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James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

with 4 comments

In his first in-depth interview since the theft of UEA emails, the scientist blames inertia and democracy for lack of action

The Guardian

Worth the read, but I am not sure I am convinced. Firstly it is not democracy itself that is at fault, but the way in which we have allowed democratic processes to be subverted by corporations. As well documented (for instance by Jim Hoggan) the scientists have been portrayed as being part of a two sided debate when in fact there is a widespread consensus. Not one research  paper appeared in a peer reviewed journal that showed that either climate change is not happening or is not largely due to human activity. But the companies that drill for oil, and mine for coal, and those that make lots of money from our fossil fuel dependency, are all funding lots of activity to sow confusion and dissent. Like the health insurance industry did – and largely succeeded – over US health care reform, where the objective facts can hardly be disputed, yet at least half the American public was convinced that they were somehow threatened by fairer health care funding. Indeed when one looks at the most prominent recent environmental stories – farmed salmon or “run of the river” hydro or fracking for gas – the facts speak for themselves but the corporations keep on winning, and every species, including us, pays dearly.

I suppose it can be argued that we voted for the governments that make these bad decisions – and we keep on voting for them. But I would suggest that is due to the lack of democracy – we only get to make a choice between two alternatives (bad and worse) at infrequent intervals, and when we do, those who have the most to spend tend to win most often.

But what bothered me most was that he did not read the emails in question but still thinks that data was somehow “fudged”. Which is not my understanding of what happened. There were two data series – actual temperature measurements for recent years and tree rings (and other things) for earlier periods before measurements started – and these were merged. Unfortunately one scientist referred to this as “a trick” – and those two words, wrenched out of context, were used as the “smoking gun” evidence of intent to deceive. But what the famous “hockey stick” graph shows is anything but deceptive.

 Figure 1(b) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report, (c) 2001 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Figure 1(b) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report, (c) 2001 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Are we stupid? Or is somebody lying to us? I think the latter – and the people who are doing the lying are not the scientists but the corporate shills.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Our democracy is far from perfect but you are letting the population off the hook far, far too easily.

    Look at the federal NDP. As a matter of course, they rip corporations, corporate tax cuts, tar sands development, all of that. They get plenty of coverage even in the corporate-owned media. Jack Layton in particular is extremely good at getting his face and his words into the news. It’s not that no one is hearing what they have to say, or that no one thinks they have a chance of winning seats. People just aren’t willing to vote for what the NDP stands for. They vote for the Conservatives because they’re more concerned with lower taxes than anything else. That’s got very little to do with corporate dominance of politics, and everything to do with people voting based on their selfish interests.


    March 29, 2010 at 1:37 pm

  2. Selfishness is pushed by media to infect us and break down democracy into me-ocracy.

    Daniel Mick

    March 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm

  3. […] a comment » As you would expect, after doing a piece on Monday on the James Lovelock interview I have been getting comments from the deniers – none of which have appeared. Becuase I simply […]

  4. I don’t buy into Lovelock’s pessimism (maybe because I am still a youthful idealist). I have no scientific reason to disagree with him, but in general I do think that humans are capable of overcoming the dangers of climate change.

    That being said in a way, it is always refreshing to read him because, unlike most climate scientists and environmentalists, he is a pessimist and doesn’t think humanity is capable of coming together to solve the problems we are facing.

    I have to admit, however, sometimes late at night when I’m lying awake in bed, I have a horrible feeling that he just may be right.

    Andrew E

    April 2, 2010 at 3:54 pm

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