James Lovelock was very pessimistic regarding the ability of human societies to mitigate the effect of climate change. Yet other environmentalist authors, such as Paul Giddings, were more hopeful, a fact noted in other ForourGrandchildren comments. In the opinion of these other authors, the effects of global warming could be mitigated given human ingenuity and commitment.
Lovelock now admits he was too alarmist on climate change. He made this admission with respect to one of his published comments about the death of billions in the 21st Century, and the reduction of human kind to “breeding pairs” in the Arctic. He explained with a twinkle: “I would be a little more cautious – but then that would have spoilt the book.”
He draws a distinction between the increase in carbon dioxide and actual warning of the globe.
“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.”
Lovelock considers that the effect of the oceans (that do absorb CO2 and thus mitigate warming) is not well enough understood and could still make a difference. He is satisfied that human-caused GHG emissions are driving an increase in the global temperature, but the consequences will take a longer time to unfold.
Peter Stott, the head of climate monitoring at the United Kingdom Meteorological Office, agreed that Lovelock’s claim that people would have to live in the Arctic by 2100 was “alarmist”. He also agreed with Lovelock that the rate of warming in recent years had been less than expected by the climate models.
Stott said temperature records and other observations were “broadly speaking continuing to pan out” with the degree of warming expected. Whether this was a short term trend consistent with the variability of weather, or a more significant trend, could only be judged on the basis of the temperatures experienced in this decade and the next.
Like Lovelock, Stott said there needed to be greater understanding of the climatic effects of first, the oceans, and secondly, how air particles caused by pollution cool the Earth by reflecting the sun’s heat.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration basically agrees. Its satellite show the average global surface temperature to be rising.The NOAA statement said “the impacts of a changing climate” were already being felt around the globe, with “more frequent extreme weather events of certain types (heat waves, heavy rain events); changes in precipitation patterns … longer growing seasons; shifts in the ranges of plant and animal species; sea level rise; and decreases in snow, glacier and Arctic sea ice coverage.”
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,the world’s average temperature has risen by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900. By 2100, it predicts it will rise by another 2 to 11.5 degrees, depending upon the levels of greenhouse gases emitted.
That is a wide variation. So in one sense science is not settled. Future increases in temperature can vary significantly, depending principally upon our success in reducing GHG emissions today and in the future.
Yes, there is hope, but that hope will be whittled away if the world continues to ignore climate change.