Welcome To The Lukewarmer Society, James Lovelock

  • Date: 05/04/14
  • Matt Ridley, The Times

Book Review: A Rough Ride to the Future by James Lovelock

This book reveals that James Lovelock, at 94, has not lost his sparkling intelligence, his lucid prose style, or his cheerful humanity. May Gaia grant that we all have such talents in our tenth decades, because the inventor of gadgets and eco-visionary has lived long enough to recant some of the less sensible views he espoused in his eighties.

Eight years ago, at the height of global warming alarmism, Lovelock turned uncharacteristically pessimistic in his book The Revenge of Gaia. He’d been got at by the greens. Despite all our efforts, he thought, “we may be unable to prevent a global decline into a chaotic world ruled by brutal warlords on a devastated Earth”. Billions would die, he said, and the few breeding pairs of human beings who survived would be in the Arctic.

In his new book, he now thinks he “tended to exaggerate the immediacy of global warming”, that “we may muddle through into a strange but still viable new world”, and that we can “keep our cool as the Earth gently warms, and even enjoy it when we can”. He admits that “the global average temperature has not risen as expected”, having “hardly warmed at all since the millennium”, and that he was “led astray” by the ice cores that seemed to imply changes in carbon dioxide were the dominant cause of changes in temperature. He thinks it is a mistake to take the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “projections almost as if written in stone”; instead we “need to stay sceptical about the projections of climate models”.

For those of us who have been saying such things for a while, and who were told more than once (as I was by the head of the Science Museum among others), that if Lovelock was very worried so should I be, this is delicious to read. Welcome to the Lukewarmer Society, Jim.

He regrets that huge sums have been “squandered on the renewable energy sources”, many of which are “ugly and hopelessly impractical” and threaten a “green satanic change” to Britain’s landscape. Yup. He thinks that Greenpeace is “a great and powerful negative feedback on all that enlightened technological progress stands for”. Amen to all that.

He still thinks climate change will happen, of course, as I and most people do, but he expects us to adapt to it, especially in the design of our cities.

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