James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

By | March 31, 2010

James LovelockHumans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.

It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists’ emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.

“I don’t think we’re yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change,” said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. “The inertia of humans is so huge that you can’t really do anything meaningful.”

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is “modern democracy”, he added. “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.”

Lovelock, 90, believes the world’s best hope is to invest in adaptation measures, such as building sea defences around the cities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rises. He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.

“That would be the sort of event that would change public opinion,” he said. “Or a return of the dust bowl in the mid-west. Another Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report won’t be enough. We’ll just argue over it like now.” The IPCC’s 2007 report concluded that there was a 90% chance that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing global warming, but the panel has been criticised over a mistaken claim that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2030.

Lovelock says the events of the recent months have seen him warming to the efforts of the “good” climate sceptics: “What I like about sceptics is that in good science you need critics that make you think: ‘Crumbs, have I made a mistake here?’ If you don’t have that continuously, you really are up the creek. The good sceptics have done a good service, but some of the mad ones I think have not done anyone any favours.

via James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change | Environment | The Guardian.

I agree. Denial may doom our species… but at the moment there are waaaaay too many of us… so bring on the floods.  Our descendants who survive the hot phase will be amazing individuals.

6 thoughts on “James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

  1. Danny

    the problem with climate change alarmists is that they think every else denies that the earth goes through major changes. we don’t deny climate changes we just don’t think its because of my honda. its bigger things like volcanoes and the sun.

    i disagree that there are too many people. seems like a fallacy to me. We just have to figure out how to cope with large populations and live more harmoniously with the land. These initiatives have already taken the forefront of new technology so I fail to see why everyone keeps going on about how doomed we are. open your eyes, there are major advances happening powered by human ingenuity. i’d even be so bold to say that there are more common sense deniers on the climate obsessed side.

    but yeah, kill them all and start over. we all know nothing can go wrong there. works every time. (i know you’re being tongue in cheek about your comment xeno, but a lot people truly think that way.)

    1. Xeno Post author

      Yes, we have great potential once we get past our current problems. I hope we have learned from history, that if civilization must be rebooted again that distributed backups of total human knowledge will be available to those who need it.

      Climate scientists didn’t rule out the sun as the cause of global warming because they want you to feel guilty about driving! They ruled out the sun because the output of the sun was lower while the earth was getting hotter (see this graph). I haven’t heard of any big volcanoes that might influence the planet’s overall temperature lately.

      This time, humans are the cause. In the past, it is true that there were other causes. There is empirical evidence and if you don’t accept it, you are in denial of reality.

      It still surprises me when I hear skeptics claim there is no evidence that we’re causing global warming. The evidence is there in the peer reviewed literature. What they’re really saying is they haven’t bothered to look. So to make things easier for everyone, here is the evidence that humans are causing global warming. It’s not based on theory, climate models, faith or political ideology but on direct, empirical observations. The line of evidence is as follows:

      We are raising CO2 levels —–> CO2 traps heat ——> Our planet is accumulating heat

      … CO2 has caused an accumulation of heat in our climate. The radiative forcing from CO2 is known with high understanding and confirmed by empirical observations.

      Please see this page with the arguments and refutations regarding Global Warming.

      The main point of the article is that people are too stupid to understand the evidence, so we will continue to destroy our home in our ignorance and denial.

  2. xag-apziq (Ann)

    Well said, James. But, it’s a slight under-statement, I’d say. You’d think we would have learned something from our past “intelligent” accomplishments of destruction …

  3. Ann

    Oops! Sorry about the inclusion of xag-apziq name with mine in the last comment, but I’m sure he(or her or it) would agree.

  4. Sam

    Actually, a trip to the local University will set you folks straight about human potential and optimism! New students are STILL showing up with notions like “a six thousand year-old Earth” and “Deep Impacts are just movies.” Can you believe it? In 2010, one can actually get accepted into state colleges without having a clue where we came from or how long it took us to get to this point. THAT is depressing to me, and it’s probably a good example of what James Lovelock means. How in the world could anyone expect survival from a species that a.)is a product of evolution, and b.)is moderately ignorant of how evolution works, and c.)isn’t even sure anything evolves at all? We might survive, but it’s looking increasingly bleak as far as our status as the top of the food chain goes. EVERY mass extinction gave rise to a different group of animals to the top; if we’re at the top now we have no reason whatsoever to believe that we will continue to dominate after the next big cataclysm.

  5. Ann

    Nice comment Sam.

    It’s certainly a sad state of affairs. It makes me think that humans’ “tool-making” ability has far out-paced their intellectual capacity or to allow for its simultaneous growth. The inventive-creative process that humans have for making different sorts things, gadgets and devices (i.e technology) (and of course the theories behind them), doesn’t seem to require knowledge of the world into which they are used – a knowledge that appears should have been taught. A failure in education, but actually it’s a failure in the discontinuation of very ancient oral traditions that teaches man’s place the ecological in the scheme of the natural world.

Leave a Reply