A response to James Lovelock’s ‘Enjoy it while you can’ stance

A friend asked me what I thought about this interview with James Lovelock. My response:

I think Lovelock is a dangerous crank, and it deeply upsets me that the media continually portray him as some sort of elder statesman of the environmental movement. For example, this article says that the Gaia ‘theory’ is the basis of all climate science, which is utter bollocks.

Insofar as Gaia is a falsifiable scientific theory, my understanding is that it is incorrect – what we know about Paleoclimate is that it has been in different ‘steady’ states in the past, and the issue with greenhouse gas tipping points is that there are probably warmer ‘steady’ states that the complex system that is climate may eventually end up in – ie the planet is not a self-regulating organism.

I’ve not read his recent writings, but I would guess that Lovelock may have some crazy notion that climate change itself is the way the ‘organism’ is ridding itself of some pestilent humans, but that takes us out of the realms of falsifiable scientific theory and into the domain of unhinged millenarianism.

Basically, he’s not to be trusted on climate policy, and his views should be treated as dangerous lunacy, rather than as the authentic voice of environmentalism. He is not a climate scientist and his ‘revelation’ in 2004 that climate change is irreversible has no grounding in the science. His statement about it being impossible to power the UK with renewables is also complete bollocks – see for example: –

  • http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/
  • http://www.withouthotair.com/

One last point – we don’t have the luxury of deciding that climate change is a lost cause and we should just get on with our lives. Apart from it being incorrect on an objective level (though the social, political and economic barriers to making the necessary changes in an appropriate timescale are certainly formidable), we simply don’t have the right.

Those of us in the wealthy, developed world are responsible, individually and collectively, for most of the cumulative emissions, and yet live in societies that are the most resilient in terms of cushioning ourselves from the effects of climate change. Those of us in North West Europe are also living in a pocket where the effects will be significantly less severe than elsewhere.

Climate change isn’t just something that is being done to the planet, it is something that we are doing to other people, and it’s causing them to die in increasing numbers. While none of us are able to stop it happening individually and we very much need to see it as a collective responsibility that needs radical collective solutions, we can’t just decide that the consequences of our actions on other people is inevitable and therefore we might as well not worry about it. In fact, as a suggestion, it’s beyond obscene.

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