Sunday, April 29th 2012, 8:47 AM EDT
The godfather of global warming says he, and Al Gore, have been ‘alarmist’ about its effects
James Lovelock has been called the godfather of global warming.
He’s one of the world’s most honoured scientists and environmentalists.
His “Gaia theory” — that the Earth operates as a single, living organism — created an entirely new field of Earth science studies following its publication in 1979.
His electron capture detector first enabled scientists to detect CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and other pollutants in the atmosphere, which in many ways was the start of the modern environmental movement.
His inventions have been used by NASA.
His books on the potentially cataclysmic effects of man-made climate change — The Revenge of Gaia and The Vanishing Face of Gaia — are required reading for anyone wanting to understand modern-day thinking on global warming.
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And last week, in an interview with msnbc.com, he admitted he has been unduly “alarmist” about climate change, along with others like Al Gore.
Lovelock said it’s not happening as quickly as he feared and that he and many others have been “extrapolating too far” from computer models.
“The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing,” Lovelock said. “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.
“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.
“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.”
Even though Lovelock is revered by global warmists for his Gaia theory and his previous writings predicting billions would die from it by the end of this century, his latest comments have prompted outrage from the same quarters.
Suddenly, the godfather of global warming is being condemned as everything from over-the-hill (he’s 92 and shows no signs of slowing down) to allegations he’s just seeking publicity for his new book and playing into the hands of climate deniers.
All these allegations are absurd.
Lovelock is a self-made genius, who already has all the fame he needs.
He hasn’t broken with the theory of man-made global warming. He still believes it’s happening, just not as quickly as he once thought.
His next book will outline ways in which he believes mankind can help regulate the Earth’s natural systems.
What’s marked Lovelock’s scientific career, however, most of it spent outside the academic establishment (his laboratory is a converted barn near Cornwall, England) is his willingness to test theories against real-world observation.
As “an independent and loner,” Lovelock told msnbc.com, he doesn’t mind admitting “all right, I made a mistake”, as opposed to university and government scientists whom, he said, fear admitting error will lead to a loss of funding.
Indeed, Lovelock regularly angers global warmists and environmentalists by refusing to toe the party line.
He’s long argued wind turbines and solar panels are useless when it comes to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, as well as being blights on the landscape.
He says the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally is through the increased use of nuclear power.
He compares environmentalists who demand the world must rapidly abandon fossil fuels to passengers on an airplane, who, having discovered it is pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, insist the pilot turn off the engines, thinking that will fix the problem.
“We cannot turn off our energy-intensive, fossil-fuel-powered civilization without crashing,” Lovelock warns. “We need the soft landing of a powered descent.” Exactly.
Lovelock’s only real problem when it comes to dealing with the global warming establishment, is that he’s always been too smart for the room.