One Global Warming Alarmist Now Admits He Went Overboard

Dr. James Lovelock one year before he wrote his book warning of global warming's dire consequences. (Click for credit)

Dr. James Lovelock is a bit of a “renaissance man.” He has a PhD in medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and he has done medical research at Harvard, Yale, and the Baylor College of Medicine. However, he started working for NASA more than 50 years ago, and his research interests broadened considerably. As a part of his NASA work, for example, he invented the electron capture detector, which led to the detection of CFCs in the atmosphere, helping to draw a definitive link between CFCs and ozone destruction. He is the author of the “Gaia hypothesis,” the odd idea that about one billion years after forming, earth became the home of an incomplete life form that started shaping this planet’s evolution to complete its own development. According to this idea, the earth and all its inhabitants are simply parts of one gigantic life form, named Gaia (after the Greek goddess of the earth).

As odd as the Gaia hypothesis is, it motivatd Lovelock to study the earth’s systems, and as he studied them, he became convinced that global warming was a threat to Gaia. In 2006, he wrote a book called The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity. It was full of the hysterical nonsense that is typical in the global warming literature, including absurd statements like:1

…before this century is over, billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the arctic region where the climate remains tolerable.

Clearly, then, Lovelock was convinced that global warming was going to radically change the world as we know it, devastating the human population. Time Magazine seemed to agree with him, because the next year, it named him one of 13 “Heroes of the Environment,” saying:

Jim Lovelock has no university, no research institute, no students. His almost unparalleled influence in environmental science is based instead on a particular way of seeing things. It is a way of seeing things as systems of connections, responses and feedback that applies both to experiments and instruments (of which he is a gifted inventor), and to the world itself.

How quickly times change. In a mere six years, Lovelock has significantly altered his tune. He still believes that global warming is real. However, he has finally taken the time to seriously look at the data, and even he admits that doomsday scenarios such as the ones that he painted in his book are wrong.

In an interview with MSNBC, he stated:

The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened.

Well, it’s a little late in coming, but late is better than never. Do you think Time will name him a “Hero of the Environment” now? I wouldn’t hold my breath!

Now please don’t take this post the wrong way. I am not saying that because Lovelock has changed his alarmist views, we now know that global warming isn’t a threat to our future. Indeed, it’s not even clear Lovelock believes that. He simply says that global warming isn’t occurring nearly as quickly as he thought it would. In addition, anyone who is willing to honestly entertain the idea that the entire earth is an organism that has been shaping itself for billions of years has to be taken with a grain of salt.

However, I have always thought there was some wisdom in the old phrase, “It takes one to know one.” Now that Lovelock has admitted that he was an alarmist with incorrect ideas about global warming, who else does he include in that category? According to the article:

He pointed to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers” as other examples of “alarmist” forecasts of the future.

That’s one point on which I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Lovelock.


1. James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity, Basic Books 2006, p. xiv
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  1. Joshua July 13, 2012 1:02 pm

    It is very good to see this. I am particularly infuriated by the current state of climate science because the alarmism is what is driving conclusions, not any true data. In the article, he acknowledges the lack of warming in the 2000s. This is not well publicized, but a very clear trend, and I’m glad to see an alarmist acknowledge it publicly. But the article quotes another climatologist who dimisses this: “However, Stott said this was a short-term trend that could be within the natural range of variation and it would need to continue for another 10 years or so before it could be considered evidence that something was missing from climate models.” The models have yet to be right in predicting climate change, so requiring them to be proven wrong is ludicrous. The sensitivity of the models to changing CO2 concentrations is simply too high. Other attempts to bring models into line with the temperatures seen in the 2000s drops the predicted overall temeprature rise to something withing natural variability.

    • jlwile July 14, 2012 7:24 am

      Joshua, I agree that the global climate models have done a truly horrible job of predicting the future up to this point, so it is absurd to think they are mostly reliable now. In the end, this lack of warming might be a short-term trend. It might be a long-term trend. It also might be the start of a cooling trend. The scientific position is that we do not know.

  2. Teej July 17, 2012 3:48 pm

    I watched an interesting DVD on global warming one time. I can’t remember the name, but it suggested that trying to “stop” or “slow down” further electrical plants will not hurt highly-developed countries like the U.S.A. or European countries, but will greatly harm Africa and other poverty-stricken regions without electricity. I don’t know very much about global warming, but I do know trying to prevent countries from developing to save electricity cannot be the solution. In fact, if true, it strikes me as deeply selfish.

    • jlwile July 17, 2012 8:48 pm

      That’s a really important point, Teej. Industrialization increases lifespans and (on average) improves health. If the “world community” decides we can’t have significantly more industrialization because of global warming, then it is saying that the undeveloped world has no hope of seriously improved lives. So the question really is, “How many people should die (or live significantly less improved lives) to stave off something we don’t even know is happening?”

  3. josiahkane July 19, 2012 11:04 am

    I just wanted to point out that this cuts both ways.

    Of course there’s a risk that paying too much attention to the environment denies the likes of Bangladesh or Mozambique the equivalent of their own industrial revolutions.
    However, these countries would also be vulnerable to the adverse effects of Climate change. With massive proportions of the Earth’s population living on subsistence farms with little provision for the future, messing up the weather (and not just by adding CO2) would have little to no effect on those of us in the West but could inflict an equally massive death toll in the developing nations of the world.

    • jlwile July 19, 2012 3:10 pm

      That’s a valid point, Josiah, but we have to think about what we actually know. We know that industrialization leads to better lives. We don’t even know if global warming is happening, not to mention what the real consequences would be if it is happening. As a result, I think an anti-industrialization strategy is the worst path to take, given what we know.

  4. Joshua July 20, 2012 3:49 pm

    It’s also very reasonable to work for a sustainable culture for reasons other than climate change. Issues like food shortages, escalating energy needs beyond capacity, and fresh water shortages are very real issues that can be addressed through research into sustainability. Identifying our cultural needs properly helps guide research and policy in effective ways. Consider the amount of research funds sunk into carbon capture technology (to select one example) that could have gone into water desalination research (to select another single example).