Wednesday, June 3, 2009

James Lovelock in Toronto and Polar Cities

Let's get rid of those pesky people

Next week, green guru James Lovelock brings his dire view of humanity's future to town. Here, a preview and counterpoint

May 23, 2009
Tyler Hamilton
Energy Reporter

Warning: If you suffer from climate anxiety, read on at your own risk.

British scientist James Lovelock calls himself a realist, not a pessimist. But it's difficult to walk away from a chat with the 89-year-old creator of the "Gaia" theory without feeling a sense of certain doom.

Lovelock came up with his Gaia theory while working in the early 1960s for NASA, where he developed instruments for detecting whether life existed on Mars. The idea is that the Earth functions as a single super-organism, with all its non-living and living systems – including humans – interacting to maintain a delicate balance.

Since then Lovelock has written several books about Gaia and, more recently, about how human-caused climate change is pushing Gaia to its limits. His latest book, published in April, is titled The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning.

His basic message is that humanity's "infection" of the Earth is irreversible and must now run its course. The Earth will come to a new balance, he argues, but the outcome for humanity won't be pretty.

Lovelock is to speak in Toronto on Tuesday at CBC's Glenn Gould Studio ( ).

How does your outlook on climate change differ from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's predictions?

My conclusions don't predict a steady, smooth rise in temperature as CO{-2} levels rise equally, or a fall in temperature as CO{-2} is lowered. What I suggest is that once the temperature rises to a higher state, about 5 degrees C hotter than it's been, it will automatically stabilize there. So lowering the CO{-2} won't make any difference. We'll stay at that temperature.

So is there nothing we can do?

There are things we could do. What we can be sure about is that as the CO{-2} keeps on rising, the world climate is going to change adversely. Our first job, then, is adaptation. It means spending our efforts and money on preparing for the changes that are likely to happen, rather than spending a fortune trying to stop it from happening.

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