Sunday, March 02, 2008

James Lovelock - We've Passed the Tipping Point

James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia theory, has stated that he believes the world has passed the "tipping point" of environmental degradation and that widespread environmental collapse is likely within 20 years.

His basis for this apocalyptic prediction:
  • the melting of the Arctic ice cap at a faster than predicted rate [see here for more on this]
  • the Arctic Ocean then starting to absorb heat rather than reflect it back
  • the likely release of vast quantities of methane from the Arctic permafrost - the gas being significantly more potent that CO2
  • the predicted rise in sea levels - Arctic melting will cause a rise in sea temperatures of 7 meters
The social consequences of this level of climate change are severe according to Lovelock:
  • widespread displacement of millions of people - from low-lying coastal areas as well as from areas affected by desertification such as northern Kenya, Greece and Spain. Lovelock claims that 100 million refugees will be created for every one meter of sea level rise.
  • large-scale famine resulting in hundreds of millions of deaths
  • wars - local and international - over increasingly scarce resources, especially food and water
  • the collapse of civilization and government - resulting in widespread rioting, murder and rape
Of course, Lovelock may be wrong. The Canadian Nobel-prize winning climate scientist Dr Andrew Weaver puts the time scale till collapse at nearer 40 years.

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1 comment:

4caster said...

I am surprised that this article has not yet received any comments. Mr Lovelock may well be right. Some people who speak to me waver between two opinions:
1. Global warming is a load of bunk. (It was warmer in the middle ages; 2006 and 2007 were colder than 2005, etc.)
2. Oh, well, if James Lovelock is right, it's too late anyway.
They use each of these conflicting opinions to justify no reduction in their carbon footprints.
Either way they are wrong. As a retired lifelong professional meteorologist I cannot bury my head in the sand and hope it will never happen. The civilised world must do its level best to minimise carbon emissions now. Some say there are more immediate problems to solve. There will always be more immediate problems, but there will never be a more important problem than assuring the continued existence of a habitable earth. It must remain no. 1 priority over the credit crunch, terrorism, jobs, famine, disease, etc. That is not to say those problems should not be tackled, but not at the expense of an inhabitable earth.