Lovelock interview: We're doomed and carbon trading is a scam

Interesting interview with one of the more prominent voices in the global warming arena.

He basically says we’re pretty much all doomed and carbon trading is an ineffective feel good scam.

I disagree with the former and agree with the latter. ;)

I’ve seen a big shift to “we’ve failed, time for massive geoengineering” over the last year or so in the stuff I’ve read.

With Obama it’s possible that we might actually start doing something that resembles a solution.

That’s interesting. He doesn’t actually say we’re d0med, just that our current efforts aren’t going to get there. It seems to me, though, that the problem with his “bury a bunch of charcoal” idea is that it’s a one-time fix only, and the problem will just recur if we don’t also fix our emissions.

Edit: actually I guess I misunderstood the idea. But in that case, it seems too good to be true… there’s a perfect solution that solves the problem once and for all, with no adverse side effects, and all it takes is for farmers to do something that will make them more money? And yet he doesn’t think it will catch on. Hmm…

I heard a recent interview with him on BBC. He’s an interesting guy. He’s more “we have no hope, oh well” than I’d prefer, but he’s also pretty cynical on the way global warming is being addressed.

He hints at it in the article I linked, but in the radio interview he was much more animated in his opinion that global warming has been turned into a get rich scheme for people in industry as well as academia. Sounds like the most “global warming is a hoax” cynic, - except he 100% believes it is a crisis, and his cynicism stems from his feeling that most of the action being taken is more feel good, political, get rich/famous, etc. than actually working towards a true working solution that can be quantifiably checked.

What an interesting guy. He must have inspired certain parts of the game Alpha Centauri, so he’s contributed more than just the saving of the ozone layer.

And yes, things are going to be very, very different in 100 years. Most global change and human population research is no longer about if, but when we will no longer be able to keep things the way they are. I will see within my lifetime what it will be like with no Arctic ice caps, for instance.

We really are screwed*

The problem is, our entire culture and systems of living are built upon the free depletion and exploitation of natural resources.

Take the U.S. travel situation for example. Sure lowering emissions and raising MPG standards can be good, but it isn’t going to solve the underlying issue. We have too many cars on the road. Our system is flawed at the base level.

  • Sure we are not completely screwed, but we need to look deeper to prevent catastrophe. Historically we have not been able to change the systemic problems in just about anything.

Plus, I am a bit of a pessimist.

My entire lifetime I have heard we are doomed. Overpopulation, inability to feed the world (all with computer models to prove it - I remember having to type some of them into Fortan punchcards in college! LOL!) etc. And each time THIS one was different. THIS one had the concensus of the scientific community, etc. to prove we were doomed. Always tended to predict 20 - 50 years out as the time in which the changes would destroy us.

And somehow we always find the technology or the route to avoid it. Not saying we always will, but I am optimistic that way. I realize that many do not share my optimism. ;)

I have a saying:

“The problem with the Armageddon is that there’s no precedent for it.”

LOLOL! Andrew, I’m sorry, not laughing at you, but those are the EXACT words my professor in college used when my room-mate (who was in the class with me) griped about all the work required to type in the Fortran punchcards on the program that proved the world was going to lose 50% of its population by 1990 (this was in 1976) due to the inability of the earth to create enough food, no matter WHAT we did at that point.

I literally did a spit take of my coffee when I read that, with you posting in immediately after my talking about that prof and program! It was spooky! ;)

Yeah, but we keep creating new ways for it to happen: genetically engineered crops might find themselves suddenly susceptible to a new disease, the environmental impact of our population, designer biological weapons, nukes, the slow wasting effect of the internet on consciousness. :)

I suppose I should be alarmed by that, but all I feel is a vague desire to click more links…

Good point. We’ll get there yet, if we keep working at it!

I really like that phrase!

We’re getting to this weird point where we’re going to essentially have to take over stewardship of entire ecosystem if we need to survive.

Should be interesting.

It boggles the mind that acquiring the tech to do that is deemed much more achievable than population control and reduction.

sigh Another poorly constructed anecdotal rationalization.

First of all, I call foul on the food thing. That sounds like a singular experience, not representative of any sort of scientific consensus.

Secondly overpopulation is very complicated and there was never really a scientific consensus there either but rather a fierce debate between two sides with a lot of people in the middle. It’s also important to note that we didn’t “solve” overpopulation with technology. It happened that (in the first world) there was an external variable which helped out a lot: educated wealthier individuals naturally chose to have fewer children. Note that this wasn’t the argument used against overpopulation concerns (it was, as you mention, “technology will save us” or arguments like “people are resources, with a net positive value, therefore any number of people will be of value to the world”). And of course, that hasn’t helped the 3rd world. In the 3rd world the solution has been lots of deaths (Africa), draconian governmental restrictions (China) or in some cases the problem is still looming (India). However because it doesn’t affect us (1st worlders) directly I can see how you would assume that it was “solved”. And of course there are still hurdles to overcome. The study of population dynamics (for the 1st world) has shifted to studying how we can deal with increasingly older populations and still provide things like social security and if life expectancies start increasing at a rapid enough pace, overpopulation could once again become a problem for the 1st world.

Climate change is a completely different issue and your approach to it is inappropriate. You’re basically saying that a scientist once cried wolf and therefore you get to pick and choose when you listen to them. Note that this is the same sort of argument that a scientologist might use to eschew medical care. Climate change is a new, fresh problem with different variables, constraints, etc. It is likely that the resolution will neither be complete disaster nor will it be whisked away by technology (though either are possible). Current concerns (though they may border on doomsdayish) serve the purpose of steering us towards a better resolution. Hopefully, if the problem is not corrected for early there will be intermediate difficulties which signal us to change our ways but we may not be able to depend on that (cue slide of a boiled frog). We may partially correct but still see significant consequences. There is absolutely a strong scientific consensus about climate change and there may or may not be an external variable to save us here. All told, the resolution probably won’t look like anything anyone is predicting this moment but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth being concerned about (just as concern about overpopulation was and still is quite valid).

The problem with preventing catastrophe is that it’s hard to claim credit for anything. If you do your job right, nothing changes. Politically speaking, people always tend towards positive solutions, not negative solutions (i.e. solutions which create good things instead of solutions which prevent bad things). Your logic here falls right in line with that and of course it’s very deadly as well. It’s the same sort of logic that motivated people to ignore the potential for problems with our economy recently.

Where did I say don’t do anything? Where did I say that climate changes are not a serious issue?

I’m saying that I have heard, for most of my years, that we are doomed, every generation. And I am optimistic that we will indeed find a solution to the problem, particularly if (as Lovelock mentioned) we look for true cause and effect solutions and not just things that are political feel goods. I’m just not as pessimistic as those who believe the world is doomed.

And I said I also knew some here would disagree with me. So you can’t argue that I got EVERYTHING in my post wrong. :P ;)

Like I said, I’m just appalled by the logic. It’s the sort of rationalization used to justify a lot of anti-science thought. And with the case of population growth, that mindset didn’t really pan out like you seem to think it did: the problem worked out for the 1st world but not because it was “solved” and it’s still playing out, with significant negative impact, on the 3rd world. Nor was it the case that there was “scientific consensus” about population growth.

I think climate change will gradually work it’s way out too but not because of some rationalization that scientists “cried wolf” once about some other subject and therefore I get to be blissfully optimistic if I feel like it. I also think it’s important to note that the resolution will probably be somewhere between catastrophe and having the problem “solved” without incident or cost. And when/if we do solve the problem we should thank all the people who raised awareness now. Discussing potential catastrophe, even if it sounds a bit shrill, is an important part of the process of solving the problem. Also it’s important to recognize that it’s hard to award credit for the things that didn’t happen because of a person’s actions. I.e. discussing catastrophe, in order to prevent it, is a pretty thankless task.

The other side of that coin is we’ve only got one set of data points to work from and we really haven’t been around that long, at least not in a form that is relevant to the discussion. And on top of that, there really are various precedents for (localized) Armageddon of societies, we’ve just never been quite as globally connected as we are now to something somewhat resembling a single society, so never in as much risk as one set of shared actions being our undoing.

I don’t think we are particularly doomed, FWIW, but the fact that we haven’t yet destroyed ourselves completely is a long way from a proof that we won’t.