Lovelock: Malthus was right, and Climate Progress is way, way too optimistic

Okay, famed scientist James Lovelock didn’t say that second part. But the Daily Mail headline of a recent interview with the creator of the Gaia theory makes clear that this blog is can hardly be accused of real climate alarmism:

We’re all doomed! 40 years from global catastrophe — and there’s NOTHING we can do about it, says climate change expert.

Why he thinks we’re doomed:

“It was last as hot as this 55 million years ago. There was a geological accident in the North Sea, near where Norway is. A volcanic layer of lava came up underneath one of the large petroleum deposits. It vaporised the whole lot, putting into the atmosphere about two million, million tons of crude oil.

“We will have put that much into the atmosphere within the next 20 years or so. We know what happened last time, we know how long it lasted. It hung around for about 200,000 years….”

“Everything moved to the North,” Lovelock explains. “The Arctic Ocean was tropical, the sea temperature was 23C (73F). You could find the remains of crocodiles in the sediments.”

[Jim — you forgot to mention sea levels were 250 feet higher!]

As for what will happen to humankind:

We will face a ruthless period of natural selection.

“I reckon there are about 80 per cent more people than the world can carry,” he says sanguinely….

“By 2040, China will be uninhabitable.” Lovelock believes that the Chinese, because of their high levels of industrial activity, will be the first to suffer, with the death of all plant life.

“So I think the Chinese will go to Africa. They are already there, preparing a new continent — the Chinese industrialists who claim to be out there mining minerals are just there on a pretext of preparing for the big move.

Okay, so now you’re thinking he’s a crackpot. But then he appeals to your vanity:

Lovelock sees Americans moving to Canada. Americans have the natural advantage of being born migrants….

“White Americans are descended from those who had the guts to cross on rough old ships and find a new life. They have the right spirit of can-do.”

Hmm. Interesting sentiment. Guess he’s not an Obama-maniac. Europeans, however, have got it all wrong:

“European governments are doing daft things, investing huge sums in renewable energy which makes a hell of a lot of profit but does no good at all for our survival.”

No greenie, he. In fact, in an earlier interview he said:

“Green,” he tells me, only half-joking, “is the color of mold and corruption.”

But don’t feel bad, humanity. We were probably doomed all along:

We have to stop thinking it is all our fault. We could have stopped it if we had all listened to Malthus in 1800 (the economist who said population would outstrip agricultural supply).

“Everyone laughed at him, but he was right. A billion is about the right number of people for the Earth. We are nearly seven billion. Had we stayed at a billion we could have done whatever we liked with technology and there would have been no problem.”

Still, he remains as hopeful as a person can possibly be with predicting the grim death of 6 billion people:

We are about to take an evolutionary step and my hope is that the species will emerge stronger. It would be hubris to think humans as they now are God’s chosen race.”

No one can accuse the scientist of the Apocalypse of being gloomy.

I must try to learn from Lovelock (and Monty Python, especially on this Easter weekend) — always look on the bright side of death life.


[More seriously, Lovelock is certainly wrong. It is definitely not too late. If everyone on the planet believed what he believes, or even what Hansen believes, we could easily keep CO2 concentrations well below 450 ppm and, if we had to, ultimately back to below 350 ppm. It is all just a matter of political will. And renewables are most certainly a large part of the answer.]