James Lovelock: Earth is setting the agenda for climate change

James Lovelock: Earth is setting the agenda for climate change

Top image: Dr. James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia theory, visited UNIS on 24 October 2007. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.

– The Earth, not people, is setting the agenda regarding climate change. We need to prepare for a warmer climate, because it will be a reality, Dr. James Lovelock said at a special seminar about climate change at UNIS yesterday.

25 October 2007
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen

Dr. James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia theory and First Holder of the Arne Næss Chair in Global Justice and the Environment, made a special appearance at the traditional UNIS lunch seminar on 24 October.

Around 130 people had come to hear this notability in climate science present his views on creative adaption to climate change. The seminar was sponsored by Centre for Development and the Environment at University of Oslo, Basecamp Explorer Foundation and UNIS.

The planet is taking part in global warming
Forty years ago Lovelock launched the theory that Earth is a self-regulating system able to keep the climate and chemical composition comfortable for organisms. This is today commonly known as the Gaia theory. Although a controversial theory, Lovelock maintains that the global system is one whole that adapts to changing conditions.

– The greatest problem for the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that they fail to agree on what will happen to the world itself, he told the audience at UNIS.

– The planet is itself taking part in the global warming, as the tundra regions emit more CO2 because of increasing temperatures. This is a non-stoppable process from one stable state of the Earth to another stable state; from a cooler climate to a warmer climate, like the ones in the past, Lovelock said.

Both humans and plants will become climate refugees
– Developing new energy resources is all well and fine, it is profitable and it produces jobs. However, the most important thing now is to prepare to adapt to a warmer climate. With global warming, Norway will experience an improved climate, as all northern countries will, but a lot of countries will experience the opposite, and we must prepare to receive climate refugees from other countries, he said.

The IPCC prediction is that by 2040 the European climate will have a normal warming as that of the summer of 2003, when Europe experienced record high summer temperatures.

– You could say that we will have the same summer temperatures in 2040 as they have in Baghdad now, and people do survive in those climatic conditions. However, the problem will not be for the people, it will be for the plants. We cannot grow food under such extreme temperatures and people in the southern parts of Europe will move north to find a climate where they can produce food. It is similar to what happened 55 million years ago, when another heating period occurred. Plants and animals moved toward the poles where temperatures were cooler and where they learned to thrive, Lovelock said.

Nuclear energy the “green” alternative
The talk was followed by a question and answer session, and the audience wanted to know about Lovelock’s view of nuclear energy as a prime energy resource in the future. Lovelock has earlier said that nuclear energy is the solution to the world’s energy problems.

– I have said that nuclear energy is a green energy technology, as it emits no CO2 and as it will be a good energy resource especially in geographic areas where a lot of people are living. It is the safest energy resource today and it is becoming safer, Lovelock said.

He pointed out that the reservoirs of oil, gas and coal will be depleted over the next hundred years, and wind and solar energy will not be able to supply the vast amount of energy that the world needs.

He also talked about the failure of politicians to act on the challenges we are facing.

– It’s been ten years since the Kyoto agreement, and almost nothing has been done. And politicians will go on like this. It is one of the big tragedies of science that politicians manipulate researchers, through funding for instance, thus dictating what to do research on, he said.

– We need to prepare for a warmer climate, because it will be a reality. We must accept it and be prepared for the consequences, Lovelock concluded.

Sandy and James Lovelock

Dr. James Lovelock (right) and his wife Sandy were joined by 130 people at the seminar in Møysalen. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.