Lovelock Warns: One Last Chance Or 8 Billion Die

  • Published on January 29th, 2009

British scientist James Lovelock, pictured in 2005According to an interview with James Lovelock, published in the UK journal New Scientist recently, the outlook for humanity is bleak, with at least 90% of the world’s population dying before the end of the century as a direct result of climate change. This suggests that even if Obama acts at once with the level of measures suggested by Jim Hansen, it will be nowhere near enough to save us.

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In the interview, Lovelock, originator of the “Gaia Hypothesis”, which suggests that the Earth can be treated as a self-regulating system like a living organism, and whose work on chlorofluorocarbons led to the ban on CFCs, insists that there is no time to reduce carbon emissions through an international agreement as was the case with the CFC ban. “Most of the ‘green’ stuff is verging on a gigantic scam,” he believes. “Carbon trading, with its huge government subsidies, is just what finance and industry wanted. It’s not going to do a damn thing about climate change, but it’ll make a lot of money for a lot of people and postpone the moment of reckoning,” he says. He also regards CO2 sequestering as “crazy” and “dangerous”.


Having caused consternation in some circles for advocating nuclear power as a more practical low-carbon generation process than renewables as far as Britain was concerned, he now says that while nuclear “is a way for the UK to solve its energy problems… it is not a global cure for climate change. It is too late for emissions reduction measures.”

The only way, Lovelock claims, that the human race can be saved is by the large-scale burying of charcoal made from agricultural vegetable waste. This usually rots down and releases most of the CO2 fixed by the plants when they are growing, but if it were burned with low oxygen levels it would produce charcoal which could be ploughed back into the ground and would not be able to be broken down in the same way. The process would produce a biofuel which farmers could sell, and as a result a subsidy would not be necessary. “This is the one thing we can do that will make a difference,” Lovelock says, “but I bet they won’t do it.”

Lovelock is deeply pessimistic about the future of the human race. He believes there are already too many people on Earth to survive two degrees of warming, while with four degrees of warming, the planet would not be able to sustain more than a tenth of its current human population, because it would be impossible to grow enough food. “The number of people remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less,” he says. “I don’t think humans react fast enough or are clever enough to handle what’s coming up. Kyoto was 11 years ago. Virtually nothing’s been done except endless talk and meetings.”

You can read the entire interview with James Lovelock by Gaia Vince in New Scientist, January 23 issue.

Photo of James Lovelock from Wikimedia by Bruno Comby.

About the Author

Richard Elen has been involved in alternative technology and the environment since the mid-1970s. He was a member of the group that produced Undercurrents, one of the first "AT" magazines (in fact Peter Harper coined the phrase therein). He was also a regular member of the team that produced the Climate Action Network's Eco magazine from the UN Climate Talks in the run-up to Kyoto (it is still produced today). Long a supporter of renewable energy, he is also particularly interested in the potential of virtual worlds for education, conferencing and networking with minimal CO2 emissions. He believes that the future lies in massive investment in public transport and renewables and suspects that bringing energy and communications back into public ownership is one of the few ways in which this might be achieved in the time we have left.


  • The only explanation I can come up with and I'm not a medical expert is that this man is suffering from some sort of problem. Men of a certain age tend to get like this. In their fifties they become grumpy and not really satisfied with their lot but this fellow takes the biscuit. I think that He feels the need to leave a legacy or some sort and the only one to hand is to forewarn of fire and brimstone or some sort of alarmist warning so that in the future His words will be remembered. It's a bit like trying to outlive your life expectancy. The strange thing is that I did read that before He pops his clogs He wants to take a trip into outer space and view the Earth in all its' glory. Hmmmn. I hope He offsets his carbon footprint before He goes up. Goodness knows how much carbon the flight will consume or give off or whatever the hell it's supposed to do in order to kill us all off.

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