I’m reasonably sure at least some subscribers to this web site and blog are wondering about my opinion about James Lovelock’s ‘flip’ in his position about abrupt climate change as represented in his recent interview with MSNBC.
Well, I do have an opinion, and will offer it here asap. I’m still gathering data – or at least trying to – about what, exactly, his new position is. Either he’s being quite vague about it or the author of the linked article is being vague – which leaves me asking, “OK, so what does he mean, exactly?” Yet outside of that interview and several stories written about it, I’m finding nothing to clarify his position, especially not on his own web pages.
I’ll just say this for now, with more to come at a later time as my understanding increases:
- The way that he is handling this is a great annoyance to me; I think he’s being irresponsible to not offer more clarification, and his self-labeling as an “alarmist” annoys me to no end. I hold a view similar to his former opinion, but refuse to label myself (or allow myself to be labelled) ‘alarmist’, which I consider a pejorative term, especially when used by deniers and obfuscators. A person shouting “Fire!” in a burning building is not an ‘alarmist’, nor is a person trying to help others understand global heating and abrupt climate change driven by it. As a result, he has at least temporarily fallen out of my “very admired scientist” category into …. some other category that I shouldn’t name until I cool down a bit.
- Hypotheses and speculation is running rampant about his motivation for advancing his new position, and unfortunately, not all believe it’s entirely grounded in science. (I’ll list some of those in part 2.)
- Once again I am reminded that ‘argument from authority‘ is a logical fallacy: every argument must be evaluated on its own merit, regardless of who’s advancing it. Lovelock is no exception. Even though I think his Gaia theory and geophysiology (aka Earth system sciences) are brilliant, I’m going to seriously question his new stance on climate. I’m open to the possibility that he’s right, but I need to first understand his reasoning, and why he seems to be missing some HUGE changes that are underway.
- However, to the extent that I understand his new position, I’m finding that I agree more with his former position than the new one. I was never 100% sold on every aspect of his former position as laid out in, say, his book Revenge of Gaia – I’m not as ‘dark’ in my prognosis as he is, and I explicitly disagreed with some of his ‘solutions’* – but I certainly cited his views a lot in my lectures and seminars, holding them out as one plausible possibility in a range of possibilities, some better, some worse. [* When I teach my advanced seminar about Gaia using that book, we only read the first 4 chapters on the theory itself, not the remaining chapters on ‘solutions’. Even though I agreed with some of his arguments in those latter chapters – like him, I’m not a fan of big wind farms for many of the same reasons – and could see the logic in others, I chose not to identify with his positions outside of Gaia theory, geophysiology and abrupt climate change.]
- With a group of current students, I have begun to re-evaluate my position on abrupt climate change with respect to his former position , and will continue to do so in summer and with the help of one or prominent, internationally-known researchers in abrupt climate change. More on that another day.
More to come … please stay tuned ….