Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Someone I Would Like to Argue With

I’ve been reading an interview with James Lovelock, famous largely for the Gaia Hypothesis, which always looked a bit nutty to me. He sounds like an interesting man. Unlike most people in public controversies, he is willing to admit that he was wrong:
The Revenge of Gaia was over the top, but we were all so taken in by the perfect correlation between temperature and CO2 in the ice-core analyses [from the ice-sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, studied since the 1980s]. You could draw a straight line relating temperature and CO2, and it was such a temptation for everyone to say, “Well, with CO2 rising we can say in such and such a year it will be this hot.” It was a mistake we all made.

We shouldn’t have forgotten that the system has a lot of inertia and we’re not going to shift it very quickly. The thing we’ve all forgotten is the heat storage of the ocean — it’s a thousand times greater than the atmosphere and the surface. You can’t change that very rapidly.
He is dismissive of pop-catastrophism, as in the case of Fukushima, pointing out that “Twenty-six thousand people were killed by the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami [that caused the nuclear meltdown], and how many are known to have been killed by the nuclear accident? None.”

He is skeptical about the chance of any political solution to climate change, arguing for adaptation rather than prevention, and, if I interpret him correctly, recognizing that getting the English to save England is a more viable strategy than getting them to try to help save the world. And he recognizes that the future is very uncertain. Responding to a question about what the next 100 years will be like with:
That’s impossible to answer. All I can say is that it will be nowhere as near as bad as the worst-case scenario.
I expect that I would disagree with a fair number of his views, but he sounds like someone it would be fun to argue with.


At 4:03 AM, April 30, 2014, Anonymous Simon said...

Notable quote:

"But being an independent scientist, it is much easier to say you made a mistake than if you are a government department or an employee or anything like that."

At 2:01 PM, April 30, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

That quote is, as it happens, currently the quote of the month on my web page.

At 11:04 AM, May 01, 2014, Anonymous RKN said...

The idea of mutualistic feedback between organisms
and their environment ("host") is no longer a
nutty idea. Just look at bacteria lining the human

Nor should it come as any surprise, especially to
neo-darwinists, that certain feedbacks caused by
certain phenotypes (e.g., cow gas --> greenhouse
effect), some of which may differentially favor
those phenotypes, should therefore confer a
reproductive advantage to the associated genotypes.

At 11:28 PM, May 05, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

RKN: I don't think your cow gas works. It faces the public good problem. Cows that are not modified to warm the globe still get to share the benefit.

At 8:57 AM, May 07, 2014, Anonymous RKN said...


Okay, then substitute your favorite wild ruminant and the point stands. I've read reports that ruminant dinosaurs contributed to warming during the Mesozoic, for instance.


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