Shellenberger: "I interviewed the lead author of the Nature Comment, Professor Timothy Lenton of the University of Exeter, I asked him about a verb tense I found curious. Lenton notes that the West Antarctic ice sheet “might have passed a tipping point” but goes on to say “when this sector collapses, it could destabilize the rest of the West Antarctic ice sheet like toppling dominoes — leading to about 3 metres of sea-level rise on a timescale of centuries to millennia.”
“When you say ‘when,’” I asked, “does that mean it’s an inevitability that it will collapse?”
“Well, we can’t rule out that it’s on the way out,” he said. “Any glaciologist specialist will tell you that we really want more data. Because it’s not trivial to monitor what’s going on in West Antarctica.”
“So the right word in your view is ‘when’ not ‘if’?” I asked. ...
Justin Ritchie, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, highlighted 11 conditional statements in the four paragraphs summarizing the complicated causality for a “global cascade” of tipping points.“ I might be the only one,” writes Ritchie, “but after reading it I’m actually less convinced about imminent climate tipping points. One example: if it takes 11 ‘if’ statements to support an opinion, then it’s time to revisit the opinion’s substance.” (The word “could” is used 26 times.)
“As early as 1864 George Perkins Marsh, sometimes said to be the father of American ecology, warned that the earth was ‘fast becoming an unfit home for its “noblest inhabitant,”’ and that unless men changed their ways it would be reduced ‘to such a condition of impoverished productiveness, of shattered surface, of climatic excess, as to threaten the depravation, barbarism, and perhaps even extinction of the species.’” —MIT professor Leo Marx
Earth “Serially Doomed” Perhaps the best summary of the tipping-point phenomenon comes from UK scientist Philip Stott. “In essence, the Earth has been given a 10-year survival warning regularly for the last fifty or so years. We have been serially doomed,” Stott explained. “Our post-modern period of climate change angst can probably be traced back to the late-1960s, if not earlier. By 1973, and the ‘global cooling’ scare, it was in full swing, with predictions of the imminent collapse of the world within ten to twenty years, exacerbated by the impacts of a nuclear winter."