Apocalypse Now

Human-induced climate change has caused so much damage that the Earth is past the point of no return. So says, James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia theory, in his new book Revenge of Gaia.

According to the book, not only is global warming increasing but effects like melting polar ice are working in a positive feedback loop. The impacts will only accelerate and will create world-wide havoc much sooner than expected. This warning is not new. The rapidity with which it’s happening, is. And Lovelock warns that the change is irreversible so countries need to prepare for the worst.

Over the coming decades soaring temperatures will mean agriculture may become unviable over huge areas of the world where people are already poor and hungry; water supplies for millions or even billions may fail. Rising sea levels will destroy substantial coastal areas in low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, at the very moment when their populations are mushrooming. Numberless environmental refugees will overwhelm the capacity of any agency, or indeed any country, to cope, while modern urban infrastructure will face devastation from powerful extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans last summer.

The prognosis is as depressing as can be imagined: the destruction of civilization. What will be left is “a broken rabble led by brutal warlords.”

His advice? Stockpile food in a narrow Arctic belt that will be habitable for the few remaining humans. Compile a text for the survivors, written “on durable paper with long-lasting print”, containing all necessary scientific knowledge so that humanity can rebound as quickly as possible. I’m sure Lovelock got this idea from the science fiction novel, Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Even though the book speculated about an Earth after a comet strike, it’s still a valid idea for a world destroyed by a rise of 8 degrees celsius. (And ironic since Niven doesn’t believe the climate change is human-induced.)

This is considered so important that, in addition to Lovelock’s piece, Britain’s Independent newspaper has devoted two articles to it, here and here.

It will be interested to see how climate change scientists react to this book publicly. I’m guessing that they’ll tone down Lovelock’s assertions. I don’t know whether the majority of scientists believe in Lovelock’s prognosis but feel it won’t play well in the press or believe that climate change ultimately can be halted. The public? It’s like a novelization of The Day After Tomorrow so I can’t foresee any major reaction. The paradox is, as much as a film such as this distorts the science of climate change for dramatic effect, it captures the magnitude of Lovelock’s predictions.

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