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Harrabin’s Tipping Point Junk Science

November 28, 2019

By Paul Homewood



 Another day, another bit of junk science from Harrabin.

This is so bad, even climate scientists are rubbishing it!


Critical elements in the Earth’s climate may be more likely to break down than previously thought, according to a group of scientists.

Their commentary in the journal Nature says there’s growing evidence that irreversible climatic changes could be triggered within a few decades.

The authors claim this could lead to a “climatic emergency” in which one shift amplifies another.

But other researchers say the argument is speculative.

The authors specialise in what’s known as Earth Systems Science, which studies the interactions of elements of the climate system.

For several years they have been promoting the theory that the climate may switch suddenly as a result of one climatic shift amplifying other changes.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) introduced this idea of "tipping points" two decades ago.

The commentary says that at the time these large-scale shifts were considered likely only if global warming exceeded 5C.

The authors argue that information from IPCC reports over the past two years suggests that tipping points could be exceeded even between 1 and 2C of warming.

They say research has shown that the Amundsen Sea bay of West Antarctica might already have passed a tipping point where the meeting point of ice, ocean and bedrock is retreating irreversibly.

One computer model suggests that when this sector collapses, it could destabilise the rest of the West Antarctic ice sheet like toppling dominoes – leading to about three metres of sea-level rise on a timescale of centuries to millennia.

drought Image copyright Getty Images

The authors also point to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

As the elevation of the ice sheet lowers, it melts further, exposing the surface to ever-warmer air in what’s known as a "positive feedback".

Some models suggest that the Greenland ice sheet could be doomed to disappear relentlessly if the world warms by just 1.5C.

The commentary says: “Politicians, economists and even some natural scientists have tended to assume that tipping points in the Earth system such as the loss of the Amazon rainforest or the West Antarctic ice sheet, are of low probability and little understood.

“Yet evidence is mounting that these events could be more likely than was thought, have high impacts and are interconnected across different biophysical systems, potentially committing the world to long-term irreversible changes.”

Human pressures

Co-author Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, says it is not only human pressures on Earth that continue rising to unprecedented levels.

“It is also that as science advances, we must admit that we have underestimated the risks of unleashing irreversible changes, where the planet self-amplifies global warming," he says.

"This is what we now start seeing, already at 1C global warming.

“This provides strong evidence for declaring a state of planetary emergency to unleash world action that accelerates the path towards a world that can continue evolving on a stable planet.”

But not every scientist agrees with the thrust of their argument. One critic is Professor Mike Hulme from Cambridge University, who is disturbed by the talk of planetary emergency.

“Their position is speculative; there are no new research findings presented here.

“Their mathematical ‘formula’ contradicts everything that social science and humanities scholarship tells us about public emergencies – namely that they result from political argument, reflection and judgement.

“Emergencies are declared by legitimate political actors; they are not calculated mathematically by self-appointed scientists.”

Professor Richard Betts from the Met Office says the chances of passing these tipping points increases with the level of global heating.

"Therefore, if we want to keep the risks to a minimum, it is logical that global heating should also be kept to a minimum.

"Even if we do pass a ‘point of no return’ (or if we have done so already – which may or may not be the case) we still have a chance to limit the damage if we don’t overshoot too far."


I’m not quite sure what a photo of some parched land has to do with the story.

Over the years, climate science has moved from “global warming” (who worries about a slightly warmer climate?), to “climate change” (the climate is always changing), to “extreme weather” (except the inconvenient data insists that the weather is not becoming more extreme). Note how the language has also been ramped up – Betts now calls it “global heating”, a ludicrous description of a one-degree warming since the 19thC.

So now, desperate to keep their grants flowing, some climate scientists have moved on to the tipping point scam. In other words, it has not hit you yet, but just wait till it does. And if you don’t do what we tell you to now, it may soon be too late.

But, as even Mike Hulme admits, it is all just speculation. And speculation that cannot be proved or disproved.

Yet we don’t have to “disprove” it. We simply need to look back at history to show that it is all nonsense.

It is well established that the world has been warmer than now for most of the thousands of years since the Ice Age. As I summarised in my post “The Holocene Climate Optimum” last year:

  • Ice cores show that temperatures in Greenland have been much higher than now for almost all of the last ten thousand years prior to the Little Ice Age
  • The Greenland ice sheet and glaciers were correspondingly much smaller
  • The same climatic trends are found across other Arctic regions, such as Canada, Siberia and Iceland
  • Tree line studies in California indicate higher temperatures until a gradual decline began around 2000 years ago, when some of the Rocky Mountain glaciers we see today began to form.
  • Similar tree line studies in the European Alps suggest a similar trend, confirmed by the discovery of the remains of 4000 year old forests at the leading edge of a Swiss glacier.
  • Ice core, glacial and tree line studies in South America again reveal the existence of a much warmer climate there until about 3000 years ago.
  • And studies of cave speleothems in New Zealand show that the Holocene Climate Optimum was present there as well.

If these imaginary tipping points really existed, the world would have undergone runaway warming then.

  1. November 28, 2019 3:40 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate-

  2. November 28, 2019 3:49 pm

    “one computer model”, “some computer models”. In other words, complete junk. Even the IPCC acknowledges that computer models can’t predict the future climate, let alone tipping points.
    The Working Group I (the scientific section of the IPCC Third Assessment Report) of the IPCC states that “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible”. In other words it is impossible to calculate (i.e. predict) the future climate and therefore it is impossible to predict tipping points.

    I don’t expect English graduate Harrabin to understand this.

    • Charly P-B permalink
      November 28, 2019 6:28 pm

      He doesn’t “understand” it because his job requires him to not understand it. The same goes for Richard Betts, Tamsin Edwards, the whole sorry bunch.

      Money, acclaim, exotic travel on the government credit card. Brainwashing children, increasing pollution, fleecing the taxpayer.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        November 28, 2019 7:57 pm

        Wilful ignorance

    • Mervyn Hobden permalink
      November 28, 2019 8:09 pm

      Philip, I fully agree – both weather and climate are examples of non-linear systems subject to statistical variation that cannot be handled by the crude assumptions of linear analysis used by 19th C analysts. Mann’s computer modelling completely complied with a 3-dimensional matrix model based regular cell sizes and linear energy exchange across the cellular structure. It missed the fact that variance in a non-linear system is power law and fractal, subject to 1/f variability as sample time increases, where the likelyhood of powerful events increases with sample time. In a linear system it is assumed that perturbation events have no distinct ‘history’ – a Gaussian distribution can only occur if all perturbing events are total independent. Hence the use of ‘normal distribution’ and ‘average’ is not correctly applied to non-linear system statistics. The linear algebras introduced by the French analysts in the late 18th C avoided the very real problems found by those using the Newtonian fluxional calculus, by introducing an algebraic system in which those problems could not exist. However, such algebras, deemed ‘elegant’ by the tyro, lack full physical rigour when applied to real dynamic systems – because the linear algebra reduces the problem to an equvalent problem in statics – this was well recognised in the 1820s and now seems to be conveniently forgotten.
      Computers can handle true non-linear dynamics but in dealing with a system as complex as a planet’s climate, the computational effeort quickly exceeds the ability of even the largest, fastest system. Thus, the sloppy approach is to reduce the system as quickly as possible to a good ‘approximation’ and to hell with physical rigour. Hence the panic stricken statements and the rejection of historical data, which conflicts with the ‘model’. I am forced to the conclusion that most people use mathematics with absolutely no comprehension of its limitations!

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      November 29, 2019 6:30 pm

      And now we have the egregious ignoramus that is Jeremy (we need more cycle-lanes) Vine banging on about a ‘Climate Emergency’! The man’s a disgrace to his profession (journalism, once) as is Harabin.

  3. Jackington permalink
    November 28, 2019 3:56 pm

    I’m finding these almost daily repetitive scare stories from the BBC on radio, TV and on-line are boring me to death. It’s like listening to an endless loop of a boy shouting “Wolf” I suspect I’m not alone and pretty soon the general public will get heartily sick of this endless propaganda and God willing the CAGW/Climate Change farrago will self destruct.

    • Gamecock permalink
      November 28, 2019 5:06 pm

      True, but not new. I bet if I did some research, I could find someone else 30 YEARS AGO saying exactly what Harrabin says today.

      According to National Geographic Magazine, climate change is the most powerful force on earth, responsible for EVERYTHING that has happened in the last 30 years. You can’t read a story in there that doesn’t mention climate change.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 28, 2019 8:00 pm

      You can smell the COP conference in the air – either that or bullshit!

      This sort of outpouring of crap happens before every UN climate jamboree. And if it wasn’t bad enough the next Corbyn – Johnson bash is on climate change – yawn!

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      November 28, 2019 9:09 pm

      The ‘repetitive scare stories’ are a planned and incredibly cynical last-ditch attempt to frighten the populace into calling for ‘action on CC’ before the big freeze that is due to cover the next 20 years kicks in. They are worried that people will believe the evidence of their own cooling – not to mention the heating bills they will need to pay to keep warm.

  4. Peter F Gill permalink
    November 28, 2019 3:59 pm

    Although billed at BBC’s Environmental Analyst, one has to remember that Roger Harrabin’s degree is in English. That of course does not debar him from having an opinion on climate or environmental matters. However, it is important to recognise that he does not properly understand the science involved. I remember him sitting through quite a lot of papers given at Imperial College ten years ago. These were on many aspects of climate change mechanisms with considerations of various hypotheses by prominent scientists from various disciplines with physics well represented. Roger only asked one question which was about ocean acidification and he waited to the panel session to ask it. He clearly needed to know that the oceans are alkaline and will remain so but for various reasons there are small changes of alkalinity in both directions all the time. He of course assumes it all mankind’s fault. He hasn’t changed his tune since that time as far as I can see.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      November 29, 2019 6:43 pm

      When a man does not understand that which he espouses, he must have other drivers that make him so obliged to press his case. In such a situation I tend to the theory that money is at its root.

      • Peter F Gill permalink
        November 29, 2019 8:42 pm

        @HarryP: As regards Harrabin I think it likely that you are wrong. The way I see it is that once convinced about what he has been told he sees it as his mission to try to do something about it. I meet lots of folk who feel the same way. Some are even physicists believe it or not. There are of course many motives in play to support the AGW set of hypotheses of which money is one usually on the renewable kit producers’ side. Harrabin is closer to a religious fanatic than a money grabbing journalist of your opinion. But then that is only my opinion.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        November 29, 2019 9:24 pm

        Peter, you make a good point. However, that means it comes down to money or ‘religion’. Either of which can corrupt a naive mind.

  5. Curious George permalink
    November 28, 2019 4:00 pm

    Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. They produce always the same stuff, for consumption by Mr. Harrabin.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      November 28, 2019 5:36 pm

      Potsdam? Potsmoking more like.

    • Tim Spence permalink
      November 28, 2019 6:12 pm

      Whenever you hear ‘Potsdam Institute’ the guilty party is Stefan Rahmstorf, he has form as long as your arm.

  6. john cooknell permalink
    November 28, 2019 4:26 pm

    According to James Lovelock and Roger Harrabin et al, we passed the tipping point some time ago, or something like that, because we didn’t, or we might of, or definitely maybe, with qualifications and caveats, perhaps in the future, by 2050, or was it 2065, when the ozone layer gets better, subject to methane from cows, or maybe not, when all the arctic ice melts in the next millennium.

    Where are those tree rings, I want a hockey stick.

  7. Coeur de Lion permalink
    November 28, 2019 4:32 pm

    Read Andrew Montford’s The Propaganda Bureau for a description of Harrabin’s disgraceful conspiracy in 2009 which set up a denial of the deniers amongst hi level BBC execs and which spent thousands on barristers fending off FOI at your and my expense.

  8. Luc Ozade permalink
    November 28, 2019 4:43 pm

    Did you notice how many times the word “could” appeared in this drivel? Anything “could” happen, in anyone’s life: I “could” win the lottery (and be able to afford to mount a war of words and action against all the liars, such as the BBC); anyone who dares to leave their house “could” get run over by a bus (so let’s not go out eh?); I “could” get food poisoning from eating contaminated food (so let’s stop eating); etc etc etc, ad nauseam. What a load of charlatans we have the great misfortune to be sharing our wonderful World with.

  9. November 28, 2019 4:57 pm

    The authors of this nonsense actually admit what they’re up to and make the absurd claim that these tipping points “are underway”:

    “In our view, the consideration of tipping points helps to define that we are in a climate emergency and strengthens this year’s chorus of calls for urgent climate action — from schoolchildren to scientists, cities and countries.”

    • November 28, 2019 6:57 pm

      What happened to ‘E’?

      • john cooknell permalink
        November 28, 2019 9:52 pm

        Proof Magic E its all done by Witchcraft

  10. November 28, 2019 4:58 pm

    Horrorbin laps it up of course.

  11. November 28, 2019 4:59 pm

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    In light of Mike Hulme’s critique;

    “Their position is speculative; there are no new research findings presented here.

    “Their mathematical ‘formula’ contradicts everything that social science and humanities scholarship tells us about public emergencies – namely that they result from political argument, reflection and judgement.

    “Emergencies are declared by legitimate political actors; they are not calculated mathematically by self-appointed scientists.”

    I have made some corrections to the mathematical formula found in the authors Nature comment*


  12. November 28, 2019 4:59 pm

    Isn’t that the former Mike Hulme from the University of East Anglia and Climategate fame? Has he seen the error of his ways and modified his views since moving to Cambridge?

  13. November 28, 2019 5:33 pm

    Sad days for Nature which was once the pinnacle of science.

    On a brighter note, if we have reached the tipping point, we might as well stop worrying, eh?

  14. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 28, 2019 5:33 pm

    Same rubbish in the DM too (along with more plastic scare stories). It’s obviously produced centrally by the alarmist propaganda machine and disseminated to their embedded credulous conniving MSM ‘reporters’.

  15. Dave Ward permalink
    November 28, 2019 5:35 pm

    “The commentary says that at the time these large-scale shifts were considered likely only if global warming exceeded 5C. The authors argue that information from IPCC reports over the past two years suggests that tipping points could be exceeded even between 1 and 2C of warming”

    In other words, because the dire predictions they’ve been making haven’t occured, just move the goalposts, and repeat the scaremongering…

  16. Phoenix44 permalink
    November 28, 2019 6:05 pm

    It is flattering to call it “speculation”. There is literally no evidence whatsoever that tipping points exist. Such runaway positive feedback is exceedingly unlikely for any number of reasons, not least we have no evidence of it in the past and because a system like the climate has no reason to have tipping points.

    The BBC may have decide that Deniers do not get airtime because the science is “settled” but that doesn’t mean they should give credence and publicity to what is not remotely science. It is utterly shameful.

  17. Tim Spence permalink
    November 28, 2019 6:27 pm

    That first photo is the Perito Moreno glacier in the glacier park area of ‘Patagonia’. It’s carefully cropped so that you can’t see the mountains behind to identify it, but it’s unmistakable. I’ve been there twice and it is awe inspiring but it is also growing. Every summer chunks drop off at a rate of around 3 or 4 every hour. When they fall off, about a minute later the water bubbles like crazy, almost like it’s boiling.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 28, 2019 8:08 pm

      If you have been around a while you might be able to recall an excellent TV series called The Flight of the Condor which explored S America from the southern tip along the Andes. I had a search and this programme was produced by the BBC in 1982, which is before global warming was invented and Attenbollox lost although he didn’t narrate it. Right at the start there were some great scenes of a glacier calving. And we were told that this is what they do when they reach the sea. The same footage now would have Attenbollox claiming it was global warming and the glacier was melting away before our eyes.

      • November 28, 2019 8:23 pm

        I wonder where they think all of the snow that falls up in the Andes goes to?

  18. Mack permalink
    November 28, 2019 7:07 pm

    Don’t panic everybody, the UK Labour Party have the answer to all these pesky tipping points. According to their recently announced ‘climate emergency’ policies they are going to plant 2 billion trees and retrofit every house in the country to make them all green and lovely. The fact that, according to their own timescales, they’ll have to retrofit 7,000 houses and plant an area the size of a small city, EVERY day, for the next 20 years is just a minor detail. At the end of their mission, we won’t have tipped over and we’ll all feel warm and fuzzy inside. Lovely. I’m now going to sit down with a glass of scotch and a revolver to watch the Climate Debate on Channel 4. Deep joy.

    • Lez permalink
      November 28, 2019 7:25 pm

      Pity that Jeremy’s brother Piers isn’t contributing. Some common sense may then be introduced into the debate. I won’t be watching as I suspect I may end up throwing something at our new telly.

      • Mack permalink
        November 28, 2019 9:03 pm

        Your telly had a lucky escape Lez. Alas, mine didn’t! if it wasn’t such a tragic indictment of the ignorance, mediocrity and mendacity of our current crop of politicians, the programme would have been hilarious. Grim viewing indeed.

  19. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 28, 2019 8:43 pm

    The UK can’t actually do anything meaningful to fight climate change with these policies.
    I know Jo Nova said a while back if Australia shut down it would save 0.01C and 2mm sea level rise by 2050 – too small to be measured. Australian and UK total emissions are about the same. The complete lack of cost benefit justification means that at the very least, it is willful neglect or misconduct in public office, an abuse of the public’s trust, to foist these policies and costs onto us. Perhaps this is an option for an organisation like the GWPF to consider?

  20. November 28, 2019 9:50 pm

    “Are we passing some key [climate] ‘tipping points’?”


    We have, however, long past a “key tipping point” in political, journalistic and scientific integrity.

  21. Chris permalink
    November 28, 2019 10:32 pm

    Tripping point

    Sent by CJ Matchette-Downes


  22. Pat Childs permalink
    November 28, 2019 10:35 pm

    Pretty convenient. Inventing a science that happens to coincide with a great deal of money because it serves political propaganda

  23. Athelstan. permalink
    November 28, 2019 10:48 pm

    Yesterday late evening on the itv 22.00 news it ran with some of the extremist hyperbole of this arse wipe report.

    cue hushed tones, tut tutting and long sighs, heavy breathing and knowing looks from the ignoramus main anchorman and ‘expert’ itv news rapporteur.

    it was jaw droppingly farcical, imagine George (Hugh Laurie) being lectured on Einsteinian theory by baldrick.
    Twerp telly, being lectured by vacant auto cuties, in heavily propagandized computer modelled garbage and utter climate tosh, Most unfortunately, as is usual currently watching all UK media televisual broadcasting organs, gives me headaches mainly down to the asinine drivel of the reportage,.
    Finally, one ponders, askance at and on how much – the PTB have them all stitched-up. Reminiscing, not so long ago, even 3 years ago (with some broadcasters if not the overarching TV station) there was at least some faint murmur of protest from within the TV news media. Now there’s only obedient idiocy and fawning drivel to go with it, what the blue blazes happened, or was it just Theresa Maybot and her big mates, Hungarian George and Mutti Merkl??

  24. November 29, 2019 3:09 am

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  25. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    November 29, 2019 7:42 am

    The problem is he may be correct, for the wrong reasons. Anyone care to explain why Harlech and Carnarfon castle sea gates are 15 feet in the air, today, 1000 years after they were built? North Wales is geologically stable……and there are mahoosive volcanoes under the WAIS…

  26. November 29, 2019 7:43 am

    The problem with Earth Systems Science is that it does not include the impact of geological forces on climate

  27. dennisambler permalink
    November 29, 2019 8:14 am

    Same people, same hymn sheet. In 2009, “3 tipping points” had been reached,

    Lenton, Rockstrom, Richardson, Schellnhuber, Steffen, were all authors for the original, with additional help then from James Hansen and other familiar names.

    “Anthropogenic pressures on the Earth System have reached a scale where abrupt global environmental change can no longer be excluded. We propose a new approach to global sustainability in which we define planetary boundaries within which we expect that humanity can operate safely.

    Transgressing one or more planetary boundaries may be deleterious or even catastrophic due to the risk of crossing thresholds that will trigger non-linear, abrupt environmental change within continental- to planetary-scale systems.”

    Strangely enough, these same authors, Lenton, Rockstrom, Richardson, Schellnhuber, Steffen and several others, were all authors for the “Hothouse Earth” PNAS paper in 2018, which preceded IPCC’s SR15, but they didn’t claim last year that any tipping points, (thresholds) had been reached, regardless of the fact that 9 years before they claimed three. Now they claim nine.
    “We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced.

    Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state. Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.”

    Same people, same pretend science, same social transformation agenda.

  28. November 29, 2019 9:45 am

    No “tipping points” have been reached. None, nil, nada, zilch. If they had, then the climate would have ‘tipped’ obviously. A climate tipping point is defined as the point at which global or regional climate passes rapidly from one stable state to another stable state. It’s absurd that these authors claim that “tipping points are underway” around the world.

    They are practicing a subtle form of deception because what they really mean are “tipping elements” which they defined in a 2008 paper.

    “The term “tipping point” commonly refers to a critical threshold at which a tiny perturbation can qualitatively alter the state or development of a system. Here we introduce the term “tipping element” to describe large-scale components of the Earth system that may pass a tipping point. We critically evaluate potential policy-relevant tipping elements in the climate system under anthropogenic forcing . . . . . ” blah, blah, blah.

    They identify the “tipping elements” by cherry-picking ‘it’s worse than we thought’ papers on melting Arctic/Antarctic ice, AMOC slowdown, Amazon rainforest destruction etc. By exploiting confusion over the terms “tipping points” and “tipping elements” and by using the two terms interchangeably, they create a false sense of doomsday-type alarm based upon nothing more than rampant speculation. It’s not science, it’s pure political posturing. Nature journal should be ashamed for publishing such garbage. BBC should be ashamed of plugging this nonsense to gullible people. But they’re not of course.

  29. ThinkingScientist permalink
    November 29, 2019 12:42 pm

    As is well known, the answer to any headline in the form of a question is always “No”.

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