In Britain, environmentalist patron saint James Lovelock now tells the BBC he suspects climate scientists have "[fudged] the data" and that if the planet is going to be saved, "it will save itself, as it always has done."
This comes from an op-ed by Wall Street Journal editor Bret Stephens (behind a pay wall, so transcribed by us) that takes the premise that global warming is a hoax. What Stephens means to say here is that Lovelock agrees with this.
We think Stephens’s op-ed is utter tosh, as Lovelock might say, riddled with poor logic and a bad marshalling of facts. But we were interested in pursuing Lovelock’s current views and found, as usual, that parsing his words can lead to tears pretty fast. In a recent interview, he observed:
The good skeptics have done a good service, but some of the mad ones I think have not done anyone any favors. You need skeptics, especially when the science gets very big and monolithic."
That’s not quite where Stephens is coming from. Here’s how much Lovelock discounts climate change:
But even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.
We couldn’t disagree more, but that’s Lovelock. Stephens is right that Lovelock believes the “world will save itself,” but in the interview where he says this, he also makes the point that it will do it without people – he expects the world population to drop to about a billion due to climate change by the end of this century.
Lovelock takes a very dim view on people being able to save their own future – either through government action or international effort - so he posits adaptation to a new reality as an alternative:
Climate change is kind of a repetition of a war-time situation. It could quite easily lead to a physical war. That's why I always come back to the safest thing to do being adaptation. For example, we've got to have good supplies of food. I would be very pleased to see this country and Europe seriously thinking about synthesizing food.
Soylent Green, anyone?
We could scarcely leave Lovelock behind without noting his comments on nuclear energy in the Guardian piece:
I'm in favor of nuclear for crowded places like Britain for the simple reason that it's cheap, effective and exceedingly safe when you look at the record. We've had it for 50 years…
That’s the first half and it’s true enough.
…but I can understand the left hating it because it was [Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher's greatest weapon against the miners because we were then [in the 1980s] getting 30% of our electricity from nuclear.
And that’s the second, in case one thought Lovelock could say anything without broader context. We don’t always agree with Lovelock – and more frequently agree then disagree then agree - but he’s a genuinely fascinating figure – contrary, counterintuitive, always thought provoking,
We always like to bring you positive editorials about nuclear energy, but lately we ran into one that uses the recent disaster in West Virginia to extol the relative safety of nuclear energy. While we always appreciate positive press, this one – makes us – hesitate and we won’t share it.
Why? Perhaps because West Virginia sits close enough to Washington to make this a local tragedy worthy of communal grief and anger, perhaps because we find the history and experience of mining and miners a key to the American experience.
And perhaps it is because we find it personally troubling to use this misfortune to make any point at all about nuclear energy – or wind – or solar – or anything else. There are times, we think, when you have to clear space around an event and let it represent only itself. We want to know about the miners who died – and about Massey’s culpability, if any – and about the government response. Anything else we may be tempted to say about it here – can wait.
James Lovelock, with Gaia herself.