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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Previously I reported how, on asking 10s of thousands of people worldwide to name as many as 2 scientists who said catastrophic warming was happening & who aren't ultimately paid by government. I got answers from 2 people. One originated with the climate correspondent of the Independent who named only Professor James Lovelock & the other was an online comment on a South African site naming only Professor James Lovelock.

I am therefore very pleased to see that Professor Lovelock, while still worried about the possibility of warming, is not quite the chief prophet of alarmism portrayed. According to the Times
the other night at the Royal Society, when a small gathering of luminaries turned up to hear that extraordinary nonagenarian, the scientist James Lovelock.

They had all come: David MacKay, chief scientist at the Department of Energy and Climate Change; Michael Green, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge; Michael Wilson, producer of the James Bond movies; Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum; and more. You knew why they had answered the Isaac Newton Institute’s invitation. They wanted to learn where one of the most interesting minds in science stood in the climate debate...

To my surprise, he immediately professed his admiration for the climate-change sceptics.

I think you have to accept that the sceptics have kept us sane — some of them, anyway,” he said. “They have been a breath of fresh air. They have kept us from regarding the science of climate change as a religion. It had gone too far that way. There is a role for sceptics in science. They shouldn’t be brushed aside. It is clear that the angel side wasn’t without sin.”...

Lovelock places great emphasis on proof. The climate change projections by the Meteorological Office’s Hadley Centre — a key contributor to the IPCC consensus — should be taken seriously, he said. But he is concerned that the projections are relying on computer models based primarily on atmospheric physics, because models of that kind have let us down before...

How, asks Lovelock, can we predict the climate 40 years ahead when there is so much that we don’t know? Surely we should base any assumptions on things we can measure...

No one should be complacent about the fact that within the next 20 years we’ll have added nearly a trillion tons of carbon to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. When a geological accident produced a similar carbon rise 55m years ago, it turned up the heat more than 5C. And now? Well, the effect of man-made carbon is unpredictable. Temperatures might go down at first, rather than up, he warns...

How should we be spending our money to prevent possible disaster? In Britain, says Lovelock, we need sea walls and more nuclear power. Heretical stuff, when you consider the vast amount that Europe plans to spend on wind turbines.

“What would you bet will happen this century?” a mathematician asked him. Lovelock predicted a temperature rise in the middle range of current projections — about 1C-2C — which we could live with.
Nothing he said that I would seriously disagree with. That the Times considers it worth pointing out that this scientist "places great emphasis on proof" shows how far our media have gone. Predictions should be treated seriously & tested both mathematically & against real world measurements - which is what the sceptics have done, against the wishes of the alarmists. Jerry Pournelle, for whom my admiration must be obvious, has regularly said that he is worried about us running an open ended experiment of dumping billions of tons of CO2 in the atmosphere, it is simply that we should actually measure the effects rather than jumping into scare stories & it is equally true when Lovelock says it.

I have always said that I regard their position on nuclear power as a touchstone of the integrity of any "environmentalist" supporting the possibility (let alone alleged 95% certainty) of catastrophic warming. Nuclear is the only way of producing reliable continuous power in quantity without CO2. If you truly believe CO2 is causing a catastrophe for civilisation then you simply cannot fail to enthusiastically support it. Lovelock has been almost alone among environmentalists in consistently doing so - the only other one I can think of is Bishop Hugh Montefiore who was drummed out of FoE for saying it.

My guess would be that CO2 warming will be less than 1-2 degrees but we could certainly live with that - it puts us up with the Medieval Warming & probably still less than the Garden of Eden like Climate Optimum of 5,000-9,0000 BC. I am also more sanguine even than Pournelle because I believe any geo-engineering problem can be solved once we have space industrialisation, which we can have any time we decide on it, because "we would build a Lunar colony on weekends and third shifts - And solving global warming, if it actually ever turns out to be a problem, by building tinfoil parasols on bank holidays.".

I have previously mentioned Lovelock's Gaia theory, that the Earth's biosystems have positive feedback that help survival. Though I incline to an alternate idea that we live in a multiverse so the undeniable statistical improbability of us being here is the result of universes where things went otherwise & the Earth is not habitable not having observers to see. Whichever is correct that statistical improbability exists & it cannot be the conventional "nothing out of the ordinary, move along" one.

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