When big systems flip into another state, that is trouble for species needing normal. Like us. We get the latest on global tipping points in 2023 from one of the world’s experts, Professor Tim Lenton from Exeter University. Then we explore earth energy imbalance at the poles with Hamish Prince and “greenlash” – backward steps in the European Union.

I’m Alex. Welcome to Radio Ecoshock.

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Despite 2023 being so much hotter than scientists expected (more to come on that in new shows) – surveys show mainstream Western media has actually reduced climate change coverage by 25% – and that is down from it’s pitiful coverage before. They have laid off journalists and some outlets closed. Expect a torrent of biased and just plain wrong new “journalism” from Artificial Intelligence as this year develops. Save the human science journalists. If you find this show and blog helpful, please take a minute to donate now.




Large scale rapid climate change may be the biggest threat to humanity and life as we know it. Earth systems may not change gradually, at a steady rate, but could bounce into a new state, with no return. The point of time when a shift is determined and unstoppable is called a “tipping point”.

Right at the center of tipping point research is Dr. Timothy Lenton. At the University of Exeter, he is Chair in Climate Change and Earth System Science . Lenton is Lead Author of the new Global Tipping Points report for 2023. This is what we know so far.

Listen to or download this 31 minute interview with Tim Lenton in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Lenton last appeared on Radio Ecoshock in 2020 – about the report “Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against“. In the new “Global Tipping Points 2023” I see a change. In the earlier interview Lenton said, almost quietly, he feared at least one tipping point had already been crossed. Four years later, with a torrent of new science, are we more certain, and are more tipping points already in play? Yes, at least five. Make sure you listen to this key interview.

Disaster in the Making: Cascading Tipping Points & Permafrost


One of the important points in the new report:

“The Effects Of Tipping Points Will Be Transmitted And Amplified Throughout Our Globalised World.”

For the possibilities of hope, see this document from Exeter: “Upward-scaling tipping cascades to meet climate goals – plausible grounds for hope.” Policy briefing note series 2020/01

We also need to acknowledge there are as many negative tipping points in human social history as positive ones. If we believe the news, a wide array of negative tipping points are triggered now: authoritarianism, mass migration, gang rule and extreme drugs. The “Global Tipping Points” report considers negative potential as well.

The report summary concludes “The world is largely flying blind into this vast threat.” The authors of this report made this essential knowledge very easy to understand. It is laid out with doorways into the main points with graphics. You can read a short summary, and then pick the subjects that interest you most to dive deeper into the science. All science should be like this. Check it out.





Former NASA Chief Scientist James Hansen tells us not to count carbon or measure heat. Look at the Earth Energy Imbalance. Reflective sea-ice has crashed in both the Arctic and Antarctica. Has the energy balance changed at the Poles? It turns out energy transactions at the Poles are key to the movement of warmer air and ocean currents from the Equator toward temperate latitudes where most humans live.

There is new science with answers. We will talk with the Lead Author Hamish Prince. But I warn you, this important development is not easy to understand. That is partly because scientists are observing not from the surface, but at the top of the atmosphere, hundreds of miles up toward space. That makes some assumptions down-here sound backward. Just as a first glimpse, this is from the American Meteorological Society Journal press release:

“The Antarctic is absorbing more energy than the Arctic.

…Satellite data show differences in how the Arctic and Antarctic are responding to increased temperatures, according to a new paper by Hamish D. Prince and Tristan S. L’Ecuyer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Both poles are receiving increased solar energy input, as melting sea ice reduces the regions’ reflectivity. This may affect the temperature gradient between the poles and the temperate regions that drives much of the climate system. This study finds that the warming Arctic is emitting a nearly comparable amount of this increased heat back to space, leaving the region’s net energy imbalance largely unchanged despite rapid ice melt. However, the Antarctic is NOT emitting more heat energy to space, implying that solar radiation is being absorbed.”

That was from the American Meteorological Society Journal press release in mid-March 2024. So let’s investigate these polar changes and what they mean for future climate. The Poles of Earth release more heat back to space than they get. This energy flow draws from the hot equator, motivating winds and ocean currents for all of us. Is that Polar energy system going out of balance? Yes, but not how you might expect.

In February, the American Meteorological Society published a new perspective. The Lead Author is Hamish D. Prince, a New Zealand Fulbright Scholar now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.
From the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we have been speaking with New Zealand Fulbright scientist Hamish Prince. He is lead author of the new paper “Observed energetic adjustment of the Arctic and Antarctic in a warming world”.

This article has not yet been published at the time of this interview.  You should be able to search for that title soon, finding it in the American Meteorological Society journal.  Here is a hand article about it in SciTechDaily.


Antarctica Is Undergoing a “Regime Shift” – New Research Uncovers Fundamental Changes in Polar Climates


Listen to or download this 17 minute interview with Hamish Prince in CD Quality or Lo-Fi



Seiji Kato is a scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center. He often co-authors papers with Hansen. In 2006, working with just 4 years of satellite data, Kato and colleagues discovered something unexpected in the warming Arctic. Although more energy is being absorbed due to less sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, and reduced snow cover on land – somehow the balance of energy over the Arctic, at the top of the atmosphere, is has not changed a lot.  Something is keeping that in balance, even as the land and sea below keep much warmer.  The new paper led by Hamish Prince confirms and explores possible answers.

Scientists worry about a Blue Ocean Event, where most of sea ice is gone from the Arctic Ocean during summer. Researchers from Scripps Institution at the University of California San Diego calculated a Blue Ocean Event would increase energy comparable to one trillion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. That would be like to adding 25 years of emissions!


When we switch to Antarctica, the technical language becomes confusing. It sounds like more energy is being absorbed in Antarctica, but that is called an energy “deficit”. The “deficit” takes place not at the surface, but at the top of the atmosphere (TOA).

In the paper, there is a helpful diagram and comparison between the Arctic as a “shallow bathtub ” and the Antarctic as an “energy sink”.

Major media world views come from the Northern Hemisphere. Picturing geoengineering, injecting reflective particles into the atmosphere, we see that over the Arctic. One scientific guest on the show suggested that may be necessary. But if sea ice loss has not substantially affected the energy balance over the North Polar area, but affects Antarctica more, does this imply injection of particles would be more meaningful over Antarctica?



Agriculture is a major driver of toxicity, soil and species loss, and climate change. If you don’t live in Europe, and even if you do, it is hard to understand what farmers blocking roads with tractors is about. According to a new Editorial in the flagship journal Science, these are signs of resistance to laws designed to protect nature and a livable climate. They call it “Greenlash”. Here is the explanation from Guillaume Chapron, Professor in the Department of Ecology at the Grimsö Research Station, in Sweden. The title is “Reverse EU’s growing greenlash”.

Reverse EU’s growing greenlash

Editorial in Science

After several weeks of violent protests, European farmers have achieved a tactical triumph that does not bode well for the future of environmental policies. In response to the demonstrations, the European Commission has enacted a derogation in the European Union’s (EU) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to set aside 4% of farmland for biodiversity and landscape protection, withdrawn a bill to halve pesticide use, removed a target to reduce agriculture emissions by 30% by 2040, and called for further changes in the CAP to loosen environmental requirements.

These retreats reflect a lack of political commitment to policies aimed at greening European agriculture. Appeasing this “greenlash” surely will not help Europe meet its environmental and climate challenges.

The protesting farmers are demanding better consideration by politicians, regarding the necessity of meeting environmental requirements, trade liberalization, and taxes. There is, however, barely any other economic sector in Europe that receives such glaring attention as farming. The EU allocates roughly one-third of its annual budget (55 billion euros) to farming through its now 62-year-old CAP. Farmer representatives have regular access to decision-makers at the highest level – European commissioners, heads of states, or agriculture ministers—across the EU, and no substantial policy change can be made without approval by the farming industry. This has made it impossible to modify the CAP in ways that reduce the environmental impact of modern agricultural practices and promote
sustainable farming.

Grievances about costs, regulations, and bureaucracy by any economic sector are not surprising. However, the speed at which EU and national politicians abandoned green policies reflects the strong penetration of industrial agriculture into decision spheres. Such capture of government by an interest group is dangerous.

In France, for example, a special unit in the military police has been established to work with a farmer union to control environmental activism against industrial farming.


In addition to EU-wide policy changes, farmers have obtained national concessions in Germany, Italy, Romania, and Spain that are mostly linked to taxes related to climate goals. The French government has gone further by proposing to ignore a court rule
mandating a reduction in pesticide use while casting suspicion on the integrity of scientists working at the pesticide regulatory agency.

Is this greenlash a benefit to all farmers? The EU’s about-face measures are unlikely to support small farms that are truly economically struggling and instead, answer the wish-list of industrial farmers. In France, the farming profession displays high inequality, with a minority of wealthy industrial farmers reaping most of the public subsidies. A 7-year investigation, published last year in a book that won France’s top journalism prize, found that the farming sector was under tight control of a cartel of industrial agriculture groups acting in concert with the larger farmer unions to control the supply of seeds and tools, bank loans, access to land, and the purchase of harvests, in a system likened to feudalism. This in no way favors more environmentally friendly farms.

Economic hardship for farmers is neither caused by a lack of consideration by politicians nor by environmental policies but rather by an agro-political system that, regardless of evidence-based policies, is tightly controlled by those who benefit from it. How will this economic sector become sustainable if those controlling it uphold a business model that is incompatible with sustainability?

Making agriculture sustainable is unlikely to be achieved if policies do not account for this institutional capture by “big ag.” Much can be learned from scholarship and expertise in political science, law, and sociology, fields that have long studied how special interest groups organize political pressure to influence policy. But actionable knowledge is also needed to understand how such political pressure can be neutered.

Inspiration might be found in the European Banking Authority’s stress tests that examine how banks cope with adverse economic scenarios. Environmental policies could be stress-tested by an independent authority to determine whether they can withstand a hostile political climate, for example. Strengthening systems by exploring how they can go wrong or whether they can be deliberately made to fail is often referred to as “red teaming.”

This approach could help guide the development of green policies that are still effective, even when the political context becomes unfavorable. With next June’s European Parliament elections possibly reinforcing this greenlash, it is more important than ever to try different approaches.

–Guillaume Chapron

Guillaume Chapron is a professor in the Department of Ecology, Grimsö Research Station, Swedish University of Agricultural
Sciences, Riddarhyttan, Sweden. guillaume.chapron@slu.se

For more on the greenlash in Europe, take a look at this.



Humans in crisis can be like passengers on a sinking ship. They rush from side to side. Now with extreme weather and rising tides pounding, we can only rush into a more sustainable future. If we rush back toward the comforting past, all go down with the ship. Pessimists expect a series of highly announced green laws and regulations, followed by regressive politicians promising to throw them all out – or at least water everything down while emissions continue to climb. This is looming in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, the UK, almost everywhere.

Few of us understand what a hostile climate means, arriving in a damaged and depleted environment. No country is prepared for changes at 2 degrees warming, much less three degrees C and beyond. We are currently creating that future, almost subconsciously. Fossil fuel companies with their banks and investors, have decided that is OK.

The United States was again the world’s largest fossil fuel producer, for the fifth year in a row. The UK Government claims that country needs lots more methane gas power plants. Australian politicians keep promoting their coal and gas exports. It’s just one big, blind party, the last party, before the fire. The fire-sale of the atmosphere and the children’s future continues to be profitable. Anyone who protests is a “terrorist”.

What an epic struggle. We now determine if the Poles have ice, if crops grow, if anywhere can be safe, if coastal cities go under. Welcome to the fulcrum of time.

Thank you for listening – and caring about our world.

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