The end may be near. Or not

A group of scientists is warning earth is nearing a tipping point where climate change is concerned. At that point, there’s nothing that can be done to stem the effects of a changing climate.

“It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” said Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, in a press release. He’s the lead author of a review paper appearing in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature.

Just one question: When?

The answer is in the press release:

“…no one knows how close Earth is to a global tipping point, or if it is inevitable.”

In other words: it’s not really clear at all.

But wait! In a video accompanying the press release, Barnosky says “it’s pretty clear we’re heading for something big.”

And the lead paragraph of the news release reads like this:


A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation.

This highlights an old journalistic axiom: “If you use ‘may’ in a headline or story, you might as well use ‘may not‘ as well.”

There’s one other fact that appears at the end of the report. It’s not new. It actually comes from a conference held at Berkeley two years ago.


They concluded that there is an urgent need for global cooperation to reduce world population growth and per-capita resource use, replace fossil fuels with sustainable sources, develop more efficient food production and distribution without taking over more land, and better manage the land and ocean areas not already dominated by humans as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

“I Fear This Will Be the Most Important News of 2012,” the Atlantic’s James Fallows says in a headline on his blog today. If so, shouldn’t it have been the most important news of two years ago?

  • mememine69

    A climate scientist makes a 911 call: “We agree that most-likely, our house is catastrophically on fire maybe.”

  • Windy

    If you go back and watch the scientific documentaries of the 1970s you see a bunch of guys like this warning of doom coming with the approach of a new ice age. There were also the population bomb morons Paul (I couldn’t have been more wrong) Erlich and John (let’s sterilize the darkies) Holdren that pulled this same stunt warning of millions aupon millions of deaths by the year 2000. If I had a dime for every science clown that shouted the sky is falling I would rival Bill Gate’s in wealth. This is all fabricated fear timed to prop up support for Rio+20 and Agenda 21. Barnosky needs to pop a few Zoloft and get on with reality.