Monday, March 29, 2010

James Lovelock interview

The Guardian has a feature on Lovelock here. There is also the whole transcript of the interview. He says he believes in AGW but has partial praise for some sceptics who raise important questions. He shows some contempt for (current forms of) renewable energy, and even more for democracy ('I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while'). He does not believe in computer models and calls for more observations. Sometimes he makes just very sweeping statements and seems not too well informed... Still, you will find some interesting thoughts by the wise old man who has seen it all.


Anonymous said...


Lovelock says:

"What's the alternative to democracy? There isn't one. But even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

This is what I hate about fanatics. Can a wise man really think such a crap?

The mean problem is about demography. But we are not even allowed to speak about it because it's unethical.

So lets speak about climatechange as a war. Every Mussolini, Napoleon and Hitler believed he was the only one to save the world and in the end of democracy. Even our "democratic" "friend" of the "axis of evil" wanted to abolish all laws against torture and democracy to save the world.

The bigger the population gets, the more dangerous fools it produces.

We know how democracy can produce results. If we really have peakoil today, we must worry about a war or a worldwide crisis.

But to think that changes that happen over centuries (climate change) are like a war ...

This is what scares me about climate fanatics. If scientists listen to persons like Lovelock or James Hansen, they must not be surprised that we don't believe in climat change anymore.

The evil always comes from where we don't expect it to come. No prediction of the future ever came true.


If Gaya is a being it will heal itself, with or without Lovelocks or other fanatics. ;-)

best regards


Banjoman0 said...

I tend to agree; I don't necessarily see a tremendous amount of wisdom. Just some "share data", "be humble", "don't trust models" kind of stuff. We do see that he has a dim view of democracy (a subject discussed here and here) and is discerning in his associations with skeptics. He talks about Garth Paltridge, but it isn't clear that he has actually read his book.

And Gaia? Really?

P Gosselin said...

He's a scientist with some good interesting scientific views; but thank God he's not a politician.

P Gosselin said...

Somewhat OT, but the kind of food this blog seems to like digesting.
It's a view.

Leigh Jackson said...

Lovelock was also interviewed on Radio 4 this morning.

He seems to believe that modern science is inherently corrupt.

Leigh Jackson said...

Problem with the link. The url is:

Kooiti MASUDA said...

Though it is not so evident from the interview, Lovelock's outlook of climate change seems extreme even among those who are called "alarmists" by their adversalies, if my reading of his books "The Vanishing Face of Gaia" (2009) and "The Revenge of Gaia" (2006).

He speculates very high sensitivity of the climate system (though he also speculates that the climate will re-stabilize at a temperature about 5 degrees C higher). His view of the current status may mean that we have already crossed the "tipping point", though this is not his expression.

On top of it, he speculates very high vulnerability of the ecosystem to warming. In his view, the total productivity would be one order of magnitude smaller in the climate 5 degrees C higher.

In addition, he is very generous to nuclear power, because we cannot avoid cancer anyway. He dismisses wind turbines on the other hand, but I do not find compelling reasons except aesthetic ones.

So I think he is very unique and not typical among those who think global warming an imporant issue.

Leigh Jackson said...

I agree Kooiti. Having said that, science and democracy don't come supplied with an absolute guarantee of success. They can fail. Lovelock thinks that both will fail us in the event of serious global heating. He could well be right. Let's hope he isn't.

I also hope he is wrong about his claim that inappropriate treatment of data is now normal within science.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Perhaps much of Lovelock's idiosyncratic views can be understood by taking into account that he is (and always was) an independent scientist. He always stood away from 'the crowd', and from scientific institutions. He did not have a university chair but was highly innovative. He is of course widely known for Gaia theory but has developed scientific instruments (most importltly perhaps the electron capture detector) and measured trace gases at an unprecendented level (parts per trillion).

In the controversy over CFCs and the ozone layer he assumed that there were enough negative feedbacks that would prevent the depeletion of the ozone layer. Later he admitted this was his biggest scientific error. Maybe he got carried away in the opposite direction with climate change.

As an independent scientist he very much felt ostracised in the ozone debate and this experience has left its marks. He is highly critical of any kind of group think and not afraid to put out claims that are seen as outlandish - he does not care about the reactions. This is truly unique in the current research landscape.

BTW, he does not say 'we will all get cancer anyway' but that mankind has evolutionary experience with radioactivity and is therefore adapted to some degree.

He also clearly sees the importance of adaptation and has a realistic view about the contributions that current renewable energy technologies can make.

In no way do I try to defend everything he says. But the criticism has to engage at a level that is appropriate. His views on democracy are wrong, but the authoritarian shortcut is common amomg many environmentalists and some prominent climate scientists. The same holds for climatic determininsm (i.e. we will get undesirable results, such as mass migration, automatically as a result of temperature increases) and the link to population (not enough food). Such are the lay assumptions made by many scientists about the functioning of the social world that really need to be studied by social scientists professionally.

ghost said...

has a realistic view about the contributions that current renewable energy technologies can make.

I do not know... he said, the Germans admitted wind turbines do not work. Not sure, what he is meaning, but we did not admit this, because it is not true. They work pretty good, and with new off-shore wind parks and better power grids they can deliver a good share of the electricity in Germany. In the UK they could be even better, as they have a better landscape for it. Well, maybe he is meaning, single focus on renewable energy would not work in short term. There, he is maybe right.

However, I think, some countries could rely only on renewable energy with current techniques. For example, Australia would have ideal natural possibilities. However, they also have cheap coal with a big lobby...

I think, I do not agree with some points of him (democracy and the model stuff, etc.), but I like his approach: critical and independent without conspiracy theories and baseless accusations... that's pretty seldom nowadays.

Had Prof Lovelock a big influence? Some climate scientist said, his theories motivated them to their work. prof Watson from UEA said it, for example... okay, he was a PhD student of him.

isaacschumann said...

I disagree with much of what Lovelock says, but I appreciate that he speaks his mind.

He says this, which I think is very relevant to the debate.

"You can make mistakes; they're helpful. In the old days, it was perfectly OK to make a mistake and say so."

I think thats a good lesson for everyone, both for those doing the criticizing and those making the mistakes. There's too much 'debunking' going on... I can't stand that word.

Zajko said...

Seems like the effectiveness of wind turbines (also solar panels) in Germany has been the subject of some debate. I've heard some pretty contradictory evidence on both issues.

From what I've heard from Lovelock before, he's pro-nuclear largely because he thinks it's the only technology that can have the sort of impact needed.
He's got a pretty unique point of view that makes a lot of people upset, so I like hearing from him.

Interestingly, Bill Gates has also jumped on the nuke bandwagon in a major way, and is investing majorly in a new "terrapower" technology that is about 20 years away, but promises to burn spent nuclear waste.

P Gosselin said...

Richard Tol in Der Spiegel!,1518,686205,00.html

Werner Krauss said...

Thanks, P Gosselin, very interesting article! Let's wait if they will have an English version tomorrow!

Werner Krauss said...

Lovelock - what a name! Really spooky.Otherworldly, almost.

P Gosselin said...

Big write-up in Der Spiegel International online.,1518,686697,00.html

Amazingly quite balanced, but with a tendency to warmism. (Personally cooling ought not be ruled out, and I think science is making a big mistake in ignoring the possibility). And Der Spiegel quoted too many scientists who are funded by governments that have a strong interest in cliamte catastrophe. These scientists have to be countered by those who are more independent. But that's another topic. Hans rightfully alludes to this point.

Hans von Storch is quoted at different places. My favourite:

"Unfortunately, some of my colleagues behave like pastors, who present their results in precisely such a way that they'll fit to their sermons," says Storch. "It's certainly no coincidence that all the mistakes that became public always tended in the direction of exaggeration and alarmism."

Pastors? I'd say some are more like firebrand Ayatollahs!

P Gosselin said...

At least we can now discern some sort of rift developing among German scientists. That is good news, as it is the only way science can go forward. Scientists who are very lukewarm, or even cool, ought not longer have any apprehension is bringing their findings and hypotheses to the table. That Spiegel write-up has given me hope.

P Gosselin said...

Leigh Jackson,
Read, if you haven't already,

Uncorrupt it is not.

Last post - Happy Easter!

Leigh Jackson said...

P Gosselin 17
"How Government Corrupts Science"

But Lovelock apparently thinks that science is inherently corrupt as practised today - not simply corrupted from without. Sounds as if he thinks it is too much like big-business with competetive career progression as the corrupting factor.

I don't really know, he doesn't elaborate in his radio interview. Seems as if he has given up on humanity.

Carl C said...

Has Lovelock's own "Gaia theory", which he's touted & built his entire career on, met and/or passed any scientific tests or critiques? It seems a bit funny he would rag on climate models considered his notion of Gaia sounds more like an LSD-trip circa 1967...