A favorite game of the climate alarmist movement is predicting that we are on the verge of the climate "tipping point," that is, the moment at which human carbon emissions push the planet over the brink and climate armageddon becomes unstoppable.
But when will that "tipping point" be reached? Or have we already passed it? Many in the alarmism movement are clever enough to avoid ever putting out a specific date that can then be falsified. For example, former NASA chief catastrophist James Hansen is famous for serial declarations of "tipping points," and has announced their imminence on multiple occasions, but always with a cover of vagueness as to the precise timing. It's always just around the corner! Here is his 2008 screed titled "Tipping Point: Perspective of a Climatologist." Excerpt:
The warming that has already occurred, the positive feedbacks that have been set in motion, and the additional warming in the pipeline together have brought us to the precipice of a planetary tipping point. We are at the tipping point because the climate state includes large, ready positive feedbacks provided by the Arctic sea ice, the West Antarctic ice sheet, and much of Greenland’s ice. Little additional forcing is needed to trigger these feedbacks and magnify global warming. If we go over the edge, we will transition to an environment far outside the range that has been experienced by humanity, and there will be no return within any foreseeable future generation. Casualties would include more than the loss of indigenous ways of life in the Arctic and swamping of coastal cities.
But does being on the "precipice" of a "planetary tipping point" mean that we will go over the brink tomorrow, a year from now, ten years from now, or a hundred years from now? Note that Hansen is way too clever to get pinned down on this one. And when nothing much had happened on his 2008 "tipping point" prediction, nonetheless he was back in 2013 with new and even more catastrophic predictions of a precipice, still at some seemingly imminent but unspecified time in the near future. As the Guardian reported on July 10 of that year:
[A] new paper by James Hansen is just the latest confirming that we are on the verge of crossing a tipping point into catastrophic climate change.
But of course no specifics on when the infamous moment would occur. However, not all in the alarmism movement are quite so careful to keep their bets hedged. Take, for example, Al Gore. It seems that at the screening of his movie "An Inconvenient Truth" at the Sundance Film Festival back on January 25, 2006 (was it really that long ago???) Gore made the huge mistake of putting a precise 10-year time clock on the dreaded tipping point. Gore was quoted by CBS News as follows:
[U]nless drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gases are taken within the next 10 years, the world will reach a point of no return, Gore said. He sees the situation as “a true planetary emergency.” “If you accept the truth of that, then nothing else really matters that much,” Gore said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We have to organize quickly to come up with a coherent and really strong response, and that’s what I’m devoting myself to.”
And now here we are, just about three weeks away from the horrific deadline. How have things gone? Well, one thing we know is that there have been none of the "drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gases" that Gore said were so absolutely essential. Here is a summary chart put out by Europe's Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research ("EDGAR"):
Yes, emissions in the U.S. and the EU have declined marginally in the intervening ten years. In the case of the U.S., that has not at all been because of "drastic measures" taken by the government (cap-and-trade, for example, went down to defeat in Congress), but rather because the "fracking" revolution has caused the substitution of now-cheaper natural gas for some coal. In Europe, comparable marginal declines in emissions have been achieved by governments' artificially driving up the cost of energy and impoverishing their people. And meanwhile, emissions in China have exploded, while those in India have also dramatically increased, together swamping the marginal reductions in the U.S. and the EU. Overall emissions are up, and by a lot.
So Al, is armageddon upon us? Funny, but the guy seems to be strangely quiet these days. One thing we know for sure is that global lower troposphere temperatures have been basically flat not just for the ten years since Gore's prediction, but going all the way back to 1997. Here is the latest UAH satellite temperature record:
Looks like that record of high temperatures from 1997-98 is not too close to falling, despite China and India building literally hundreds of coal-fired power plants in the interim. So, is this the "tipping point"? If not, how will we know when we hit it?