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back to article Gaia scientist Lovelock: 'I was WRONG and alarmist on climate'

Environmental luminary Dr James Lovelock says he now regrets being "alarmist" about climate predictions. Speaking to MSNBC, Lovelock admitted spicing up his books with headline-catching doomsday predictions. In 2006 Dr Lovelock predicted the Earth “would catch a morbid fever” that would destroy six billion people - "the few …

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SCIENCE

Gotta love science. It adjusts to the evidence and has no shame in admitting fault, unlike, to pick a random example, religion.

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Re: SCIENCE

Or, to pick less random examples, politics and newspapers

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JDX
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Re: SCIENCE

Oh look an atheist troll. Well, that's original.

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Re: SCIENCE

To quote Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the discoverer of Pulsars, "[In science] nothing is static, nothing is final, everything is held provisionally" and that "sometimes you have to abandon the picture"

She is a Quaker, and sees her faith as having those same qualities.

(I'm an atheist, but fair play to the good religious people, rather than those dogmatic types)

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Re: SCIENCE

Science and religion not mutually exclusive:

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a Quaker and discoverer of pulsars said "[In science] nothing is static, nothing is final, everything is held provisionally" and that "sometimes you have to abandon the picture".

She has also said that her faith informed this attitude, rather than encourage dogmatism.

(I happen to be atheist (but liking the 'thou shall not kill and steal'), but give credit where credit is due)

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Re: SCIENCE

The OP contrasted science and religion quite accurately IMO.

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Re: SCIENCE

Exactly right - Climate Change isn't science. It's a religion. The almighty model has been proven wrong time and again, and yet they still hand it to politicians, even thought they know said politicians will only use it to gain political power. It's not a tool for discovering more about life on Earth - it's a publicity stunt. It doesn't have to be, but scientists allow themselves to be deluded into believing their model is based on fact rather than fiction. It's a "faith-based model."

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Re: SCIENCE

Yeah, but he contrasted the 'ideal' of science with manifestation of religion. That's like contrasting the blueprints of one product with the production model of another.

Not all science is practised ideally, not all religion narrows your mind.

I just thought it would be good to highlight the fact that not all those with beliefs are dogmatic. Beliefs, like working hypothesises, can be changed.

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Re: SCIENCE

"The almighty model has been proven wrong time and again"

That's how models work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

But I'm sure you'll be happy to provide some specific examples of the current consensus on climate change being debunked.

No?

Why is that?

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Happy

Re: SCIENCE

Stan Marsh, the famous philosopher, on the subject of religion, when discussing evolution vs creationism:

'Couldn't evolution be the answer to how and not the answer to why?'

It's true, science and religion don't have to be exclusive.

(note: Stan Marsh - character from South Park)

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Re: SCIENCE

Well thanks Rush Limbaugh. I was always completely convinced by the fat lying bastards in the pay of industrial interests who "predicted" nothing would happen (yet) by virtue of their superior wisdom.

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@Dave

Thanks for putting it in a great way.

"Not all science is practised ideally, not all religion narrows your mind."

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Re: SCIENCE

Yes but the chances of religion screwing are far far less greater than science if I do add so myself.

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Re: SCIENCE

Religion and Science have nothing in common.

Proper science is about fitting theories to evidence and is in constant turmoil, and rightly so.

Proper religion is about dogma, faith does not change based on evidence.

Regardless of what the apologists say, there is nothing common between the two. They are diametrically opposite in terms of viewpoint, which is, by the way, why comparing creationism and evolutionary theory is pointless and futile.

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Re: SCIENCE

"Gotta love science. It adjusts to the evidence and has no shame in admitting fault, unlike, to pick a random example, religion."

It's people like you who provide the audience for garbage like Lovelock and Paul Ehrlich, another incompetent "scientist" whose desire to influence society goes lightyears beyond his qualifications and fitness to do so.

The *reason* people like you provide an audience for trash like Lovelock and Ehrlich is that you really have *no* idea of what science actually is - because, if you did, you would have recognized their agenda immediately upon reading their "work" and would never have taken them seriously.

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Re: SCIENCE

That wasn't science to begin with. It was some data and then an alarmist theory that news hounds gobbled up with abandon as the next hot thing to report on. Meanwhile an entire industry is spun up to capitolize on peoples FUD. And now he says he was wrong, sorry? What a joke.

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Re: SCIENCE

Evolution doesn't attempt to suggest a why and the concept of there even being a why makes it a leading question. If you can demonstrate why anyone should accept that there is some purpose for life, I'll be happy to listen.

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Re: SCIENCE

maybe a bit harsh, but I am kinda of with you. Climate Science is based of some facts, they just don't have them all, but the climate-mystic-megs seem to blithely ignore the fact that there are a lot of unknowns. It is these unknowns that keep bitting the climate-mystic-megs naff predictions. Hence why they seem to be works of fiction.

As a kid of the 1970s , we knew weather forecasters were about as accurate as Mystic Meg (or whoever was the famous astrologer then:) ) , but then came satelite pictures in the 1980s and gave weather forecasters at the least the chance of getting the next couple of days sort of right, and this seems to have given them over confidence.

The test case for climate science is just so big, you need a spare planet, the ability to change the make up of the gases, the types of life on the planet,with control planets to make sure meteriorite impacts and solar output don't skew the results too much, and a few million years to test it over. I don't see them managing that, or any accurate predictions anytime soon, unlike real science that has a lot less unknowns, without any mystic megs in sight.

So yeah , there is a lot of "faith" in climate "science".

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FAIL

Re: SCIENCE

Yawn another day another AO or LP human climate change denial article. Preach on brother Beavis.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Dave

I was thinking along the line of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and the concept of The Church and 'a church' (made from stone and mortar). I.e the ideal and the concept are separate. There are passages in the Gospel of St Luke (IIRC) where JC is taking the piss out of St Stephen for having a church-building fetish... 'Well, if you makes you happy, knock yourself out... but I can't help thinking you're missing the point' [Paraphrasing, d'oh!]

We could also cite Frank Zappa: 'To be original and violent in your work you must be disciplined in your home life' and even then was paraphrasing some French bloke. I'm led to believe that this forms the basis for Aldous Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza, though I haven't yet read it.

Aldous was inspired to write Brave New World after witnessing a post-war ICI plant. Kurt Vonnegut was similarly inspired by an American chemical plant to write a factual piece, but reviewers assumed he was writing science fiction, not journalism- that was the pace of change, then. KV, a devout atheist, famously announced "Isaac's [Asimov, Humanist, yet scholar of the Old Testament] in Heaven now" to a meeting of American Humanists (ROFL), and that he was so glad he was born into a world in which JC's Sermon On The Mount was delivered ('blessed are the cheesemakers' *peacemakers). "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" = "don't be a cu^t"

And leave that Welsh tart alone.

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Re: SCIENCE

"If you can demonstrate why anyone should accept that there is some purpose for life, I'll be happy to listen."

Fair point, nihilistic as it might sound. Instinctively, aesthetically, the idea of wiping out species is abhorrent to us. That said, if we fuck up this globe - and us with it- there is plenty of scope for many new species (and ecosystems) to evolve and die out [and process repeat umpteen times] before the death of the Sun renders the Earth a crisp ember in about 5 billion years.

Life is, because it has been. Patterns of molecules that are, tend to be those patterns that have been, and will be- with some iterative tuning to local conditions along the way. They have a quality of replacing themselves.

Another way to answer you question is to note that all mature ecosystems are very, very efficient at degrading [usually solar] energy. "Catch-22: Because we can"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: SCIENCE

@skelband "Proper religion is about dogma, faith does not change based on evidence."

Yes and no. Would your faith in the sun rising tomorrow AM be shaken by a solar eclipse (if you hadn't heard of its prediction)? Or would you amend, and fine-tune your faith?

I think you will find that many religions are happy to embrace The Theory Of Evolution By The Natural Selection Of Random Variations, and indeed anything that is demonstrably true. There are areas in life which science doesn't (can't) express a view, such as how to treat each other. 'Hawks Vs Doves' is an piece of game theory, not an instruction.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: SCIENCE

If he did not say anything others would have. It was not as if he did not announce his projections. Oh, and if you go back to religion when prophets said something was going to happen and it did not they got stoned (rocks thrown at them until they were dead). So even in religion reality trumps hogwash.

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Boffin

>They are diametrically opposite in terms of viewpoint

Not really. They are orthogonal. I am agnostic, but see no reason why you couldn't have a competent scientist that believed in God*.

This whole science vs. God thing is quite dreary, quite a new development post-Enlightenment and only a result of entirely too many merkins not being educated enough to know anything about well... anything. So that the slightest whiff of intellect has them swooning in righteous anger.

*while choosing to ignore some or all of the weird stuff like creationism, floods, virgin births, etc...

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Headmaster

Re: SCIENCE

"The test case for climate science is just so big, you need a spare planet"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observational_science

There are some fundamental differences between observational and experimental science, but that doesn't automatically mean the former is invalid or based on 'faith'.

And if you take the argument too far then it starts to sound disturbingly similar to the arguments used by creationists to undermine our theories on the age of the planet and the universe.

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@ ArmanX

Newtonian Mechanics has been proven wrong time and time again, but it still got man to the moon.

Small amounts of evidence against are not the same as being "proven wrong", anyway.

Assuming it is fine to carry on as usual and that nothing will happen with the climate is the faith-based take on this. Attempting to mitigate all possible futures is, by contrast, pragmatism.

(I wish more people would smoke again, then this self-serving anti-science bullshit could be re-directed at the "debate" over whether or not smoking causes lung cancer.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: SCIENCE

Sadly, the very question "why" pre-supposes that a meaningful answer even exists. If you assume that, then you're bound to end up talking about god and destiny and all kinds of other nonsense. How about you don't assume that? :)

Science and religion are exclusive because religion picked a fight with science, and science won. If religion still wants to hang out now it's fine as long as it shuts the fuck up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: SCIENCE

Yes, Turtle, whereas "people like you", who draw inferences (he has no idea what science is; he takes both Lovelock and Ehrlich seriously) based on scant evidence (15 words) clearly have the utmost respect for scientific method.

And the *reason* you don't care about scientific method, avoiding ad hominems, not jumping to conclusions etc. is that you have an anti-Lovelockian agenda of your own which clearly transcends rationality.

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"The test case for climate science is just so big, you need a spare planet, the ability to change the make up of the gases, the types of life on the planet,with control planets to make sure meteriorite impacts and solar output don't skew the results too much, and a few million years to test it over. I don't see them managing that, or any accurate predictions anytime soon, unlike real science that has a lot less unknowns, without any mystic megs in sight."

So there we have it - the "why" that sits behind evolution.

We're just a weather simulation. Douglas Adams was damn close to the mark.

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Re: SCIENCE

Fair point, nihilistic as it might sound. Instinctively, aesthetically, the idea of wiping out species is abhorrent to us.

... no it isn't - otherwise we'd not have done it ... repeatedly.

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Re: @ ArmanX

My point is not that studying climate change is not science, but that Climate Change (note the capital letters) is not even *about* science. The study of climate change is science; Climate Change, however, is about publicity, fear-mongering, and greed. Believing in Climate Change is taking a step of faith, one based on a disproved model. Granted, assuming the scientists are wrong and polluting to your hearts content is ALSO not science - but not part of my point.

Science has proven that the climate model used by Lovelock is wrong. The predicted outcome, a complete loss of polar ice caps (among other things), has not happened. Therefore, the model is flawed, and requires revision. Science creates and dispels hypothesis every day; that's the entire point. Have an idea, test it, and if it fails, throw it away. But if you "really believe in" something, it's hard to throw it away - it's no longer science, but religion. All the politicians and press going on about the end of the world are basing their beliefs on last years experiment, and are no more following science than the guy who said the rapture would happen last Fall. Or was it Spring...

My point is that the current model ceased being science when it was disproved, but not abandoned. Following a disproved model in the hopes that it may someday but "un-disproved" is faith, not science.

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Re: @ ArmanX

"My point is that the current model ceased being science when it was disproved, but not abandoned."

Then your point is empty since nobody has "disproved" the science. The overwhelming scientific consensus is still very much in favour of the model of man-made climate change:

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.abstract

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Re: @ ArmanX

I'm sorry. Perhaps I wasn't clear. Allow me to use small words so you can more clearly understand:

Yes, no one has disproved the science. But that's not what I'm talking about. The word "model" is not actually interchangeable with the word "science", you see. Regardless of the the truth of the science, if a suggested model is disproved, it should be forgotten. One model that was suggested many years ago said that, among other things, the polar ice caps would melt completely by the year 2010. However, the polar ice caps are intact. Smaller, maybe, but still present. They haven't melted. That means the model was disproved. Meanwhile, the politicians and the press are still referring to the old, wrong, discarded, disproved model(s), adhering to them with religious fervor.

I am not attacking science. I am not attacking scientists. I am not even attacking the science of climate change. I am attacking, for lack of a better word, the Cult of Climate Change - people who would rather spread fear and chaos in their greed, power-grabbing, or just plain ignorance, than actually share useful information.

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Re: @ ArmanX

(I'd avoid the weak attempts at condescension if I were you. I'm a scientist. I'm perfectly comfortable with the concept of a scientific model and its place within the broader scientific process. I even know some long words.)

One model that was suggested many years ago said that, among other things, the polar ice caps would melt completely by the year 2010.

Citation please.

I am attacking, for lack of a better word, the Cult of Climate Change

No. What you are attacking is a straw man.

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Retirement:

It does seem to affect scientists badly. Since they are no longer generating data they do tend to grasp for relevance by going for the soundbite. This seems to apply no matter the belief. They all end up more like columnists.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Retirement:

But also someone who earns a living in researching how to save the earth from potential disaster scenario X has a significant interest in playing up the probability and scale of disaster scenario X to ensure that the funding keeps coming .... announcing that disaster scenario X turns out not to be a serious problem and probably would never have happened anyway isn't going to keep a research lab funded! Once they've retired (or perhaps decided that they're not going to get around to writing another book) then they may be able to take a more rounded view on the situation!

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Not so fast...

There's a difference between scientists spouting off random predictions, and scientists publishing peer-reviewed research. Let's look at some of the past peer-reviewed publications. For example, Jim Hansen's paper on CO2 and climate change from 1981. (Hansen is considered "climate alarmist enemy number 1" by the climate change denial cabal). His predictions from 1981 have been pretty spot-on, actually a little on the LOW side. I think that's pretty remarkable.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/04/evaluating-a-1981-temperature-projection/

Sure, the Earth hasn't been fried yet (and hopefully never will). But 10 years is a blink of an eye in geological time. If Hansen's predictions continue to hold true for the next 30 years, we'll be dealing with some serious consequences.

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WTF?

Re: Not so fast...

Is that the same Jim Hansen as this one?

“Within 15 years,” said Goddard Space Flight Honcho James Hansen, “global temperatures will rise to a level which hasn’t existed on earth for 100,000 years”.

The News and Courier, June 17th 1986

Just wondered.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=n39JAAAAIBAJ&sjid=pgsNAAAAIBAJ&pg=4671,5141658&dq=james-hansen+desert&hl=en

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

@Bob: Talking of scientists spouting off...

...there's a nice roundup of Hansen's predictions here:

http://hauntingthelibrary.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/james-hansen-1986-within-15-years-temps-will-be-hotter-than-past-100000-years/

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Re: Not so fast...

Is it really surprising that if hundreds of people make different predictions one of them turns out to be right? And if 10 years is the blink of an eye (no argument there) 30 years isn't?

Of course, many scaremongers have (very wisely) chosen to make predictions they won't be alive to see happen (or not). Lovelock must be kicking himself.

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Re: Not so fast...

Ehm... there were many papers with (wildly different) temperature predictions published in 80's (several of them by Hansen -- and no, they are not getting more accurate over time). It is pretty much obvious that some of them would approximately match the reality. Note that this conclusion holds whether any of the papers is correct or not :-)

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Re: Not so fast...

So his projection overestimated the rise in temperature by 30% and you think that's good!? I could've got closer sacrificing a fucking chicken.

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@Symon

Actually we had quite a long ice age in those last 100 000 years. So the recent temperatures are indeed higher than any since some 100 000 + years. (I am looking at the Wikipedia temperature record, if you want better data, please follow the data trail yourself ).

“Within 15 years,” said Goddard Space Flight Honcho James Hansen, “global temperatures will rise to a level which hasn’t existed on earth for 100,000 years”.

Check, this guy seems to beat the odds again and again!

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Stop

@Andrew Orlowski

Selectively choosing data to prove something (someone) false is Bad Science. Get the linked book and stop wasting our time with pointless propaganda.

You are behaving just as bad as the worst offenders on the global warming side of the debate.

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Re: @Symon

Wrong....earth is lucky to have climbed out of one of the coldest periods in the Last 10,000 years, know as the little ice age....in fact 9800+ years have been warmer than today's cooling climate....watch out for sun cycle 24 & 25....predicts a return to Dalton or worse minimums.

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Re: Not so fast...

"Ehm... there were many papers with (wildly different) temperature predictions published in 80's"

Such as? Give just two examples

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Re: Not so fast...

"So his projection overestimated the rise in temperature by 30% and you think that's good!? I could've got closer sacrificing a fucking chicken."

You are forgetting that the world could have cooled. In fact climate deniers were still insisting in the early 2000s that the earth hadn't warmed since the 80s.

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Re: Not so fast...

Hansen's 1980s temperature predictions were remarkably accurate given that no-one else was expecting the world to warm at that time and that global temperature records were only a few years old. The world could have cooled or even stayed flat, but instead it warmed several tenths of a degree over subsequent decades just as Hansen predicted. Hansen's 1988 prediction did overshoot the actual warming trend by about 30%, mainly because Hansen's 1988 climate model was more sensitive than average models today, showing 4.2C warming per doubling of CO2 when today's models show an average of 3C per doubling.

The man not only pioneered climate models, but also global temperature records and was one of the only, if not THE only, person to call the warming that happened back in the 80s. So give him some slack and I recommend taking his warnings about the ongoing CO2 rise seriously.

Note that at no stage did Hansen's work, or the work of any climate scientist (lovelock isn't one) have the Earth boiling up or frying.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not so fast...

I'm not forgetting that the world could've cooled at all. With no prior knowledge of the temperature change then, of course, the probability of the world having cooled is 50%, warmed likewise 50%. With prior knowledge of the fact that the earth had been warming for 100+ years then the probability of it cooling is significantly less than 50% and that of it heating is much greater. It was hardly rocket science to take a punt on warming, now, was it?

The fact of the matter is that he overestimated the magnitude of the warming and it's a fact that this warming ceased to be statistically significant around 14 years ago. Ergo, I would say that Hansen was hardly the Sage of Fucking Omaha, was he?

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