Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Thanks, Danny, for all the links -- fascinating idea and drawingsof your polar cities concept, but
surely things aren't that urgent, are they?

If average world temperatures rise by
1.8 to 4.0 degrees Centigrade in the U.N. Climate Panel's "best
estimate" this century ..... Longyearbyen, Norway will still be
cold in 100 years' time, let alone in a couple of decades. Looking at
the Norwegian weather forecast, for instance, it's -18C today in
Longyearbyen (...and the sun doesn't rise there until early March after
the Arctic winter).

I'd guess that with a severe warming, Stockholm might be more like Paris
is now by the end of the century -- that might persuade some more Swedes
to buy summer homes by the Baltic Sea, but not move to the polar regions
unless they were cross-country skiing fans upset by a lack of snow in
the south."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: I think this reporter, like many others, still doesn't get it. He doesn't sense the ''long emergency'' we are in now, nor does he sense the ''urgency'' of what is happening.....He thinks I am talking about real estate in the northern Sweden, and cross-country skiing fans...... NO SIR! I AM TALKING ABOUT THE FATE OF HUMANKIND! of course, it stands to reason, who am I to speak of such things, no PHD, no research institute employing me, no VIP status, no scientific credentials, a virtual nobody!]


Anonymous said...

"We Are Now On the Hairy Edge..."

Kit Stoltz blogs:

For a modest man, Dr. James Hansen, the Cassandra of global warming, has become quiet fiery.

To wit (from his most recent letter to Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany, on why she must not allow coal plant construction):

''...we must have a prompt moratorium on the construction of coal-fired power plants that do not capture CO2, and we must phase-out existing coal-fired power plants over the next two decades. It is foolish to build new plants with the knowledge that they will have to be bull-dozed in the near future.

Given the fossil fuel facts summarized in the letter, the alternative to elimination of CO2 emissions from coal use would be to place a contraption on the back of each of our automobiles to capture the CO2. Remember that the mass of the CO2 is more than three times larger than the mass of the fuel in the tank. Can you imagine the price of this contraption? And where are you going to take and stow the CO2 after you capture it?

One of my next posts will be a paper that I hope makes the story clearer. We are now on the hairy edge. We are, in fact, going somewhat beyond the safe level of atmospheric CO2, but there is enough potential for storage of CO2 in soils and the biosphere that we can take care of the excess via improved agricultural and forestry practices, improvements that make sense for other reasons – provided that we phase out coal use except where CO2 is captured and sequestered.

Old geezers living on high ground may not be concerned about ice sheet stability and future sea level rise, or the out-of-control mess that we threaten to leave for coming generations. However, when one looks at species loss and its relation to climate change, simple calculation shows that each new coal-fired power plant will be a dagger in the heart of at least several irreplaceable species, even though we cannot identify specific species with a specific power plant.''


Climate change pioneer scoops Capital honour: Chris Rapley

Edinburgh Evening News, UK - Jan 30, 4008

This is the second time the city council-backed medal has gone to a climate change expert in the last three years, with Prof James Lovelock the winner in ...


Ronald Says:

Every crisis has the interesting individual. Edmund Teller, who developed the H-bomb was quite the advocate for it, he thought that it would solve so many problems. Dr. Strangelove who was fictional and I can’t remember if it were based on Teller, would be telling us now about the shelter gap and rush to Antarctica and make the deal with Canada to populate the northland.


''In 1973, a movie called Soylent Green was made. It presented a very dark, hopeless, and depressing view of how the world would be in 2022. I have no doubt that 15 years from now, the world will look nothing like the world depicted in the film. I’m pretty sure that in 2040, Danny Bloom's predictions will be just as laughable.''

Anonymous said...

Earl Killian Says:

October 26th, 2007 at 11:01 am
Lovelock is suffering from binary thinking. The question is not whether it is too late or not too late (a binary choice). It is late (a continuous variable), but the sooner we start doing something about the problem, the less problematic will be the consequences. Even if the consequences were as terrible as Lovelock suggests, it would be worse still to continue with business as usual.


I hate to put it this way, but on what, exactly, does Bloom base these scary and very precise predictions? On other words, is this the result of modeling and scientific analysis, or is it just a PIDOOMA (pulled it directly out of my ass)?

Frankly, I’m very tired of the barrage of predictions we get based on a whole lot of nothing, whether it’s the cornucopians telling is oil won’t peak for another 50 years, or the Apocalypticons spouting gloom and doom about GW or peak oil every chance they can manufacture.

We’re facing some extremely serious problems on the energy and environmental fronts, problems that will severely test our flexibility and ingenuity. There will be a lot of human pain involved, and even more economic impact as we make the needed transitions to lower oil, lower emissions ways of doing everything. But I have zero doubt we’ll do it.


Cliff Says:

October 26th, 2007 at 1:02 pm
It must be acknowledged that Lovelock has been paying attention to this stuff and to trends - scientific and societal - for a long, long time. He’s not a kook who just wandered into the studio to rant incoherently. He may be predicting the extreme to get us off our asses, and he may believe every word he said. I don’t know him, personally. But I do see that many of the predictions based on science are coming true before their forecasted dates. Undeniable evidence of climate change? Evidence of human intervention? Who really knows. Lay down your bets, ladies and gents.


Shannon Says:

October 26th, 2007 at 4:43 pm
I thought Lovelock’s book on the Gaia hypothesis had some merits but was embarrassing in the way a romance novel is an embarrassment when juxtaposed with a science textbook. It’s obvious he cares a lot and for that I give him credit. But he does not know the outcome of this crisis; nobody does.


Jeff Goodell Says:

October 26th, 4007

I’m the author of the Rolling Stone profile of Lovelock. Glad to see the article provoking debate on one of my favorite blogs.

Shannon: you’re right, Lovelock’s first book has embarrassing passages. But have you looked at his later work? “Ages of Gaia,” which he wrote in the late 1980s, is much better and more scientifically rigorous. One of the interesting and refreshing things about Lovelock is that he is happy to admit his mistakes and revise/refine his thinking, as he has done in subsequent books about Gaia.

Ron: the charge that Lovelock’s thinking was “quasi-religious” (tho I’m not sure what that means) was often leveled at him back in the 1970s, but as I said above, he’s refined his ideas a lot since then. Have you read anything recently? To my knowledge, no one has ever questioned the rigor or accuracy of Lovelock’s grasp of science. Indeed, he’s proved his brilliance over and over. It’s his extrapolations that get him into trouble. But when it comes to global warming, it’s Lovelock’s basic view is that scientists have become far too timid in how they talk about what’s at stake here — that they say things to each other that they won’t dare say in public.

Is it a positive, hopeful, Oprah-like vision of the future that we can all rally around? No. Is he reckless? Sure.

He freely admits — as I wrote in the piece — that he might be wrong. But he feels that the careful, qualified statements by the vast majority of scientists have failed to communicate what’s at stake here. And judging from your remark about “the silly AGW thing,” he’s right.


Andrew Friedberg Says:

October 29th, 2007 at 11:15 pm

I enjoyed your article. I had to read it twice, as in the beginning I came across this paragraph shift:

“Lovelock knows that predicting the end of civilization is not an exact science. ‘I could be wrong about all this,’ he admits as we stroll around the park in Norway. ‘The trouble is, all those well-intentioned scientists who are arguing that we’re not in any imminent danger are basing their arguments on computer models. I’m basing mine on what’s actually happening.’

When you approach Lovelock’s house in Devon, a rural area in southwestern England, the sign on the metal gate reads …”

I immediately skimmed past a third of the article to the end to find out his qualifications for possibly the most pessimistic, and horror-filled, assertions I have ever read. It was as if I had just read the sentence: “Dr. James Lovelock says we’re all doomed, you, your wives and husbands, your children, and your friends, absolutely doomed. There is no hope, don’t even try. Kill yourselves today.

Dr. Lovelock was born in England in the late twenties …”

I just thought it was an odd time to change the subject of the article to this guy’s life story. But when I finished the article I re-read the earlier sections on his life ad found them interesting.

Over all though, I think that Lovelock is either a brilliant thinker on the level of Einstein or Newton, or as irresponsible a thinker as there has ever been.

To suggest that close to the whole of the leading scientific thinking on a certain subject is wrong is as incredible a moment as Einstein’s first essays on electro-dynamics, or Newton’s first publications on basic physics. For him to be correct, he must be as ahead of his time as they were of theirs.

I was also a little weirded out by his giddiness when discussing this issue, and his suggestion that those who survive this massive death and human immolation will find it “exciting.” Hmmm … well I guess scientists see things differently than the rest of us. I’ve read Night by Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor, and I don’t recall him discussing the Holocaust as exciting.

Either way, I would have liked a bit of discussion with this idea. At the end of the article you quote a few sciency people who say that Lovelock is over-estimating, or that he is perhaps a bit off, but no real discussion takes place with his major assertions. You even mention that Gould and Dawkins laughed at the Gaia models decades ago, but don’t discuss any of the alternative models or even the modern scientists who disagree with him. You also fail to mention that he has changed his mind on how horrible it will be for us all a few times, including September of this year …

I would have enjoyed some of the dissenting ideas. Because if we are all totally screwed, it would be nice to indulge in some delusions of a future for my unborn children that doesn’t involve igloo building, war-lording, and people eating.


Jeff Goodell Says:

October 30th, 5007


Thanks for your thoughtful comments. A few points, briefly: Lovelock doesn’t believe that the scientific establishment is “wrong” about global warming — it’s just that, in his view, they haven’t grasped the full picture of what’s going on, nor the implications of those changes. He talks often about how compartmentalized modern science has become, about how scientists know more and more about less and less. He also talks frequently about how afraid many scientists are afraid to speak out — say anything too controversial and they fear they’ll be marginalized, lose their jobs, etc. Obviously, there are exceptions to this — Jim Hansen, for example. (a scientist whom Lovelock has much respect for).

As for the lack of substantive analysis of Lovelock’s views, this is a tricky balance to strike. I too would have liked a little more room for more detail, and early drafts indeed included it. If you want to know more, I suggest you read Lovelock’s latest book, The Revenge of Gaia. And there is a good scientific critique of the book on Real Climate ( Also, I quote Wally Broecker in the story — a highly respected paleoclimatologist — as saying that Lovelock’s view that it’s too late to cut emissions is “dangerous nonsense.”

Finally, just a word about Lovelock’s sense that this dark future he imagines will be “exciting.” One of the things I may have failed to communicate in the piece is Lovelock’s particularly British wit. I don’t mean to say that he thinks this is all a joke. Far from it. To Lovelock, “exciting” does not mean “fun”; it means something closer to “vividly alive.”


.....just a word about Lovelock’s sense that this dark future he imagines will be “exciting.” One of the things I may have failed to communicate in the piece is Lovelock’s particularly British wit. I don’t mean to say that he thinks this is all a joke. Far from it. To Lovelock, “exciting” does not mean “fun”; it means something closer to “vividly alive.”.....

Anonymous said...

Though we have managed to absorb additional billions of people on planet Earth in recent decades, we have also created societies in which life for most is gaining little in simple pleasantness. As Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos wrote decades ago, “The rivers along which lovers might formerly have wandered may be deserted as hydrogen sulfide replaces the old smells of springtime. But it is a bold economic calculus that balances the increase in sewage costs against the decline in lyric poetry.”

— Posted by Gary Peters