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'Gaia' Scientist Admits Mispredicting Rate of Climate Change 744

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the captain-planet-will-still-kill-you dept.
DesScorp writes "James Lovelock, the scientist that came up with the 'Gaia Theory' and a prominent herald of climate change, once predicted utter disaster for the planet from climate change, writing 'before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.' Now Lovelock is walking back his rhetoric, admitting that he and other prominent global warming advocates were being alarmists. In a new interview with MSNBC he says: '"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," Lovelock said. "The climate is doing its usual tricks. There's nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now," he said. "The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that," he added.' Lovelock still believes the climate is changing, but at a much, much slower pace."
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'Gaia' Scientist Admits Mispredicting Rate of Climate Change

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  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:14AM (#39794241) Homepage

    Yes, but Lovelock is a nut; he was on the alarmist edge. Always was. The "Gaia" model is a cool thing to talk to the public about, but it's not real science.

    The mainstream climate scientists are not and have not been mispredicting the rate of climate change. If you look at the data from models from 1979 (the National Academy of Science study), or even the models from 1967 (the Manabe greenhouse-effect calculation)-- the actual data fits the model very nearly exactly.

    The lesson to take home is that denying climate change is wrong, but exaggerating it is also wrong. Pay attention to the real scientists, and try not to give the fringe too much credance. Look at the data.

  • Climatologists Agree (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:18AM (#39794297)

    This pretty much brings James Lovelock into agreement the mainstream science, where the consensus prediction is for anthropogenic warming of at most a few degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. And hey, that's exactly what you're supposed to do when confronted with actual data, isn't it?

    I'm still waiting for the deniers to do the same.

  • Re:Vindication (Score:3, Informative)

    by treadmarks (2528414) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:27AM (#39794437)

    Sorry, this doesn't vindicate climate denial at all. He's just one scientist who made kooky predictions and if you think he's at all important then you need a remedial course in logic. As a matter of fact, climate change has been occurring shockingly fast, faster than even the worst case scenarios were predicting (source http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/02/06/us-climate-canada-idUSTRE6145KP20100206 [reuters.com]). Due to a complete political failure to address the issue, an 11 degF rise in temperature is expected.

  • by thelamecamel (561865) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:29AM (#39794463)

    The mainstream climate scientists are not and have not been mispredicting the rate of climate change. If you look at the data from models from 1979 (the National Academy of Science study), or even the models from 1967 (the Manabe greenhouse-effect calculation)-- the actual data fits the model very nearly exactly.

    Here's a checkup [realclimate.org] on a Hansen prediction from 1981. I wouldn't call it near-exact, but still pretty good for a 30-year-old model of a very complicated set of things.

    Speaking of graphs, I find this one [berkeleyearth.org] really scary, and would want to see it flatten out or drop for a good few years before I stop caring about my energy usage.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:36AM (#39794579)

    Yes, Lovelock was being overly alarmist. He also has no expertise in climate change prediction, so his guess is as good as yours. The fact that he's wrong doesn't mean that actual experts who've made less extreme predictions are also wrong.

    Lovelock is a black-and-white kind of guy(*), who tends toward hyperbole. His Gaia hypothesis is the same way: he takes a small truth about negative feedbacks in Earth systems and blows it up into some huge quasi-religious theory of everything.

    * Yes, that was a Daisyworld joke.

  • Lovelock is a chemist, not a climatologist, and his hypothesis is clearly a chemists view. Also, no living organism supports Lovelocks theory; which shoots it in the foot. In other words: Natural selection would need a means of cross species reproductive communication.

    Consensus of actual experts in the field did no agree with the pace of his predictions. Media loved it "FEAR NOW!" and Hollywood used is to spawn another round disaster movies.

  • by Darth Snowshoe (1434515) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:41AM (#39794643)

    I may not be so well informed on this, but I don't believe Mr. Lovelock took any of your tax money for climate or weather science. For starters, he lives in Great Britain, and is a British citizen. According to the Google.

    But if you're paying taxes in Great Britain, he still hasn't taken any of your money. Mostly he just writes books. There's no public subsidy for what he does, and very little science involved. He's essentially a crank.

  • Ridiculous. (Score:2, Informative)

    by sidragon.net (1238654) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:42AM (#39794645)

    Global Warming/Climate Change may or may not be happening.

    That statement is absurd. I cannot believe there are still people pandering this and similar opinions. Read Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong [nybooks.com] by William Nordhaus. Climate change is happening, and human activities are likely causing it.

    [Not at] the rate that would justify dismantling civilization over...

    Nobody is suggesting that. This is nonsensical hyperbole on its face. However, the scientific community is suggesting that we: use less energy, find renewable energy sources, and make less babies. The first two are profitable investments we ought to make regardless whether the climate is changing.

  • by BStroms (1875462) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:42AM (#39794653)

    As glad as I am we got rid of CFCs, it's actually a bit of a funny story where things went from there. The replacement chemicals for CFCs are greenhouses gasses over 4,000 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/19/AR2009071901817.html [washingtonpost.com]

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:42AM (#39794657) Homepage Journal

    "Somehow linking that to humans, that's the REALLY controversial part and it's MUCH harder to provide fact in that case. Almost impossible."
    No, it isn't. CO2 is causing it, we spew billions of tons of CO2 in the air.
    No other mechanism for the increase in the temperature has every panned out.

  • by Dishevel (1105119) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:44AM (#39794675)

    No one is saying that.
    What is being said is that climate is incredibly complicated.
    What we know for sure is that we do not know. They were not a little bit off here. They were way off the mark.
    Not because they are stupid. Not because they want to lie.
    There was a TED talk on this. Where we think we can understand things that are really way too complicated for our brains to ever understand.
    Luckily he does also point out that just because we can not truly understand something does not mean we can not solve it.

    Everyone should watch this [ted.com] TED talk.

  • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:44AM (#39794695) Journal

    There are (hopefully) experiments on the effects of CFCs on O3 molecules, that made us come to the conclusion that CFC damages the ozone layer. That was simple in my opinion. AGW/ACC on the other hand is far from being simple. I for one am very sceptical about the pace and the amount of global warming happening because of humans.

    Uh, the science of AGW is so simple that it has been known since the 19th century. It's way simpler than the effect of CFC's on the ozone layer.

  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:48AM (#39794731) Homepage

    No Model Fits This Data.

    Sorry. Show me a model made between 1995 and 2010 that fits the observed data of the last decade.

    The calculation done in 1967 by Manabe and Wetherald-- it's summarized in any textbook about atmospheric science. This was the first numerical calculation of the global greenhouse effect; their calculated response value is still near the center of the consensus value used today. Send me your email address and I'll send you a jpeg comparing the model and the data.

    Not one single fits.

    Incorrect. In fact, all of them fit, but I like to sue the Manabe calculation because it has the longest run of comparison of theory to experiment. The National Academy of Sciences study of 1979.

    ....Of course now Lovelock is declared to be a nut, an extremist, on the alarmist edge. But before he was:

    [long list of completely irrelevant stuff]

    Not a single thing you list has anything whatsoever to do with climate science. Nothing.

    List one single paper in which he contributes significant work to climate science. There aren't any. He's a colorful popularizer, but he's a biologist, not a climate scientist.

    That's the whole problem-- people keep paying attention to popularizers and colorful characters and other people who have loud mouths. Ignore them. Pay attention to the actual science.

  • Re:Vindication (Score:5, Informative)

    by ideonexus (1257332) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:49AM (#39794757) Homepage Journal

    How did this make the front page of Slashdot??? James Lovelock is not a Climate Scientist, he's and an independent scientist and environmentalist who is famous for the Gaia Hypothesis [wikipedia.org] a half-scientific half-philosophical metaphor for understanding Earth's biosphere. There is no reason anyone should give this man any credibility when it comes to speaking on the subject of Climate Change projections.

    Do you know who is qualified to speak on this subject? James Hanson, and a 1981 paper [thedgw.org] he published in a peer-reviewed journal attempted to project the rise in temperatures over the next 30 years. Those projections still managed to underestimate the observed rise in temperatures by 30 percent [realclimate.org] and even the worst case scenario of those projections managed to underestimate the observed trend.

    So no. You are not vindicated. You have demonstrated that you have no understanding of how science works, elevating the opinion of someone speaking outside their realm of expertise over the peer-reviewed published research of an expert with over three decades working inside the subject of climate change.

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:56AM (#39794827)

    > Changing power sources is dismantling civilization?

    If there isn't anything to change to it is. And there currently isn't. Name one potential source that could replace fossil fuels and I'll show you a source the same greens are already trying to deem unacceptable. Lets review:

    1. Nuke. Do I even have to go there? Even if we perfect fusion the greens will still wet themselves over the notion of power from anything with the N word attached.

    2. Hydro. Disrupts Gaia. Harms fish reproduction and prevents 'healthy' rivers. And there is some point to their arguments. If nothing else our attempts at dams for flood control have certainly had a mixed record of success.

    3. Wind. Assume it could actually produce enough energy. (Work with me here.) NIMBY is already rampant, greens are up in arms because when you fill square mile after square mile with windmills birds die. Who would have thunk it?

    4. Solar. Makes sense as a source of off-grid energy but will never compete on a cost basis. And that is if you ignore the horrid ecological side effects of making the panels. And again, now that there are plans to actually cover over mile after mile of desert with the things the usual suspects are aghast.

    5. Geothermal. Causes earthquakes.

    6. Biofuels. Will cause widespread famine long before providing a noticable fraction of world energy production. Take the recycled plant waste, switchgrass on land unusable for more productive use but don't plan on it being anything but a boost. Not a primary source.

    And if I have left your pet alternative energy source off this list be assured that it won't work either. It is great for soaking up grant money, deploying on a small scale to give egoboo to celebs but the second someone things it can be produced at a profit the downside will become clear.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @11:02AM (#39794931) Homepage
    The burden of proof lies on the people making extraordinary claims. If someone is claiming that doubling the amount of carbon dioxide, an established greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere will not impact global temperatures, then it is up to them to prove such a fantastical claim.
  • by jackjumper (307961) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @11:05AM (#39794977)
    You might be interested in reading some actual analysis - the Rocky Mountain Institute has done great research for years on this. Reinventing Fire [rmi.org] What you have above is a good case study of a set of logical fallacies [yourlogicalfallacyis.com]. How many can you find?
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @11:36AM (#39795445)

    Japan has just finished turning off all nuclear power over a "disaster" that proved just how safe modern nuclear can be

    And this is why no one takes you or your kind seriously.
    #1 Japan didn't turn off all nuclear. For one, it would take far longer than a few months to do so. For two, they're taking them offline for security checks. They plan on bringing them back online. It just so happens that there will be a period of time when no nuclear plant will be online.
    #2 Solar panels work great. I have em, and they cut my bill in half. You mean they can't replace coal by themselves by tomorrow? SHocking. They must be useless and tossed out.
    #3 One solar thermal plant wasn't built because the company didn't want to immediately fork over the money to alleviate environmental concerns brought on by the government. You should know better, considering you seem to live in the Bay Area.
    #4 Even if we are in an ice age (and we really aren't), that doesn't matter one lick. What matters is that there are drastic changes coming to our civilization, which has been built according to the climate variations of the past 300 years. That's going to cost money.
    #5 And the rest of your arguments are just total nonsense (long-term norm? glaciers in Europe? a few meters of oceans rising is not a problem?)

    Seriously, I'd love to hear a good argument about a) why AGW isn't real, and b) why we shouldn't worry. Instead, I get the worst Monday Morning quarterbacking possible.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @12:49PM (#39796559) Journal

    Speaking of graphs, I find this one [berkeleyearth.org] really scary, and would want to see it flatten out or drop for a good few years before I stop caring about my energy usage.

    Just taking a quick gander at that particular graph, I notice that it covers 200 years of surface temperature. This brings a couple of points to my mind:

    1) How accurate can we judge the entire planet's average temperature in the year 1800? The graph shows swings from year to year in the 0.2 C range. Can we really judge the average surface temperature of the planet with 0.2 degrees Celsius?

    2) Also, the chart shows 200 years. This is a blip on the scale of climate science. If you look at the climate history on a much, much larger scale, you'll find that 200 years means nothing. For example, the chart on this [scotese.com] page shows that we are much cooler than the average. An sharp increase in average temps would help put us "right". Or this [longrangeweather.com] chart which goes back 4500 years, shows that we just came out of an ice age, so a temperature increase would be expected, and also negates your Berkely graph. Or, finally, this [c3headlines.com] page which shows a whole slew of charts, most of which show that we are in a cold period of climate history, and an increase in average temperature would get the earth back to the "normal" range.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @03:02PM (#39798453)

    I don't know where people get off thinking they can spend 5% of their income on food when throughout history it required practically 100% of their labor.

    This is because agricultural productivity was so much lower in the past. It's not that food is artificially cheap today – it's that food is much cheaper and easier to produce now due to advances in technology. Mechanization, chemical research (fertilizers) and more recently biotechnology have all dramatically increased how much food you can get out of an acre of land, and decreased how much labor you need to put in to get it. Just 100 years ago, farmers were about 31% of the workforce in the United States. Nearly one of three Americans was a farmer. Today it's one-tenth that and yet we are producing far more food than ever before.

  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @03:19PM (#39798657) Homepage Journal

    however, during that same time period, the sea ice in the Antarctic, you know, at the other end of the planet, has been increasing. uh oh.

    First of all, it's important that people know what "sea ice" is and its not. It *is* frozen sea water, which in the Antarctic mostly melts in the summer. It is *not* the permanent Antarctic ice sheets, which originate in glaciers (land ice, not sea ice, even though it is on the sea). The ice sheets are losing about 40 gigtons of mass per year[5].

    Second, the gain in sea ice in the Antarctic is tiny, and it is not the result of atmospheric temperature decreases. There has been an increase in Antarctic atmosphere temperatures [1], accompanied by a stronger winds blowing cold surface water to the northwest which produces the increase in winter sea ice extent [2]. In the lee of the Antarctic Peninsula, which blocks this surface movement, there has been a dramatic decrease in sea ice [3]. Another factor is that slightly warmer surface temperatures can actually lead to an increase in ice extent by reducing the salinity of water near the edge of ice-formation[6].

    Overall, the changes in polar sea ice are consistent with models predicting CO2 induced global warming [2][4], and in any case land ice is a much better indication of antarctic temperature changes, and that has being lost; if the small sea ice increases we've been seeing were due to cooling, we would see an equilibrium or gain in land ice.

    CITATIONS:
    [1] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7228/abs/nature07669.html [nature.com]
    [2] http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/faq/#wintertimeantarctic [nsidc.org]
    [3] http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/quickfacts/seaice.html [nsidc.org]
    [4] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/278/5340/1104.short [sciencemag.org]
    [5] http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2010EGUGA..12.6127I [harvard.edu]
    [6] http://psc.apl.washington.edu/zhang/Pubs/Zhang_Antarctic_20-11-2515.pdf [washington.edu]

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