No, the profile of famed scientist James Lovelock in Rolling Stone will not give you renewed hope about humanity’s fate in the face of global warming. It will make you — or Al Gore or James Hansen or even me — look optimistic by comparison:
Lovelock has come to an unsettling conclusion: The human race is doomed. “I wish I could be more hopeful”….
In Lovelock’s view, the scale of the catastrophe that awaits us will soon become obvious. By 2020, droughts and other extreme weather will be commonplace. By 2040, the Sahara will be moving into Europe, and Berlin will be as hot as Baghdad. Atlanta will end up a kudzu jungle. Phoenix will become uninhabitable, as will parts of Beijing (desert), Miami (rising seas) and London (floods). Food shortages will drive millions of people north, raising political tensions. “The Chinese have nowhere to go but up into Siberia,” Lovelock says. “How will the Russians feel about that? I fear that war between Russia and China is probably inevitable.” With hardship and mass migrations will come epidemics, which are likely to kill millions. By 2100, Lovelock believes, the Earth’s population will be culled from today’s 6.6 billion to as few as 500 million, with most of the survivors living in the far latitudes — Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Arctic Basin.
By the end of the century, according to Lovelock, global warming will cause temperate zones like North America and Europe to heat up by fourteen degrees Fahrenheit, nearly double the likeliest predictions of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations-sanctioned body that includes the world’s top scientists. “Our future,” Lovelock writes, “is like that of the passengers on a small pleasure boat sailing quietly above the Niagara Falls, not knowing that the engines are about to fail.”
But surely we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid this terrible, terrible fate. Lovelock says, no, it’s too late:
And switching to energy-efficient light bulbs won’t save us. To Lovelock, cutting greenhouse-gas pollution won’t make much difference at this point, and much of what passes for sustainable development is little more than a scam to profit off disaster. “Green,” he tells me, only half-joking, “is the color of mold and corruption.”
Ouch! Though I don’t think green is the color of corruption — not sure why he says that. And mold comes in many colors. Green is the color of moss and jealousy, but I guess that isn’t negative enough.
Anyway, I don’t agree with Lovelock’s projected impacts this century (it won’t be THAT severe that fast and humans are more resilient than he believes) nor do I agree it is too late to avoid the worst, but it is definitely much later than people think. I don’t think the engines are about to fail, but the ship’s out-dated coal-fired boilers may be about to blow if they don’t get replaced by the next President with something much, much cleaner….