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Welcome to a New Planet: Climate 'Tipping Points' and the Fate of the Earth


Welcome to a New Planet: Climate 'Tipping Points' and the Fate of the Earth

Michael T. Klare

Not so long ago, it was science fiction. Now, it’s hard science -- and that should frighten us all. The latest reports from the prestigious and sober Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make increasingly hair-raising reading, suggesting that the planet is approaching possible moments of irreversible damage in a fashion and at a speed that had not been anticipated.


Nice article. It demonstrates that the basic physical/chemical/biological processes pertinent to climate change are well understood (in contrast to the "it makes my brain hurt" response of the deniers). No one person will master every aspect of climate impact, however. Science works. The scientific community is correct and has been cautious, if anything, in its predictions. The term nonlinearity should be taken VERY seriously, as the feedback mechanisms (take methane releases from ocean-based hydrates and the permafrost as examples) may well bend the trend in global temperature with a concave curve not expected by connecting historical dots. The precautionary principle was summoned (and buried) decades ago. It is time for it to be placed front and center. Talk of Mars is fun and all, but this is the only planet we have.


if planetary tipping points are in our future, this mindset will not measure up. It’s time to start thinking instead in terms of civilizational survival.

I wonder if Prof. Klare didn't really mean "species" survival?

With a tip of the hat to Ghandi's famous quip about "Western civilization," what passes for that these days has got to go, if Homo Sapiens Sapiens is to survive.

The frequently-overlooked point in discussions of the dire effects of anthropomorphic climate change is that no matter what happens, the earth will endure. It's US that might not.

So far, those of us who "get" that have been unable to wrest policy-making power away from those who don't (or even more horribly, do "get" it but don't care). I sure hope we can figure out a way to do it.


This is not a very good article from a scientific background. The author may be well intentioned but his grasp of the science is sketchy and actually contradicts himself several times.

Be warned whenever someone cites the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" - a fun movie but not scientific.

The Gulf Stream has slowed but the effects are as yet minor. The Gulf Stream will not (shut down) stop like in the movie and even if it could (but it can't) the only result would be a snowier Scotland and a chillier Ireland. No Ice Age for Europe... um... sorry (?).

Several authors (some wanting to sell their latest book) have looked for a hook to help with sales and the Gulf Stream seems just about right for that purpose but then they get all mixed up trying to explain the science of how the potential catastrophe would happen. Like in this article.

Firstly, the Gulf Stream will not shut down. It really won't. It will slow and move southwards to some extent but it will keep running. How come if it cools and slows and oh dear, what about a new Ice Age?

We f'n wish Ice age!!!

Look down in the GULF...the Caribbean, the Equator, the Florida/Bahamas trough... get out your bikinis (not you Fred, just stop it!) because it's warm (fine the one piece then Fred sheesh!). *Gulf** as in Gulf Stream. What pray tell powers all that water northwards? The author forget to say. Yes the warm salty water heads north and then sinks but that isn't the whole deal (maybe the whole plot of a movie ...um...yes). The North Atlantic is only a small part of the current's loop. It doesn't 'pull' the warm water northwards. The spin of the Earth powers its oceanic currents.

The glacial meltwater comes off Greenland and flows across the surface and the warm salty water cools etc but warm salty water is flowing beneath the cooler meltwater on the surface. The author missed that completely.

The increased glacial melt and melting Ice Cap sends vast amounts of cold water (every summer) out into the North Atlantic. So much that the warmer salty water must flow beneath the surface. While the surface cools the lower depths are getting warmer. This added warm water loop contributes to more arctic glacial melt.

That warm water to the left and cool water to the right volume stuff is not something new btw. Think about it. The author repeats a bit of confusion by saying as the current slows the water volume would increase. Exactly how? He doesn't say. He apparently believes that the water will become warmer as it slows? He says if it came closer to the shore, also a result of it slowing? Why would it btw?

It isn't that the warnings about tipping points being reached are wrong, it is that explaining complex science takes more than citing a few articles that discuss potential (speculative) results based on models... like what would happen if the Gulf Stream slowed. All we know is that is has slowed and we speculate as to what will happen if it continues to slow. See any Ice Ages in Europe recently?

It is that selling books shouldn't add to the confusion.

Can we drop the Ice Age Europe scenario now? Leave that for the movies.


There is no further need to worry about climate change. Millions of progressives around the world are changing from meat to plant-based diets, thereby cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% and thus ending the crisis. Cost? Nothing. Length of wait for governments and corporations to take action? No waiting time at all.


It is, yes, climate change, but it is climate change caused by man made global warming. The deniers can deny all they like; it doesn't change a thing. Climate change just sounds so much more benign than global warming. With climate change its not such a big deal to keep on polluting, but global warming has a more sinister sound to it. Rush Limbaugh will be still be proclaiming global warming to be a hoax even as the first floor of his Florida McMansion is under an inch of water.


Care to cite any original sources regarding your contentions or have you made onsite independent studies and measurements? I'm not being sarcastic. I don't know you. You may be very well versed in meterology, physics, earth science, geography, etc. But if you are just writing your opinion then I'll take it all with a grain of salt.


Sorry, Zenmaster, but where I live, hamburgers, sausages, charcuterie -meat of all kinds- has reached almost cult-like status. It can be made into cheap eats, featured in beerhalls, foodtrucks, and street vendors.The state legislature even recently overturned a ban on foix gras! There are celebrations of "Bacon Week," and burger, rib, and chili cook offs every weekend. Bone Broth and eating grass-fed "paleo" are huge among the "health conscious."

So many people with cancer- men with substantial breasts, women replacing their breasts...Everyone is agro and sick. But no one sees the connection. Please step outside the monastery once in a while, and show a little wisdom, along with compassion. If reversing climate change depends on "progressives" changing their eating habits, having less children, or unplugging, we are all f-ed.


Michael Klare gives a good summary of what may happen when or if we cross the dreaded 'tipping points' scenario but like the IPCC he cannot seem to see the wood for the trees.
Scientific conservatism has served us well up until recently but has now become our enemy as we have crossed numerous tipping points and are now rushing over the abyss.
I would suggest people watch Paul Beckwith's You Tube presentations on the slowing down of the Gulf Stream and read Professor Guy McPherson's monster Climate change essay embedded in my note on tipping points with much more info in the comments section, available on my Facebook wall.
Brace for impact.


You can read the sites that were cited yourself. Secondly you have powers of observation of your own. The author relates various catch phrase quotes which should sound hollow... i. e. that he doesn't really understand the science that he quotes.

For example the Gulf Stream is not pulled North nor powered by the thermohaline differential except in the extreme north. The Gulf Stream (as in the very warm Gulf of Mexico) is part of the oceanic current circulation worldwide. The currents are linked. All of that warm water heads north as the spinning Earth generates the centrifugal effect and literally pushes it along. While slowing has occurred even one of the author's sources says that the Gulf Stream will not stop (like in the movie) nor will there be dramatic changes experienced by Europe. Meanwhile the author doesn't discuss the warming of arctic deep waters which he in fact suggests doesn't happen ( the warmer salty water doesn't sink but cools according to him ... well he is wrong and the warmer lower water accounts for even greater glacial melt off Greenland and to some extent adds to warmer arctic temperatures btw.

You should read the sources and scientific data (I have and am offering a criticism of what was said in the article using the articles own sources. My point is to ask people like you to read the sources for yourself and forget the Big Finale of a new Ice Age for Europe because it will not happen.


The millions of progressives who are changing to a plant based diet don't even begin to offset the billions who are desirous of a higher meat content in their diets. The global warming problems will not be solved by rich people eating less meat.


If you follow the links provided in the article there is an adequate explanation of the science for those that are interested. Whether Klare doesn't understand it or oversimplifies it for the reading audience is debatable. I would assume that Klare has read most of the information in his links. Given that and the level of knowledge demonstrated in his books I would assume that he oversimplified. Anyone who understands the geopolitics of global warming at the level Klare does is certainly intelligent enough to figure out the science from the links he provided.


So you didn't read the sites he cited then? What are you commenting on if you didn't read the information yourself? The contradictions are there if you cared to read them. Even the cited references report that there will not be an Ice Age effect (not even slightly) in Europe. This is well known and has been reported on throughout the last two years as data from the Gulf Stream slow down has been reported. The author is not a scientist and is exploiting a sensationalist theme probably to sell his book. Well if this is the standard of scientific rigor he holds to then I suggest that you don't buy it.

I tried to be nice about it and started off by referring to the movie. Most people who are well informed on the scientific data would catch that instantly. I explained (or so I thought) that anyone could see from the sites he referred to that he was way off base about that and was not very sure of what he spoke about. You should have checked out the sites he references yourself and then you would have understood on your own.

Added edit

BTW you say that there are sufficient links provided in the article for an adequate explanation? Actually for the slowing down of the Gulf stream (which is the only thing I criticized in my comment) there is mainly one study and two blogs from a reporter/blogger referencing that same study and he says openly and clearly that the 'Ice Age' effect on Europe scenario (like the movie) will not happen. I know that blogger and he has written about this same thing previously based on NASA findings and those from other scientists.


Scientific conservatism led to the Salem Witch Trials, the Inquisition and Archimedes' assassination among many other terrible consequences.


I read some of them but no, I didn't read them all. Your implication seems to be that if his science isn't as accurate as you would like it to be then people shouldn't buy his book. I don't think the reason for his writings is to sell books at all. I think that it is to wake people up. My take from your posts concerning Klare is that you haven't read any of his books. My apologies if you have. I have read all of his books and in my opinion he is extremely well informed and he has been spot on with his predictions of the implications of both fossil fuels and global warming on global civilization and geo politics. If you go back and read some of his earlier books and writings you will find that many of the things he has predicted have come to pass. Go ahead and write him off if he doesn't meet your preferred standard of science but if you do you will miss all of the other things that he addresses which are very much in line with your own thinking.

You didn't just criticize his science on the Gulf stream, you discounted his entire message on the basis of it.


Excuse me but go read what I wrote because my whole criticism was his muddled science on the effects of the slowing of the Gulf Stream. The movie reference especially is nothing to his credit btw. What are you justifying?

Secondly you haven't read his cited references. Read Mooney's blogs and you will see where he reports quite clearly that the Gulf Stream will not stop. There is actually no way that you can miss it since the blogs are relatively short. Since they refer to the same study, the fact that the author is citing them as if they are independent sources is questionable.

His entire message? On what? The slowing of the Gulf Stream or when in his early paragraphs he describes the potential for that erroneous stopping of the Gulf Stream Ice Age like cooling of Europe (the movie scenario)? That message? Yes I criticized that message because it is sensationalistic hollywoodized pseudo science. As I said the Gulf Stream will not stop and Europe will not experience a mini Ice Age but it may want to as the world continues to warm.


Look, I appreciate your opinion and most of the things that you have to say in this forum but you are generalizing about Klare based on an extremely small amount of information about him. In my opinion you are totally off base with your statement about his tainting his writing for the purpose of selling books. I think if you had read some of his books you wouldn't have made that generalization.

I can forgive his error on the Gulf Stream issue because as a part of the total information I have gotten from him over the years it is inconsequential.


Speeding down a dead end street


Yes that is all fine and good but I am not criticizing all of his work or his geopolitical writings about oil and resources ... just about the issue of his citing that movie and associating it to the slowing of the Gulf Stream. Why don't you stop defending him since no one is attacking him and just go READ the references he cites, particularly the two blogs by Chris Mooney. They aren't all that technical and you will clearly see where Klare gets it wrong. The issue of his associating the movie to the slow down is fairly dubious in intent IMO. Read the facts and see for yourself.

If you don't want to see for yourself then there is no point in continuing on and on about this. Okay? See for yourself and then tell me what you think.


You forgot to add at the end: "But I'm repeating myself." :relaxed: