'Gaia' scientist James Lovelock: I was 'alarmist' about climate change

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by JamesL, Apr 23, 2012.

  1. JamesL


    James Lovelock, the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his “Gaia” theory of the Earth as a single organism, has admitted to being “alarmist” about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too.

    Lovelock, 92, is writing a new book in which he will say climate change is still happening, but not as quickly as he once feared.
    He previously painted some of the direst visions of the effects of climate change. In 2006, in an article in the U.K.’s Independent newspaper, he wrote that “before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”

    However, the professor admitted in a telephone interview with msnbc.com that he now thinks he had been “extrapolating too far."

    The new book, due to be published next year, will be the third in a trilogy, following his earlier works, “Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back – and How We Can Still Save Humanity,” and “The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning: Enjoy It While You Can.”

    The new book will discuss how humanity can change the way it acts in order to help regulate the Earth’s natural systems, performing a role similar to the harmonious one played by plants when they absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
    Climate's 'usual tricks'

    It will also reflect his new opinion that global warming has not occurred as he had expected.

    “The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.

    “The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.

    “The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising -- carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.
    He pointed to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers” as other examples of “alarmist” forecasts of the future.

    In 2007, Time magazine named Lovelock as one of 13 leaders and visionaries in an article on “Heroes of the Environment,” which also included Gore, Mikhail Gorbachev and Robert Redford.

    “Jim Lovelock has no university, no research institute, no students. His almost unparalleled influence in environmental science is based instead on a particular way of seeing things,” Oliver Morton, of the journal Nature wrote in Time. “Humble, stubborn, charming, visionary, proud and generous, his ideas about Gaia have started a change in the conception of biology that may serve as a vital complement to the revolution that brought us the structures of DNA and proteins and the genetic code.”

    Lovelock also won the U.K.’s Geological Society’s Wollaston Medal in 2006. In a posting on its website, the society said it was “rare to be able to say that the recipient has opened up a whole new field of Earth science study” – referring to the Gaia theory of the planet as single complex system.

    However Lovelock, who works alone at his home in Devon, England, has fallen out with the green movement in the past, particularly after saying countries should build nuclear power stations to help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by coal and oil.

    Asked if he was now a climate skeptic, Lovelock told msnbc.com: “It depends what you mean by a skeptic. I’m not a denier.”
    He said human-caused carbon dioxide emissions were driving an increase in the global temperature, but added that the effect of the oceans was not well enough understood and could have a key role.

    “It (the sea) could make all the difference between a hot age and an ice age,” he said.

    He said he still thought that climate change was happening, but that its effects would be felt farther in the future than he previously thought.

    “We will have global warming, but it’s been deferred a bit,” Lovelock said.

    'I made a mistake'

    As “an independent and a loner,” he said he did not mind saying “All right, I made a mistake.” He claimed a university or government scientist might fear an admission of a mistake would lead to the loss of funding.

    Lovelock -- who has previously worked with NASA and discovered the presence of harmful chemicals (CFCs) in the atmosphere but not their effect on the ozone layer -- stressed that humanity should still “do our best to cut back on fossil fuel burning” and try to adapt to the coming changes.

    Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the U.K.’s respected Met Office Hadley Centre, agreed Lovelock had been too alarmist with claims about people having to live in the Arctic by 2100.

    And he also agreed with Lovelock that the rate of warming in recent years had been less than expected by the climate models.
    However, Stott said this was a short-term trend that could be within the natural range of variation and it would need to continue for another 10 years or so before it could be considered evidence that something was missing from climate models.

  2. pspr


    The guy is an idiot and so is Al Gore. They could better serve humanity by trying to save the rain forests. There is nothing they can do about the sun which has been the driving force for warmaing the last 10,000 years.

    First this guy tells us what an idiot he was and then he expects us to believe he's not an idiot any longer. Puuuuuuh.
  3. Smart, flaky, not a climatologist.