Lovelock “a black sheep”

(I wrote this back in April of this year, and just found it stuck in the system. I don’t think it’s already been posted.)

The far-left Soros propaganda group “Media Matters” worked to discredit Professor James Lovelock earlier this year when he turned away from catastrophism.

All of a sudden, he “was never really one of them” — and Media Matters trots out links to a series of articles attempting to prove that he was considered a crackpot even back when he was making his catastrophic predictions.

Now, Lovelock IS arguably a crackpot — and it has seemed to me for many years that most of global warming catastrophism is crackpot distortions of science. But at the time, the media loved him, and the climate science distorters were carefully respectful and attempted to use his extreme pronouncements while seeming reasonable.

Their big problem with Lovelock was that he wasn’t a big supporter of windmills and such. Worse than that, he actually liked nuclear power!

Actually, there was a larger problem. James Lovelock thought that:

  1. it was too late to try to fix the problem (thus denying greens their leverage to obtain power and funding), and
  2. he detested the “green movement,” asserting to an interviewer that much of what passes for sustainable development is little more than a scam to profit off disaster. “Green is the color of mold and corruption.

So, while the estimates of catastrophe are perhaps a bit overblown in their minds, Lovelock would deny them the right to capitalize on it. That was the part they took real issue with. They’re not going to phrase it quite that way, but they get close. Joe Romm, catastrophist extraordinaire, wrote in 2007:

Anyway, I don’t agree with Lovelock’s projected impacts this century (it won’t be THAT severe that fast and humans are more resilient than he believes) nor do I agree it is too late to avoid the worst, but it is definitely much later than people think. I don’t think the engines are about to fail, but the ship’s out-dated coal-fired boilers may be about to blow if they don’t get replaced by the next President with something much, much cleaner….

Amusingly, Romm would be horrified at the notion of putting in new coal-fired boilers in anything but his metaphor. But Romm’s criticism of Lovelock at the time was mild — and the author of the piece on Lovelock in the Rolling Stone showed up in the comments.

But let’s look at what Media Matters really says about Lovelock in 2012, as an illustration of dishonesty. Their point is to say, in effect, that what Lovelock says now doesn’t matter because what he said then didn’t matter, and that climate scientists and the media never really gave him credibility at the time. Look at this excerpt from Media Matters:

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2009 that Lovelock, who is known for formulating the Gaia hypothesis in the 1960s, considered those reports “too optimistic, constrained by ‘consensus’ (a word that makes his teeth itch) and wedded to computer models.” Climate experts, in turn, distanced themselves from Lovelock’s doomsday rhetoric. The IPCC’s chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, told Agence France-Presse in September 2009 that Lovelock’s predictions were “highly improbable”; RealClimate.org, a blog written by climate scientists, noted in 2006 that Lovelock’s claims weren’t supported by scientific research.

AFP labeled Lovelock a “scientific black sheep.” The London Independent said in 2006 that Lovelock was “going out on a limb” and that his claims were “far gloomier than any yet made by a scientist of comparable international standing.” And The Washington Post reported in 2006 that “the warming that Lovelock fears will occur is far more dire than that projected by many other scientists,” and that his “dire talk no doubt occasions much rolling of eyes in polite circles, particularly among scientists in the United States.”

That’s pretty damning.  All of those media references and scientists hammering on poor James Lovelock, discrediting his prophesies of doom at the time.  Clearly, they thought little of him at the time.  Except that … if they thought so little of him, why was he covered by so much media and by so many scientist-writers?  Let’s look at Media Matters’ assertions one line at a time:

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2009 that Lovelock, who is known for formulating the Gaia hypothesis in the 1960s, considered those reports “too optimistic, constrained by ‘consensus’ (a word that makes his teeth itch) and wedded to computer models.”

The Times article is a glowing tribute to Lovelock, noting that his predictions, once controversial, have been proven correct, and that “[i]n 2006, the rehabilitated Lovelock was awarded the Wollaston Medal by the Geological Society of London.”  In fact, the sentence just prior to the one Media Matters quoted gives a better feel for the tone: “Lovelock is a plain and simple writer, and his prose has a natural grace that makes this book a pleasure to read despite its depressing thesis.”

But somehow, Media Matters thinks that this discredits Lovelock.  Let’s go on to their next assertion, about how the IPCC chairman “distanced” himself from Lovelock:

Climate experts, in turn, distanced themselves from Lovelock’s doomsday rhetoric. The IPCC’s chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, told Agence France-Presse in September 2009 that Lovelock’s predictions were “highly improbable”;

From another part of the same article that Media Matters referenced: “But even as the scientific community sings Lovelock’s praises, one waits for the other shoe to drop. When it comes to climate change — the issue that has consumed Lovelock’s interest more than any other over the last decade — the old man has got it wrong, they say. At least they hope he is wrong.

And the Washington Post lavished praise — and shared Lovelock’s concerns — in this profile from 2006:

Sulfurous musings are not Lovelock’s characteristic style; he’s no Book of Revelation apocalyptic. In his 88th year, he remains one of the world’s most inventive scientists, an Englishman of humor and erudition, with an oenophile’s taste for delicious controversy. Four decades ago, his discovery that ozone-destroying chemicals were piling up in the atmosphere started the world’s governments down a path toward repair. Not long after that, Lovelock proposed the theory known as Gaia, which holds that Earth acts like a living organism, a self-regulating system balanced to allow life to flourish.

Biologists dismissed this as heresy, running counter to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Today one could reasonably argue that Gaia theory has transformed scientific understanding of the Earth.

Now Lovelock has turned his attention to global warming, writing “The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity.” Already a big seller in the United Kingdom, the book was released in the United States last month. (He will speak in Washington, at the Carnegie Institution, Friday at 7 p.m.) Lovelock’s conclusion is straightforward.

To wit, we are poached.

Not quite damning, is it?  So what does Pachuri really say about him?

“I have the highest respect for James Lovelock — he is a great mind and a great scientist, no question,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose report serves as the scientific benchmark for the UN climate talks. “But so far the evidence that we have passed the point when things become irreversible is still very small and highly improbable. I think if we take action now, we will be able to stave off major disaster,” he told AFP.

In other words, he doesn’t necessarily disagree with the predictions, he just thinks that it’s not too late to avoid them.

So, let’s look at what was claimed again by Media Matters:

  • RealClimate.org, a blog written by climate scientists, noted in 2006 that Lovelock’s claims weren’t supported by scientific research.
  • AFP labeled Lovelock a “scientific black sheep.”
  • The London Independent said in 2006 that Lovelock was “going out on a limb” and that his claims were “far gloomier than any yet made by a scientist of comparable international standing.”
  • The Washington Post reported in 2006 that “the warming that Lovelock fears will occur is far more dire than that projected by many other scientists,”
  • and that his “dire talk no doubt occasions much rolling of eyes in polite circles, particularly among scientists in the United States.

That last quote from Media Matters, quoting the Washington Post, is delicious.  You would never guess that by “scientists in the United States” the Washington Post was actually referring to skeptics!  Unless, of course, you included the rest of the line that Media Matters conveniently skipped:

Such dire talk no doubt occasions much rolling of eyes in polite circles, particularly among scientists in the United States, that last redoubt of global-warming skeptics.

All of these quotes from the catastrophists and media are disingenuous when one looks at the actual sources and context for these items. But such is climate science (and the hype and funding that has accreted around it) these days.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • Mogumbo Gono

    I like your blog! This is the first time I’ve read it, and I am in agreement with your point of view. I found it via WattsUpWithThat.com, where I clicked on your name.

    You should consider adding WUWT to your blog roll, because it is by far the most highly trafficked site regarding climate change (AKA: ‘Global Warming is gonna kill us all!!’). The more we get the truth out, the sooner this AGW nonsense will stop.

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