Professor James Lovelock: Why my climate theory was alarmist
The grandfather of the green movement – West Country scientist James Lovelock – has admitted that his previous predictions of the impact of climate change may have been “alarmist”.
Professor Lovelock, who lives in Devon, advanced his Gaia theory, that the Earth is a self-regulating living being, in the 1960s and warned that rates of industrialisation meant the world could over-heat with catastrophic effects.
But the 92-year-old environmental scientist has conceded that while climate change is still happening, it is not developing as quickly as he once forecast.
In an interview with msnbc.com, he admitted: “I made a mistake”.
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He added: “The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing.
“We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear cut, but it hasn’t happened.
“The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world. [The temperature] has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising – carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that.”
He added: “We will have global warming, but it’s been deferred a bit.”
Professor Lovelock is currently writing a third book which he said would not back-track on climate change but would concede that forecasts had been “extrapolating too far”.
It will suggest how people can change their habits to co-ordinate with the Earth’s natural systems.
The environmental scientist said that he was not alone in getting the impact of climate change wrong, suggesting that other commentators, including former vice president Al Gore, also thought the effects would be felt sooner.
Professor Lovelock has been a respected member of the academic community for decades.
In the 1960s, he discovered the presence of harmful CFCs in the atmosphere.
He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974 and in 1990 was awarded the first Amsterdam Prize for the Environment.
The same year he became a CBE and in 2003 was awarded a Companion of Honour for his achievements in science.
Time magazine named him as one 13 leaders and visionaries in an article on Heroes of the Environment.
But his views have also sparked controversy – advocating nuclear power as a means of reducing carbon emissions and condemning the technology’s inefficiency and visual impact of wind turbines.