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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  1. The Jase

    SCIENCE

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

    1. Armando 123

      Re: SCIENCE

      Or, to pick less random examples, politics and newspapers

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: SCIENCE

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

      1. Code Monkey

        Re: SCIENCE

        The OP contrasted science and religion quite accurately IMO.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          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.

          1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            @Dave

            Thanks for putting it in a great way.

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

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      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)

    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      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)

      1. Atonnis
        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)

        1. Shakje

          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.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            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"

            1. CD001

              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.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          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.

    5. ArmanX

      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."

      1. Some Beggar
        FAIL

        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?

      2. nexsphil

        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.

      3. Karl H

        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".

        1. Some Beggar
          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.

        2. relpy
          Facepalm

          Re: SCIENCE

          "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.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ 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.)

        1. ArmanX
          Alert

          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.

          1. Some Beggar
            FAIL

            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

            1. ArmanX
              Facepalm

              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.

              1. Some Beggar
                FAIL

                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.

    6. Elbereth
      Coat

      Re: SCIENCE

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

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

      2. Jean-Luc Silver badge
        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...

    8. Turtle

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

    9. John 104

      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.

    10. asdf Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: SCIENCE

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

    11. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  2. Michael M

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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!

  3. Bob 18

    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.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      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

      1. Schultz
        Thumb Up

        @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!

        1. Visionar

          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.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      @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/

      1. Schultz
        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.

    3. Andy Fletcher

      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.

    4. rakdver

      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 :-)

      1. NomNomNom

        Re: Not so fast...

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

        Such as? Give just two examples

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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.

      1. NomNomNom

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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?

          1. NomNomNom

            Re: Not so fast...

            "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%"

            The Earth's temperature had topped off since the 50s and was even falling during the 70s. There was no reason to think there would be warming after the 1980s except for the influence of greenhouse gases.

            "this warming ceased to be statistically significant around 14 years ago"

            But check the details of that. The 2-sigma trend calculated here for Hansen's temperature record over the last 14 years is 0.095C/decade +- 0.161C

            http://www.skepticalscience.com/trend.php

            So the 2-sigma range is saying global temperature has been from -0.066C/decade cooling to 0.256C/decade warming over the past 14 years. So yes that means warming isn't statistically significant, but that's because of the size of the error. It isn't, as some people claim, because warming has stopped. It could after-all have been 0.256C/decade.

            That large error range of 0.161C is because 14 years is too short. Less data = more uncertainty.

    6. NomNomNom

      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.

  4. bill 36
    Thumb Up

    shock, horror, probe

    You mean we don't need electric cars?

    I think we should have an enquiry

  5. geomort

    Easy does it!

    Oh man... this is going to be jumped on all over by the likes of the Heartland Institute. Just to clarify Lovelock hasn't said global warming isn't dangerous.

    The modest global temperature increase of 0.8 - 1 degree is [actually] very significant. Even small annual variations in sea surface temperatures of 0.5 of a degree can cause rains to fail and terrible draught (as has happened in Brazil this year). A 1 degree warming is also a global average and doesn't show what is happening regionally (for example a 6 degree warming in polar regions, with almost no warming on the equate and some areas getting cooler). Yes the Earth is warming on AVERAGE but not everywhere. The negative consequences arise from the fact that we are ill adapted to survive in the resulting environments.

    Yes, Lovelock was alarmist but simply because he, like many others, underestimated the complex buffering systems the Earth possesses (e.g. negative feedbacks). We may never have a complete picture of the Earth system dynamics. But with a rate of warming unseen in the last 55 millions years, who can have blamed him. And surely is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the lives of 7 billion people.

  6. Audrey S. Thackeray

    So is he wrong

    about us needing to build nuclear power stations too?

    1. Aaron Em

      Lovelock: "The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing."

      Which raises the question: how come he's the bigshot climate scientist, and you're the nameless El Reg commentard? You certainly seem to know quite well what the climate is doing -- get Dr. Lovelock on the phone!

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: Lovelock: "The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing."

        "how come he's the bigshot climate scientist"

        He's not. HTH.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Easy does it!

      "we are ill adapted to survive in the resulting environments"

      Actually, humans are ill-adapted to survive in a huge range of environments, mostly at high latitudes and altitudes. We survive anyway in these conditions because we have the technology to make it so.

      Bushmen in the Kalahari, Indios in the Amazon forest etc can survive with extremely basic technology combined with huge knowledge of their environment, mostly because they need very minimal shelter and only very basic clothing, because it's rather warm in those areas. Global warming will INCREASE the range of environments where humans are adapted to survive.

      Of course, it will also cause lots of problems for species more adapted to the cold, and it will cause all sorts of unforeseen circumstances that will cause new technological problems for humans to solve. But not being adapted to survive in warmer climates is really the least of worries for the human race if the earth is 1 or 2 degrees warmer

    3. Flenser
      Alert

      Re: Easy does it!

      A modest temperature change of 0.8 - 1 degree is far less than what we experience between night and day, let alone summer and winter.

      It's not like we are suffering from "falling rain or terrible drought" now is it?

      Oh, wait a minute...

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: Easy does it!

        A modest temperature change of 0.8 - 1 degree is far less than what we experience between night and day, let alone summer and winter.

        Yeah, but the thing is, the temperature changes we see between night and day (or even summer and winter) are offset by the other side of the globe experiencing essentially the opposite shift. If you add up all of those localized and offsetting shifts, you get close to 0, which, multiplied by the mass involved, remains relatively close to 0.

        The temperature change of 0.8-1 degree is systemic -- experienced over the entire globe. Multiply the energy inherent in 1 Kelvin by the mass of the earth.

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: Easy does it!

          By the mass of the earth? You mean including all that interior mass which couldn't give a damn what happens to the climate or anything else on the surface?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So is he wrong

      We need a mix of energy generation, and nuclear is good at generating power whilst keeping the waste material away from the rest of the world. (Screw-ups aside.) Until science discovers how to deal with it well. Most other forms have immediate consequences, or else they are too dilute.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: shock, horror, probe

      How can we have electric cars when "they" are already complaining about being unable to generate enough (electric) power for our existing future demands ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: shock, horror, probe (electric cars)

        "How can we have electric cars when "they" are already complaining about being unable to generate enough (electric) power for our existing future demands ?"

        Really? Are you serious?

        If you are, presumably you're not aware that there is a massive difference between peak time maximum electricity demand (in the UK, around 50GW maximum) and off peak minimum demand (something over 20GW), and that you generally charge your electric vehicles OFF PEAK, when electricity supply exceeds electricity demand (and electricity is therefore cheapest)?

        The current problem wrt being unable to meet future demands is largely an inability to meet predicted PEAK demands (combined with too much reliance on high-CO2 fossil fuel for electricity in general, peak or off peak).

        In fact given a bit of creative use of existing technology the batteries of enough electric vehicles could be used to contribute a GW or two to help bridge that peak time demand gap, by charging up using off peak electricity, and feeding some or all back into the grid at peak times (using the same grid-tied-inverter technology that domestic PV systems already use).

        Does that help?

        You can watch the UK demand vary and see historic charts at http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ and

        http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Data/Realtime/Demand/Demand8.htm

    6. The Axe
      Mushroom

      Re: Easy does it!

      "But with a rate of warming unseen in the last 55 millions years, "

      Who's being alarmist then. You mean the Earth's climate is changing so rapidly just because of us pesky humans. We are causing the climate to change faster than that managed by major asteroid impacts, super volcanoes, etc?

      Even if it does warm by 1 degree, look back some time in the past and you will see that the Earth went through a cooling period. The Maunder Minimum. The temperature is only getting bouncing up a bit as part of the natural variablility in the climate and will end up around where it was around 1000. It can't be said that the higher temperatures in the past were due to human influence.

    7. scrubber
      Pint

      Re: Easy does it!

      "variations in ... temperatures of 0.5 of a degree can cause ... terrible draught"

      Damn right, I had to hand back my warm pint of terrible draught last night for a replacement.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Easy does it!

      "Lovelock, like many others, underestimated the complex buffering systems the Earth possesses (e.g. negative feedbacks)."

      Yes but at least Lovelock and you understood the difference between a negative feedback system (like a 741 op amp, for anyone who remembers those) and the ridiculous "self healing system" (to quote Orlowski) bollocks which followed in massive quantity from those who failed to, or chose not to, understand the science behind Lovelock's work.

      Even Daisyworld (readers who don't know it can look it up) isn't a self healing system, it's another negative feedback system, and like any negative feedback system if you take it beyond its sensible limits, bad things will happen.

      The number of downvotes you got presumably just illustrates how poor the standard of scientific education is among the readership here.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bugger.

    I've been going around telling everyone we're all DOOMED on the good authority of genius climate scientist Dr Lovelock, and now he says he was talking bollocks. Who can you believe?

    1. Elmer Phud
      Happy

      Re: Bugger.

      We're still all doomed (I've seen Brian Cox on telly and he said so) - you just need to adjust your prophet or timescale.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: Bugger.

      Is James Lovelock a Dr? Or a climate scientist?

      I think not.

      Funny how that impression is being given though isn't it...

  8. Aaron Em

    "the 92-year-old scientist"

    ISO standard public dotage again -- why do we let it go this far? There ought to be some kind of charitable organization tasked with going around and collecting our honored dodderers off their street-corner soap boxes and giving them a blanket and a chocolate biscuit or something, it's just shameful, a judgment on our society, to leave them on the street and let them go on about global warming or aliens with prosthetic nostrils or whatever they've fixated on.

  9. Aaron Em

    "His books include Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine, The Ages of Gaia, Healing Gaia, The Vanishing Face of Gaia and The Revenge of Gaia."

    How was this man taken so seriously for so long? "The Revenge of Gaia". Really.

    1. Some Beggar

      "How was this man taken so seriously for so long?"

      He wasn't. He's never really been taken seriously in the climate science community. The Gaia hypothesis isn't a falsifiable scientific theory and he's never put forward a convincing mechanism by which it can work. I don't think he has published any actual research on it for forty years. He's an author of popular books. He's quite a compelling personality which is why he gets dragged onto the telly and into the newspapers so often.

      (the revenge of gaia sounds like a "mature interest" film)

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        An author of popular books... yes, and more

        Dr Lovelock (a proper medical doctor, in the first place) is more famous, in certain scientific circles, for the invention of the electron capture detector than for his popular books. His scientific publication list is lengthy, and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society while Mr Orlowski was still in short trousers.

    2. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      You missed "Gaia vs Predator", "The Gaia Supremacy", "Gaia: The Clone Wars"...

      1. Mako
        Happy

        You beat me to it. I was going for Gaia Strikes Back and Return of the Gaia.

  10. Some Beggar
    Thumb Down

    Weak.

    "Gaia scientist" is a contradiction in terms.

    You might as well debunk homeopathy and claim that you've somehow undermined the medical research community.

    1. Ben 50
      Boffin

      Re: Weak.

      @Some Beggar

      Not sure that's very fair. The Gaia idea is interesting (and was part of a general movement at the time of uncovering larger systems which we previously had more or less (intellectually) seen as something between "a given" and "background noise).

      It is also a hypothesis, and not unreasonable. What's so crazy about the idea of multi-cellular life forms being part of a higher level multi-cellular life form? When one looks at the biology of us multi-cellular organisms (billions of tiny single-celled (and nested) lifeforms operating in the wierdest ways, well, I'm just blown sideways by the sheer complexity of the thing and how it can possibly exist at all!

      The reason it isn't so easy to falsify is because there is no really accepted and working definition of life - there are just too many exceptions to every rule.

      If, however, you were to take the definition of the living as something like "that which preserves its own identity" (Maturana and Varela I think) then I'd say that maybe the unexpected levels of self-regulation we *might* be seeing *might* be a symptom of "Gaia".

      The joy of science is keeping and open mind, and then trying to pin down what's really going as best we can... and this is a fascinating topic with a lot of work left in it, I'd say.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Weak.

        It's not about lowlife organising itself, or at least it wasn't before his Gaia theories started selling books and airtime.

        It's about negative feedback. Go read his early works or for the executive summary go read about Daisyworld.

        Negative feedback before eBay was well understood by anyone who understands analogue electronic circuit design (ie very few people these days) and by a few others.

      2. Some Beggar

        Re: Weak.

        "What's so crazy about the idea of multi-cellular life forms being part of a higher level multi-cellular life form?"

        There is no mechanism proposed by this could work and no test proposed to verify whether it is false. That might make it "interesting" to some people, but it disqualifies it from being a scientific hypothesis.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Weak.

      It is not a contradiction in terms.

      'Science' describes a process, 'Gaia' denotes a starting point.

      For example: I take 'All dogs are black' as my starting point, and follow the scientific process. I test, and determine that my hypothesis was wrong. I am no less a scientist than someone whose starting point was 'Dogs are different colours'.

      But yeah, we take your point: Disproving the Gaia theory is not the same as proving that Earth's atmospheric make-up is unrelated to climate.

  11. g e
    Facepalm

    He's obviously a heretic of some sort

    Cue the Warmologists saying 'cue the deniers' as usual, One True Religion and all that guff.

    What do they do with Warmology Heretics, anyway. Not like it's environmentally friendly to burn them at stakes, is it, now?

    Perhaps they beat them with Hockey Sticks.

    1. Some Beggar
      FAIL

      Re: He's obviously a heretic of some sort

      Burning people at the stake is carbon neutral if you use traditional faggots as fuel. In fact, given that you are eliminating the heretic's future fossil fuel consumption, it would probably act as a carbon sink.

      We don't have heretics in science. We have successful theories and unsuccessful theories.

      (we do occasionally strip naked and dance around an effigy of Karl Popper)

      1. Some Beggar
        Unhappy

        Re: He's obviously a heretic of some sort

        I can't believe people have downvoted the idea of me dancing naked. How incredibly rude.

    2. JulianB
      Flame

      Re: He's obviously a heretic of some sort

      >>Not like it's environmentally friendly to burn them at stakes, is it, now?

      I's ok; it's carbon neutral unless you douse them in petrol (and as long as the stake is from a sustainable source)

  12. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Made his money.

    So, now he's made his book sales, enjoyed his very extended fifteen minutes in the spotlight, and sauntered off into retirement, only now does he admit he was "alarmist". And the comeback for his exageration is zero. He doesn't have to return any of the money he made from his deliberately alarmist bunk, nor does he have to return any public money he received to fund his "research". Unfortunately, most of the AGW faithful out there will continue bleating his "teachings" regardless, never accepting that Lovelock took advantage of their stupidity to make a buck or two.

    1. Some Beggar
      FAIL

      Re: Made his money.

      He made his money selling books. He's allowed to do that because he doesn't live in North Korea. Feel free not to buy any of his books.

      Or ... you know ... throw a little hysterical strop about an imaginary gravy train.

      Whichever makes you feel better about your life.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: Made his money.

      "Unfortunately, most of the AGW faithful out there will continue bleating his "teachings" "

      I have never heard anyone advancing Lovelocks views.

      The attempts to put Lovelock at the centre of AGW is pathetic.

  13. Forget It
    Happy

    Gaia pls

    As long as the profits he made on those books with dodgy dust-jacket get ploughed back into Earth's good causes - who cares ... the Earth will have healed herself.

  14. Ross 7

    Pot...

    "Speaking to MSNBC, Lovelock admitted spicing up his books with headline-catching doomsday predictions"

    "Shale gas fracking ruled safe, but must stop at drop of a hat"

    0.5 on the Richter scale equates to approximately 350KJ. Force = mass x velocity => if you drop the hat from a height of 1m it will be travelling at 4.4ms-1 when it hits the deck. From that we can determine that either -

    a) the hat has a mass of ~79700Kgs; or

    b) the pot has cast aspertions as to the kettles colour.

    :)

    1. amanfromearth

      Eh?

      WTF are you talking about?

      Incidentally,

      f = m * a

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: Eh?

        He's presumably talking about impulse rather than force. The basic arithmetic and underlying point remain: you would need to drop a truly massive hat to cause a ripple on the Richter scale.

        (and if you're going to attempt pedantry then force is written as an upper case F)

  15. Cameron Colley

    AGW has done its job now anyhow.

    The profit making mechanisms have been set up by governments and those who offer them a cut of the action and Carbon Trading is likely here to stay. People like Lovelock have their small share of the plunder so can retire comfortably and enjoy it.

    Now that things are in place the terrifying AGW predictions will dry up and perhaps we'll have another scare..

    The problem then is that nothing is actally being done to help plan for climate change, to ensure that energy production meets demand or to ensure our negative impact on the environment is kept to a minimum.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When the earth was teaming with the largest , most varied and abundant plant and animal life it has ever seen, global temperatures were significantly higher than even the most scaremongering GW predictions allow.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's all good and well, but I'm not a Trilobite and I don't have gills either.

  17. Sandtreader

    Destruction of negative feedback mechanism

    Gaia and the Global Warming issue are both all about feedbacks, negative or positive. The (relative lack of) warming in the last decade or so would tend to indicate one or more of:

    a) The scary positive feedbacks which Hansen et al were warning about in the 1990's either don't exist or haven't triggered yet

    b) Negative feedbacks exist which weren't recognised before (clouds?)

    c) The apparent pause is just the bottom end of a cycle (e.g. PDO) and abnormal service will be resumed shortly.

    I think Lovelock got scared by (a), and temporarily forgot (b), which is the basic premise of his whole Gaia idea.

    *But*, and this is a big but, one of the things he pointed out at a talk a few years back which resonated with me is that we are systematically destroying the mechanisms of negative feedback - forests in particular. That to me means we need to focus back on all those traditional Green issues such as deforestation, soil loss, pollution and population control - many of which are also good carbon reduction strategies just in case the positive feedback folk are right after all...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Destruction of negative feedback mechanism

      Quite right - Lovelock is a cyberneticist, not an environmental scientist, however it's still odd to see that he doesn't seem know about the el nino/la nina effects on the environment - ie: It's only as cool as it is at the moment because of the cooling effect of la nina, without which it would be much warmer.

      Also odd that the "deniers" seemed to spout off about how Gaia theory was hippy rubbish, until the main proponent of Gaia theory started saying that "global warming was wrong, mkay"

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: Destruction of negative feedback mechanism

      "a) The scary positive feedbacks which Hansen et al were warning about in the 1990's either don't exist or haven't triggered yet"

      Positive feedbacks in climate exist and are always in play (lookup albedo feedback and water vapor feedback for example).

  18. graeme leggett

    Not wholly repentant - nor that he spiced up all his books

    The article reports Lovelock saying that he was “extrapolating too far." and in “Revenge of Gaia,” (2006) "he had gone too far in describing what the warming Earth would see over the next century."

    But

    "he would not take back a word of his seminal work “Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth,” published in 1979"

  19. IR

    I didn't think that any scientist subscribed to his Gaia theory anyway.

  20. cjoki
    Joke

    So can we get our money back?

    All this money spent chasing this nonsense....but maybe there is more than we know like this chart shows.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EPICA_temperature_plot.svg

    As you can see, dinosaurs all had a problem with climate change beleived to be caused by Coal Fire Plants, Automobiles, Smoking, Drinking, Bathing, Flatulence, Gay Couples, Straight Couples, Abstenance, Tiny Bits of Broken Glass, Religion, Science and A small flatworm named David.

    Did I miss anything else...?

  21. graeme leggett
    Joke

    If Lovelock was wrong

    Does it explain why I could never get the hang of SimEarth?

  22. Chris Cartledge
    Facepalm

    Gaia

    James Lovelock has a such history of grand extrapolation based on insufficient evidence, that one wonders why he is taken seriously. But look you at the piece of puff about Gaia in the Wikepedia...

    1. gorand2

      Re: Gaia

      The actual climate models never predicted such a great heat increase as to kill most humans. Only enough to melt some polar ice so some countries will lose territory to sea, and raise the temperature a bit.

  23. Get the puck outa here

    Hyperbole is literally the worst possible thing in the universe ever!!!

    And don't anthropomorphize the planet. She hates that.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    its the weed

    Most of these guys were smoking a lot of weed and taking acid, Stuart Brand admits as much and says he was probably wrong.

  25. Andi Blonde

    Lovelock's Labours Lost?

  26. Herby Silver badge

    Predictions...

    One only remembers (usually) the "true" predictions, and not the "false" ones. There was a proposed (I assume) scheme where you would pick 1024 random people and give them up/down stock predictions. Every time you would give half one way, and half the other way, continuing with the "true" half and abandoning the "false" half. After 10 of these predictions, you would have one left over "sucker" that you got all 10 predictions correct. Then you would "sell" the sucker a great something that would continue the streak for big bux. Of course the sold "predictor" wouldn't do anything, but it sure cost a bunch and had LOTS of history (selective in nature).

    Somehow I believe that this "climate change" stuff fits into this type of model, but I have no evidence, just a belief.

    Another fact: There has been "global warming" on Mars as well. Must be our increased CO2. :-)

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Predictions...

      Didn't Derren Brown do that one with the horse racing. Except he avoided the sting by not placing the "lucky streaker"'s bet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Predictions...

        "Didn't Derren Brown do that one with the horse racing"

        He certainly did it with something, can't remember whether it was horse racing or not.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: Predictions...

      "Another fact: There has been "global warming" on Mars as well. Must be our increased CO2"

      There hasn't, it's a myth.

    3. Some Beggar
      Stop

      Re: Predictions...

      "Somehow I believe that this "climate change" stuff fits into this type of model, but I have no evidence, just a belief."

      Why rely on belief for something that is straightforward to empirically test? These predictions are published in journals. They're not buried in concrete tombs. You simply need to collect them, evaluate their accuracy against some metric, and compare the distribution against what you would expect from pure chance.

      (or you could just use google scholar and read the papers that have already this ... unfortunately it completely contradicts your belief so you might not want to)

  27. PeterM42
    FAIL

    And he is now known as.......

    .....a complete PR@T

  28. Sarah Davis
    Coat

    I don't get what all the fuss is about !!

    Did anybody anywhere actually take him seriously. I thought we just chuckled and dismissed him as we got on with something relevent. If this article hadn't been written, none of us would remember who he was or what he said

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great game

    I remember him and the little pc program where I could grow a planet of flowers by changing environmental stuff, forget now what it was called. It was a distraction from work. Wonder if it's still around

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great game

      "I could grow a planet of flowers by changing environmental stuff ..."

      Daisyworld (already mentioned elsewhere). Your favourite search engine will find some current references possibly including a Flash one, if I remember rightly.Enjoy.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lovelock on BBC R4 (available online)

    For anyone interested: Lovelock was in conversation with the BBC's current favourite tame scientist, Prof Jim al-Khalili, on BBC Radio 4's "The Life Scientific" for half an hour this morning.

    Listen against:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01h666h/The_Life_Scientific_James_Lovelock/

    Unlimited lifetime - no rush to listen to it before the next episode is broadcast.

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