wars are mad more frequent by GEORGES SOROS. Period. No need models to demonstrate, just the curricula.

  38. Climate tipping points: What do they mean for society?

    That the politicians running on the meme hope we’re all a bit tipsy when we go to the polls?
    Then they can really turn the world upside down!
    (With them on top, of course.)

  39. Tipping points in climate are irrelevant as they would have happened already if what is being claimed is real. We know that climate has been much warmer than now and CO2 has been much higher than now during most of the last 600 million years. Any tipping points have already happened, and we are back down in this stupidly low CO2 and low temperature world. So, much for tipping points, the ephemeral, useless boogeyman in the closet.

  40. Okay, let’s imagine the origin of the first Amazon society dominated by women.

    According to warmists there must have been global warming which increased the rate of rape so high that the women rebelled and took over their society. Economically this would have been turbulent times, because the increased rate of prostitution also caused by global warming would have increased that industry’s income. The revolt would have destroyed and otherwise thriving industry. Hard times for everybody.

  41. I had to replace a toilet at my condo and of course started with an online search for a suitable replacement. Funny thing is … every time I click on these stories about nonsense research into global warming the article is surrounded by adds for toilets. I highly recommend googling “Toto dual flush for sale” and then continuing to read the latest in global warming research.

  42. Image if there had been no Franco-Prussian War which means there would have been no Great War and no Russian Revolution, no Great Depression, Adolf Hitler would have remained an itinerant pavement artist, no Second World War, no Cold War, no Space Race, no Digital Age … and it was all because Count Benedetti was so impolite as to interrupt the Kaiser Wilhelm I during his morning walk in Ems.

  43. We progressives have no problem with tipping points.

    Our political philosophy is based upon the Hegelian Dialectic, in which two opposing forces inspire debate to such an extent that there arises a tipping point, with both parties arriving at a new, shared perception of the issue. Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis. This is recognized as a force of nature – it is the process of change.

    We don’t often know that this Hegelian Dialectic is the foundation of our beliefs about the world. We also rarely are aware that Marx took this model of natural forces and painted the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat as the prevailing social forces, and anticipated Communism as the synthesis, the resolution.

    What is more recognizable to us is the Hundredth Monkey Effect. This tale, or fable, or anecdote, or model of reality, is far more well known to us. You can enter this term in Google, or Youtube. But in short, these monkeys were bothered by sand on their yams, yet continued to eat. One day, one monkey washed his or her yam in the surf; he or she continued to do this. A couple others observed, and caught on.

    Eventually, at the hundredth monkey, this behavior became so well-recognized that it became common knowledge.

    Hence, we have “critical mass” bike rides, and we are eager to teach children to “change” the world, be the force of change, if we all just communicate then things will get better, etc. But things get better in a specific way: you have enough broadcasting and sharing that you hit critical mass; you hit the hundredth monkey.

    You hit the tipping point.

    Tipping Points resonate with how we have been taught to perceive the world.

      • In college, I studied philosophy, and so got exposed to Hegel. The rest I have self-taught.

      • It’s plenty real-world too. When I was teaching in an inner city (mostly Hispanic) public school it wasn’t too many years before I could recognized that some of my classes could be victims of a “critical mass” of misbehaving students – reach a certain percentage and they could really go off the deep end. Nothing I could do. The flip side was that some classes could be an utter delight with a core of students who possessed some mix of positive virtues: inquisitiveness, tenacity, strength of character, or just good English skills. Imagine the police who get out of cars to check for an i.d. One bystander is no sweat. Two must make them nervous. Five or six who are recording with their i-phones while they are simultaneously jeering and taunting, and you have a mob. Police know about critical mass.

  44. The only tipping points are downward.

    The Eemian (probably 2°C warmer than today) is as warm at the Pleistocene Epoch got. There hasn’t been an upward tipping point during the warm period that whole time.

    If never is defined as for the next Megaannum, then we aren’t going hit an upward tipping point, not now, not ever, NEVER.

    The Himalayas are growing 5 mm/Y. We are losing daylight because those ever growing mountains carrying ever larger glaciers are bouncing it into space. As I read Ceres the Himalayas lose 200+ W/m2.

    Antarctica which is cooling at the pole is another issue.

    Until Antarctica, the Greenland core, and the Himalayan glaciers are gone there isn’t enough energy to push temperatures up much. CO2 may have small effects, but once it starts increasing evaporation and convection its potential warming effect is limited.

    The only tipping point seen in the last 1.8 million years from current temperatures is downward.

  45. If CAGW alarmists could actually point to definitive causes for the tipping points that started and ended the Minoan, Roman, Medieval warm periods, the Little Ice Age cool period, the Younger Dryas, the Holocene and repeated glacial maximums every 100K years, I might be a tad bit more inclined to listen to their current whinging. Of course then they’d also have to tie all those tipping points to current human burning of fossil fuels and show how our fossil fuel use is a causal equivalent to those earlier conditions. What do you suppose is the probability of that happening?

  46. phanerozoic

    http://what-when-how.com/global-warming/phanerozoic-climate-change-global-warming/

    I’m not sure what reason anyone would have to “KNOW” which direction temperatures are going to go from here, but it seems like there’s more likelihood of them going up than down over the next million years or so. and there’s a lot of “UP” to cover before we reach former geological highs.

    Scroll down to see C.R. Scotese’s “Ice House or Hot House?” Graph

    http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm

    NOBODY knows which direction we’re moving long-term (or why we’re moving that direction), warmists’ CO2 deterministic BS notwithstanding.

  47. A tipping point is a point in time, an instant. When this did not work out they became tipping rollovers. That is, you cannot see the change for millions of years or whatever. If the prediction fails, redefine the term.

  48. Nice discussion. It is interesting that the term “tipping point” has been yet another call for panic, which is what the advocates seem to want, and get very huffy when they fail.

  49. There’s no reason to worry about climate tipping points because we’ve seen them all before. We have seen them in proxy pictures of ancient times, and we have seen some in modern times. Snowball earth to tropical earth in one fell-swoop of a couple of million years. Ice age to temporary warming in thousands of years. All the while, short-sighted scientists worry about a few parts per million of carbon dioxide when the real tipping point is embodied in international terrorism versus civilization. The climate change points can be called slipping points, not tipping points.

    The Little Ice Age did not cause the American Revolution, nor did it bring on Napoleon’s Russian invasion attempt. The migration of people from Mexico to the USA is not a function of climate, but it is a function of the disorder of Mexican society.

    Climate change may bring about long term population migrations, but technology should be able to mitigate this. People migrate because of social persecutions more so than anything else. Technology can provide water and fertilizer, and robust transportation systems can bring food and other resources into climate stressed regions. Most of the famine, disease, and population migration is the direct result of social stresses like predatory dictators, and world-wide terrorism based on tribal mentalities.

  50. If the lag between crossing a critical threshold and an impact is too long, we may not notice until it’s too late to do anything about it, Kopp said.

    The world already crossed the 2 C ‘critical threshold’ (a.k.a. tipping point) 1,300 years ago. We’re still waiting for the impact. Nobody noticed the ‘tipping point’ until Gladwell invented the phrase in 2000.

    “There’s been a lot of attention paid to climate tipping points where some major change in the climate happens, but this study gave me a chance to think about how social systems will respond to climate change,” she said. “Social system tipping points can worsen or reduce the impacts of climate change.”

    She is at the tipping point of sanity. With the above statement, she went a bit over the edge. Yoga and meditation help control the psychotic symptoms.

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