James Lovelock: What's Eating The Godfather Of Global Warming?
    By Hank Campbell | June 26th 2012 05:00 AM | 46 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    James Ephraim Lovelock, CH, CBE, FRS, Ph.D, aged 92, is a chemist and creator of the Gaia Hypothesis. He is called the 'Godfather of Global Warming'. 

    What he was, to most people, was an alarmist more on the order of President Obama's Science Czar John Holdren, a doomsday zealot. And I don't mean 'alarmist' in the American political sense, i.e., anyone who accepts the science of climate change - I mean a real End Of The World Is Nigh prophet.  So silly even the hysterical poster child of Think Progress, Joe Romm, believed Lovelock was over the top.

    Now Lovelock believes he was over the top also.  In April he told MSNBC's  Ian Johnston that he had been  “alarmist” about climate change and that amateur environmental commentators like Al Gore were too.

    I didn't think much of it in April, just like I ignore anything John Holdren or Think Progress says about the climate.  Being irrational on one crackpot pole and then switching to the other is not really telling anyone much, though it might cause TIME magazine to retract their 2007 designation of Lovelock as one of the “Heroes of the Environment”, when the media had declared the science settled because IPCC media talking points declared it so. It was a simpler time.

    What gives? Well, being 92 years old helps.  As he put it then, his age means he can come out and admit if he made a mistake. Dr. James Watson, irascible co-discover of the DNA double-helix, has no problem speaking his mind, nor does Dr. Edward O. Wilson. All have been adored, and then vilified, by progressives and then embraced by conservatives when progressives turned on them, despite changing nothing at all about their beliefs, and just saying something unpopular.

    Like Holdren, Lovelock has attracted friends who have had their own suspect beliefs.  Prof. Lynn Margoulis, co-creator of the Gaia Hypothesis, denied that HIV is an infectious virus and believed that the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks were not terrorist attacks at all.   To show you how suspect science bureaucracy can be, Margoulis was a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1983 while Carl Sagan was denied. I guess Sagan was not doom and gloom enough.

    Now, while his critics contend he must be senile, he actually sounds more scientific than he ever did before.  He told The Guardian's Leo Hickman that sea level rises may only be 2 feet in the next century, which surely had to send environmental activists (you know, political science majors) into a fit. The American fringe had already barely tolerated him because he supported nuclear power - as did everyone behind the Kyoto treaty in 1998 except American environmentalists - and correctly believed that wind vanes should stay in the 13th century where they belong.

    James Lovelock
    James Lovelock. Photograph: Jim Wileman for the Guardian.

    Now he has provoked them even more than he did in April.  He has called out the environmental movement for not embracing natural gas today, when decades ago it was the Next Big Thing.  "Gas is almost a give-away in the US at the moment. They've gone for fracking in a big way. Let's be pragmatic and sensible and get Britain to switch everything to methane. We should be going mad on it," Lovelock told Hickman.

    It's an odd turn-around for the man whose 2006 book predicted billions of us were soon to die from global warming and whose rampant conjecture directly led to the most laughable idea of 2007, the Norwegian "Doomsday Vault" which was going to help us restart the world after the apocalypse.

    Now he turns the guns on everyone with an honesty that is puzzling. "I'm neither strongly left nor right, but I detest the Liberal Democrats. They are all well-meaning, but they have mostly had little experience of power. The coalition has behaved disgracefully on environmental and energy policies," he said.

    Can we take this man seriously?  If John Holdren suddenly embraced BPA, I'd remove all the plastic from my house.  Lovelock is kind of like that.  It's fun watching the process but I can't imagine he can be part of a serious policy discussion, the way he bounces around. 
    "It's just the way the humans are that if there's a cause of some sort, a religion starts forming around it. It just so happens that the green religion is now taking over from the Christian religion. I don't think people have noticed that, but it's got all the sort of terms that religions use. The greens use guilt. You can't win people round by saying they are guilty for putting CO2 in the air."

    He displays equal disdain for those who do not accept science on climate change: "They've got their own religion. They believe that the world was right before these damn people [the greens] came along and want to go back to where we were 20 years ago. That's also silly in its own way."
    Well, political cults are not all that much different than religious ones - and science has its cargo cults too. I had never considered that environmentalists might just be closet Catholics. Go figure it would take an Anglican to see it so clearly.

    "Whenever the UN puts its finger in, it seems to become a mess," he says.  No one outside the UN and science bloggers disagree with that. The IPCC has gone full speed ahead into losing all credibility by trying to make grey literature legitimate using the UN and instituting progressive good works in the way of geographic and gender quotas and making the quality of the scientists secondary. 

    2012 is turning into a weird year.  The Brits lost Lovelock and the Germans have lost Fritz Vahrenholt. If we Americans have Al Gore change his mind, we may be really screwed.  Though Lovelock doesn't think so; he still believes in the Gaia Hypothesis and now he says what left-wing people used to say and right-wing people insist now - that humans are too puny and insignificant to have a big impact on the environment, the planet will just kill us off and replace us with someone else if we get too uppity.


    "We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and 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." --James Lovelock 2006 Independent
    Lovelock is a special intellect who probably would have been more productive if he had an appetite for humble pie. ( Amazingly, he was reading organic chemistry textbooks in elementary school.)

    More Examples aside from the ones mentioned in your article:
    (1) In 1957 he invented the electron capture device, which when mounted on a GC made it possible to measure parts per trillion of gases like CFCs, but then in 1970 he also erroneously predicted that the presence of CFCs in the air was innocuous.

    (2) Parts of the Gaia hypothesis were brilliant, for example in explaining the role of dimethylsulfide from algal products in seeding precipitation, which then affected cloud formation over the sea. But then he claimed in his usual hyperbolic style that the reason people were refuting the general premise of Gaia was that, if accepted, all science textbooks would have to be rewritten.
    Rick Ryals
    To show you how suspect science bureaucracy can be, Margoulis was a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1983 while Carl Sagan was denied. I guess Sagan was not doom and gloom enough.

    I signed in just in case that I start feeling sorry for you later, but for now, I'll leave it like this:

    A statement like yours proves that you are an insulting and totally clueless airhead, Hank.  You seriously have no clue why huh?  I don't believe that so take your bran dead moron rant and stick it up your a$$.
    You have a great flair for invective but you never actually show you know a better answer.  So why was a doomsday forecaster in the NAS and Sagan denied?
    Rick Ryals
    You have a great flair for invective but you never actually show you know a better answer.

    If somebody knows what that is supposed to mean please tell me.

    why was a doomsday forecaster in the NAS and Sagan denied?

    No, the question is;  Who was the last evolutionary biologist to make a significant contribution to the fundamental mechanics of evolutionary theory... since Charles Darwin?  It isn't why they were denied, it's what she did!

    And I consider myself to be a personal friend of Lynn and Carl's son, so your insults are personal.
    Ah, 'personal'. I was worried you might actually have an objective, scientific contribution to make.  Glad to know I was wrong.
    Rick Ryals
    The only thing wrong with Lovelock's understanding is that he fails to recognize that his "self-regulating" mechanism is exactly that, and that we are contributing members of the natural process.
    There is overwhelming evidence that our climate is warming due to pollution from human activities. That's the conclusion reached by 97% of climate scientists and every major National Academy of Science in the world. When we burn dirty fossil fuels like oil and coal, and when we cut down forests that store carbon, we pollute our atmosphere and warm our planet. This is not controversial: It's a reality we've understood for decades.

    Now here’s an experiment: Ask a good scientist what is known about a particular topic, and watch how quickly that scientist moves to what is unknown. Honesty about what is unknown is essential to sound science, and no entire field of science can ever be completely settled. But the basics of climate change ARE settled. In other words, there’s no dispute among the vast majority of climate scientists that our climate is warming, and that most of the recent warming is due to human activity.

    I don't think anyone disputes anything you wrote in your comment - well, no one rational. But you are not addressing the topic. Lovelock is saying the timeframe claims were "alarmist", by him and others, not that warming is not happening, nor that climate scientists have all agreed for decades.
    Hank, Having read some of your other thoughts, I am astounded when you write, "I don't think anyone disputes anything you wrote in your comment - well, no one rational".

    I simply do not believe that you believe the assertion of Anonymous that "our climate is warming due to pollution from human activities".

    Many of us think that the influence of a few billion carbon-based bipeds is statistical noise when measured against that of one middle-sized star off our bow.

    Hopefully, you committed my own too-frequent sin of quick-scan-and-retort.

    I simply do not believe that you believe the assertion of Anonymous that "our climate is warming due to pollution from human activities".
    Between alarmist and denier there is science - and that has nothing at all to do with belief.
    "...due to pollution from human activities" implies belief... A belief that you claim no rational person disputes.

    Between alarmist and denier there is Money. Science is under the bleachers whispering, "AGW is Hypothesis aspiring to Theory."


    "There is overwhelming evidence that our climate is warming due to pollution from human activities."

    Really? No solar contributions whatsoever? All man-made, eh? Then perhaps you could explain this little item of interest:

    Super Storm on Saturn

    Gosh! None of the 97% of scientists you claim have reached a consensus on GW bothered to tell us that our anthropogenic pollutants were wrecking havoc throughout the solar system. < / sarcasm >

    P.S. - In case you couldn't tell, I'm one of the naughty 3% of scientists who believe man-made GW is bunk.

    you would do better as a scientist to not sitting around "believing" your position (and a storm on Saturn proves what exactly?) and actually doing the analysis like this skeptic did,

    Where Lovelock is flipping these days, well, I never did take him seriously.

    actually doing the analysis like this skeptic did
    Or is he?
    Never is a long time.
    Cut and paste politcal talking point - i.e., lies. Go waste someone else's space.


    I agree that alarism and scare mongering do us no good, on the contrary.

    One of the elements of climate change that is wrongly described is sea level. It has always annoyed me that when speaking of sea level rise, it is presented as uniformly high all over the world. The geodesists, who need to know 'where the sea is' at all times because it defines the reference frame (coordinate system for all positioning), have the best understanding of sea level and its development. That knowledge is rarely included in global warming discussions - be it by Lovelock or Gore!

    Now, jumping from that (sea level is maybe not going to rise as high as some say) to say that climate change is not happening or that we can ignore the whole thing because humans will never influence the Earth system to such a degree, is just stupid, if you'll excuse my French.

    Furthermore, saying that IPCC is loosing its credibility because it looks outside peer-reviewed journals for knowledge and that they rather will use experts that better represent the global population, is ignorant.

    The IPCC has demonstrated an arrogance and ignorance of uncertainty in the past that is far more damaging to its credibility. In fact, I'll not be surprised if they can increase their credibility by having representatives from the entire population.

    Look at the case of glaciers in Himalaya. When I visited China and the Himalayas (before the climategate etc) I asked the local mapping bureau what they had observed with respect to glaciers (we were traveling some 5000 km in Tibet). The Chinese monitor glaciers and rivers with gps etc for several non-climatic reasons. These experts could tell me that some of the glaciers were retracting while others were growing. So, in itself information that would benefit IPCC. These experts did not publish in English peer-reviewed journals.
    Presonally, I would trust IPCC a lot more if I knew that the science they build their reports on included this important information. I also suspect China would trust IPCC more too....

    While I could understand Gore (I saw the hockeystick as a dramatic presentation of facts) Lovelock never really reached me. He was too extreme. This Gaia thingy was to astrologist for me. :-) That is a no good for astronomers....

    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Sure, I highlighted a few scientists who got old and basically lost their senses - Lovelock seems to have gained some, he was much kookier when he was younger.  The IPCC part is just speculation - maybe they will be better, I certainly hope so, but it looks bad for any science body to say the people matter more than the quality of the science.   Climate change is about an issue and not individuals and they are making it about individuals by creating a false metric for being on the committee. What would be better for the world is if the media stopped treating them like they were a Super League of climate science.  No one does that in biology or physics or astronomy.   The media should cover climate studies in the same sense they cover anything else and not reprint IPCC talking points twice per decade.

    I cannot fathom how they got this credibility, other than most journalists basically stank at their jobs in the new millenium. 
    Has a new doomsday timeline been established by Lovelock? Danny Bloom, the self-proclaimed "accidental student" of Lovelock, is on a comment thread claiming that 2500 AD now replaces 2100 AD as the time that man is SOL. I assume that is based on a BAU scenario. Bloom could well be a nutter, so who knows what the new timeframe is?

    However, if 2500 AD is the new timeframe, I'm banking on Moore's law to save our bacon long before 2500 AD.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...I'm banking on Moore's law to save our bacon long before 2500 AD.
    We're screwed
    Mundus vult decipi
    The concern is not the effort to do something about emissions, but the ability of a panel of presidential appointees to bypass Congress.
    I am concerned with their efforts to do something about emissions, I'm concerned they are going to double-quadruple the cost of energy which will impact every aspect of society, as well as our ability to provide food for many parts of the world that cannot grow enough food to feed themselves.
    Never is a long time.
    Sure, but that is a policy issue.  If people elect politicians and that happens, and they get re-elected, the people have spoken, for good or ill.  But giving the EPA unlimited power with no accountability to the public is not great.
    Gerhard Adam
    It's not unlimited power.  It's the power they were legally authorized to use and the court case simply validated that despite industry's claim that the EPA had no such legal authority.  In addition, the court specifically ruled that the EPA rules were "neither arbitrary nor capricious".

    At some point we've got to stop turning every court decision into a doomsday scenario.  Specifically I think this quote from the court illustrates who was perceived as being frivolous [i.e. State of Texas].
    "EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question," the court wrote.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Sure, but it can't be a free-for-all.  Another court order required that the EPA actually investigate before blaming fracking for water issues.   Obviously they wish they had gotten this DC judge now.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...actually it's a three judge panel.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Actually, what they want is the 9th circuit court here in California.  The Supreme Court has overturned them more than any other because if there is any goofy stance to take, they represent San Francisco rather than law or common sense.
    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps, but there doesn't appear to be anything in this decision that sounds unreasonable, nor that represents something counter-intuitive that was actually raised by those opposing the EPA.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not particularly concerned.  Despite claims to the contrary, I haven't seen a single benefit derived from letting industry have its way.  We always hear the jobs mantra, and no matter what, we've always lost jobs. 

    The simple reality is that these are laws that are enacted by Congress [both sides] and the EPA has the legal means to enforce those laws.  So, why should I be concerned that businesses opposed these laws?  That is the wrong place to be fighting this battle [i.e. after they are made laws].  As a result, they didn't challenge the science or anything.  They merely challenged the EPA's legal right to create the laws and promptly got their asses kicked.

    Business can no longer hold the threat of economic impact over my head.  I'm simply tired of their B.S.  Government has been pro-business in a long time, and its done absolutely nothing towards helping preserve or grow the middle class.  

    Some of the business representatives comments are just outright lies.  The suggestion that these laws will prevent new hiring is stupid.  Businesses hire because they have product to sell, and no amount of spending will ever prevent them from doing that.  To claim otherwise is to fly in the face of reality, in that NEVER has a single job been created simply because a company has extra cash on hand.
    Mundus vult decipi
    When I first read of Lovelock's recantation, I immediately asked "How long is it going to take the believers to make him an unperson"

    The answer apparently is not very long at all.

    John Hasenkam
    If you are amongst the first the first to recognise a potentially serious problem you had better be alarmist because if you're not no-one will listen. The sad truth is rationality is not enough, you have to scare people. What I despised about their proclamations was the incredible epistemological hubris is presuming to predict so far ahead. Alarmism got totally out of hand and together with that hubris has effectively killed off much public interest in this issue. 
    I don't care what Lovelock thinks, the data that keeps coming in gives plenty of cause for ongoing action to address the changing environment. Referencing previous alarmists is doing nothing to advancing public understanding. We are already witnessing a massive ecological transformation and we cannot know how this is going to pan out. We may even be saving our own skins thoughthat is improbable because so much of our culture and life is inter twined with the existing ecology. So we're in for some big adaptive challenges. That's where our attention needs to be directed. Forget about the talking heads and start thinking about the technologies and cultural changes we will need in the coming decades(not centuries!). 
    Right. Like I wrote to Bente, most old guys get more cranky and weird when they get older and Lovelock actually got more sane.  He is not denying there is a problem, but he is not claiming billions dead, to a point where even people on his side wish he would shut up.

    On alarmism, is there any instance where it worked? Acid rain was not alarmism, there was data, not numerical models with variables for feedbacks and impacts that varied wildly.  Ditto with Y2K on the technology side; people knew what the problems were and what was going to happen so they got fixed. No sane person says things would have been just fine if they were not addressed; yet I feel completely comfortable believing today, as I did in 2006, that Al Gore had no clue what he was talking about when he said we had to be at 1990s CO2 levels in 10 years or it was too late.  That was alarmism, and not constructive at all because his data was insurance claim estimates - not science.
    I've got two words for ANYONE who thinks Climate Change is man made or that we are experiencing anything out of the norm but a natural cycle or who thinks C02 is a greenhouse gas.... Piers Corbyn.

    Gerhard Adam
    Ahhh ... so that's the name of your god?  No thanks ... I'll stick with the science.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I'm a Piers Anthony sectarian myself.
    Hard not be when he can prove himself and his theories over and over again via the weather and what he says it will do weeks in advance, blowing the C02 warmists to smithereens in the process. :)

    He's no Piers Morgan, though.
    With that comment I'm guessing science didn't stick to YOU very well in school....particularly astrophysics and meteorology of which Mr Corbyn is a master of both.

    Gerhard Adam
    It is so difficult to reason with true believers.  However, let's try to at least pretend to differentiate between weather prediction and climate. 
    With that comment I'm guessing science didn't stick to YOU very well in school...
    Ahhh ... you're suggesting there's a modicum of science in there someplace?  Hard to tell with all the awe and hero-worship.
    Mundus vult decipi
    yes shit kicker....a modicum. That word is......ugh...I need to get away from this thread. At least you can spell.....Have a good night. If you ever decide to actually look at the modicum of "science" as you so aptly call it that he uses, and can understand said "science" without your sombrero melting then saddle up and ride your pony back on over to this here thread again....I'll C02 ya later...

     and can understand said "science" without your sombrero melting then saddle up and ride your pony back on over to this here thread again
    Since Gerhard's Law has been invoked, this thread is officially dead.
    Gerhard Adam
    For those interested, Piers Corbyn appears to be a loon.  He simply refuses to publish or provide any information regarding his "science" or his methods of prediction.  He invariably claims that we don't need supercomputers or outdated science.
    - Solar-based science can dramatically improve storm&flood warnings without a penny more being wasted on new super computers and outdated science.
    Also, this is Corbyn's idea of how science should be conducted.
    Met Office want £42,000,000 for new supercomputer; WeatherAction can warn 95% of major UK storms for £351
    While the claim [at least in this article] is that he is an astrophysicist, it appears that such claims are a bit vague and far-ranging.

    Of course, he appears to be the darling of the FOX news crowd.  Apparently they operate on the principle that what one doesn't know, the other doesn't either, so they're covering all bases.
    Mundus vult decipi
    John Hasenkam
    On alarmism, is there any instance where it worked? 

    In the 80's there was an Australian treasurer who asserted Aus was at risk of becoming a banana republic. The debt theme was picked up by Howard and Costello and used to great effect. Australia ran surpluses for many years, our economy is now in very good shape. 

    "Silent Spring" was alarmist and started the ball the rolling on green stuff. 

    The alarmism over saturated fat created by the dodgy meta analysis of Ancel. For 40 years we were told saturated fat was bad for us. The scare changed peoples' diet even though the claims were bollocks. It actually made things much worse! 

    Alternatively, there is always "peace in our time". 

    I don't like alarmism but it does work, albeit in sometimes perverse ways. More alarmism about about debt(in the past), about pollution, about type 2 diabetes, might not go astray. 

    The earth is warming, in a sense whether or not it is man made is irrelevant. It is warming, increased GHGs will contribute to that warming. I don't think we have a ghost of a chance of changing the situation. I adopt a techno optimist stance because I think it is our best shot. The terrible thing is that we cannot prepare for the unknown and now there are many unknowns. Do nothing or do something, unintended consequences will be the order of the day. 
    What if there was a reason for a carbon tax that did not rely on the science of global warming... AND what if did not rely on shyster salesmen such as algore, Obama’s crony capitalism and ill-fated CAP and Trade and East Anglia University to sell it... AND what if that carbon tax did NOT become conflated with “social justice” and global income redistribution. Conservatives for a Carbon Tax ( ) wants to use the carbon tax to save the country, not save the planet.
    I am sure that Mr. Lovelock being handed a 6,000 pound heating bill for last year’s winter heating season from the good environmental government of the UK had nothing to do with his conversion to nat gas at all. (snark)
    Funny when the socalists get the bill themselves and can't keep spending other people’s money taken a gun point by gov they see the light...

    Gerhard Adam
    Funny when the socalists get the bill themselves and can't keep spending other people’s money taken a gun point by gov they see the light...
    No, what's funny is fools that have never had to deal with anything at "gunpoint" think they are being so clever by invoking images of which they are ignorant.  It simply makes the entire argue look childish, immature, and stupid.
    Mundus vult decipi