Monday, October 3, 2016

Fracking is great, the green movement is a religion, his dire predictions about climate change were nonsense – and robots don’t mind the heat, so what does it matter? At 97, the creator of Gaia theory is as mischievous and subversive as ever

James Lovelock: ‘Before the end of this century, robots will have taken over. From The Guardian. Excerpts:
"What has changed dramatically, however, is his position on climate change. He now says: “Anyone who tries to predict more than five to 10 years is a bit of an idiot, because so many things can change unexpectedly.” But isn’t that exactly what he did last time we met? “I know,” he grins teasingly. “But I’ve grown up a bit since then.”

Lovelock now believes that “CO2 is going up, but nowhere near as fast as they thought it would. The computer models just weren’t reliable. In fact,” he goes on breezily, “I’m not sure the whole thing isn’t crazy, this climate change. You’ve only got to look at Singapore. It’s two-and-a-half times higher than the worst-case scenario for climate change, and it’s one of the most desirable cities in the world to live in.”"

"All things being equal – “and it’s only got to take one sizable volcano to erupt and all the models, everything else, is right off the board” – he expects that before the consequences of global warming can impact on us significantly, something else will have made our world unrecognisable, and threaten the human race.

Lovelock maintains that, unlike most environmentalists, he is a rigorous empiricist, but it is manifestly clear that he enjoys maddening the green movement. “Well, it’s a religion, really, you see. It’s totally unscientific.” He was once invited to Buckingham Palace, where he told Princess Anne: “Your brother nearly killed me.” Having read that Prince Charles had installed grass-burning boilers at Highgrove, Lovelock had tried one in his house. “It’s supposed to smoulder and keep the place warm; but it doesn’t, because it goes out, and clouds and clouds of smoke come out.” He giggles. “Princess Anne thought this was hilariously funny.”

Lovelock had been trying to heat his old mill in Devon, where he lived for more than 35 years, inventing contraptions in a workshop that resembled a Doctor Who set. He and his wife recently packed up his life’s work and downsized to a remote cottage on Chesil Beach in Dorset, after the bill to heat the mill for just six months hit £6,000. “I remember George Monbiot took me up on it and wrote that it was impossible, that I had to be lying. But I wasn’t lying, I’ve got the figures.” Monbiot doesn’t quite accuse him of lying, in fairness; just of “talking rubbish” and “making wild statements”. In any case, he says that in the US he found he could heat a house for six months, in temperatures of -20C (-4F), for just £60. As a result, he has withering contempt for environmentalists’ opposition to fracking. “You see, gas in America is incredibly cheap, because of fracking,” he says. But what about the risk of triggering earthquakes? He rolls his eyes.

“Sure enough, that’s true, there will be an increase. But they’re tiny little tremors, they would be imperceptible. The only trouble is that you can detect them. The curse of my life has been that I’ve spent a lot of time inventing devices that are exceedingly sensitive. And the moment somebody can detect something, they’re going to attach a number to it, and then they make a fuss about it.” He chuckles, then pauses. “I’m not anti-green in the sense that I’m in favour of polluting the world with every damn thing we make. I think we’ve got to be careful. But I’m afraid, human nature being what it is, the thing gets exaggerated out of all proportion, and the greens have behaved deplorably instead of being reasonably sensible.”

Even more heretical than his enthusiasm for fracking is Lovelock’s passionate support for nuclear power. But, like fracking, he says, it offers only “a stopgap” solution. “Because in the long term, they’ll use up all the uranium.” How long would that take? He pauses to do some quick mental arithmetic, as casually as I might tot up how many pints of milk to grab from Sainsburys.
“Let’s see … I think uranium that is affordable to extract would last about 50 years, something in that range. It might be 100. When you’ve used all that up, you go to thorium, and that would last you three times as long as uranium – so, shall we say, about 200 years?” The most sensible energy solution would be to cover 100 sq miles of the Sahara in solar panels. “It would supply the whole of Europe with all the energy they needed,” but it won’t happen “because it would be so easy for terrorists to go and bugger it up”. So for now, nuclear energy is the only viable option."

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