Green campaigners support Lovelock for sparking fresh debate on global warming

A A A

Leading British greens have taken a divided view of the prediction by the environmental scientist James Lovelock, featured inThe Independent yesterday, that the Earth has passed the point of no return for global warming.

Somefully shared his concern for the speed at which global warming appears to be proceeding, and gave credit to his scientific expertise, while finding themselves unable - or unwilling - to agree with the awesome proposition that it may already be too late to stop it.

"If any of us back up behind that idea we might just as well slit our wrists," said Aubrey Meyer, the director of the Global Commons Institute, which campaigns hard for an approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions known as Contraction and Convergence, based on moving to equal emissions entitlements per person everywhere around the globe.

"But what [Professor] Lovelock is predicting will come true if we carry on as we are. To stabilise the rising concentrations, emissions must contract to nearly zero within ... 50 years."

Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said Professor Lovelock was right to sound the alarm. "But he's premature in writing humanity's obituary," he said. "There's still a narrow window of opportunity, and the priority must be to campaign for changes to make the most of that, not to assume that all is lost. "Assuming there's nothing to be gained means we're very likely to fail."

Professor Lovelock bases his predictions of disaster on the hypothesis that the Earth has for billions of years had a planetary-scale control system which keeps it fit for life - three decades ago he christened it Gaia.

The Gaia system, founded on the interaction of life-forms with their environment, is made up of feedback mechanisms that have previously acted in a benign way for humans. But because of the way the environment has been damaged by us, Professor Lovelock says, it may start to act in a way harmful to humanity and amplify global warming to such an extent that it is impossible to control.

Britain's most famous environmentalist last night declined to dismiss the too-late warning out of hand.

"If there was one scientist you would listen to on a proposition of that kind, it would be Jim Lovelock," said Jonathon Porritt, now head of the Government's Sustainable Development Commission. " Is he right? I simply don't know. I'm not enough of a scientist to make a judgement. With many people you would be tempted to dismiss the idea, but Jim is different."

Stephen Tindale, Greenpeace's executive director, also thought the man who conceived of Gaia might not be wrong. "The Earth may be doomed," he said. "Certainly the news from the natural world over the last year has been unremittingly bad: the oceans acidifying and less able to absorb carbon; the permafrost melting and giving up its methane ... All these things suggest that the positive feedbacks may have kicked in; we may have crossed the threshold. But we can't be certain, and so we can't give up the fight. While there is hope that catastrophe can be averted, we have a moral duty to keep trying.

"I believe that if governments take emergency action, climate change can still be controlled. So let's get on with it - and pray that we aren't too late."

Peter Melchett, the policy director of the Soil Association, shared a key concern of Professor Lovelock. "Right from the beginning there's a been a real worry that we would hit some point where the feedback mechanisms would all work against us," he said.

"But as to climate change being already unstoppable, I don't know, and I don't think Jim Lovelock knows either. There are still uncertainties about it all, and personally and instinctively I remain optimistic about the human race's ability to change direction ... It's our political and, shall we say, our psychological ability that's in doubt."

Mark Lynas, the author of High Tide - News from a Warming World, a travelogue showing places where global warming is already in evidence, said civilisational collapse was no longer just a scary possibility. "It's the most likely outcome if coal, oil and gas use continue to rise," he said. "Either we implement a radical programme to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, or we need to start taking measures to prepare for post-collapse survival in the few areas which will remain habitable by the end of this century. The choice is ours.

"Lovelock telling us it's already too late should not be seen as an excuse for fatalism ... But his statements should be a reality check."

News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVBain and Armstrong have presented their unique view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Sport
footballIncluding Manchester United 'Halloween XI'
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes