In an interview with msnbc the famous philosopher-scientist admits that he was being too alarmist about climate change. He says the same applies to other influential voices in the environmentalist debate such as Al Gore. But Lovelock is unique in his self-critical attitude, something he had already done in the 1990s when he realized that his reassurances about the ozone layer were misplaced. His honesty shows the limits of scientific reasoning when making evaluations of uncertain developments. And he admits being wrong in opposite directions, in the first case not alarming at all (or, rather, reassuring), in the second alarming too much. Perhaps the second was a reaction to the first, maybe an overreaction.
This shows how brittle the link between alleged facts and their interpretation is. Lovelock deserves respect for being open about it. He has not joined the ranks of 'denialism' though.
Lovelock says: “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”
“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 the interview, Lovelock said he would not take back a word of his seminal work “Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth,” published in 1979.
But of “Revenge of Gaia,” published in 2006, he said he had gone too far in describing what the warming Earth would see over the next century.
“I would be a little more cautious -- but then that would have spoilt the book,” he quipped.
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