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James Lovelock 'The Revenge of Gaia' Books & Debate at Corn Exchange

By Carol Milligan.
James Lovelock gave his talk 'The Revenge of Gaia' as part of the Books & Debate programme at Corn Exchange, Brighton Dome on 16th of May at 7.30pm. He says that "The Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years"

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He goes on to say that "Each nation must find the best use of its resources to sustain civilisation for as long as they can."

James Lovelock is one of Britain's best known scientists, and originator of the GAIA theory. Describing himself as a planetary physician, Lovelock has devoted his life to studying our earth and its life systems.

The bad news: Lovelock is convinced it is already too late to prevent global warming destroying life as we know it. The good news: if we act now we can buy ourselves a little more time. Now at 86 his new book 'The Revenge of Gaia' is his wake up call to world governments to do something.

"The Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years."
James Lovelock

Lovelock comes across not as a scaremonger, but as a realist. It takes about 40 years, he reckons for new theories to be accepted. It took 40 years for his Gaia theory to become adopted by many climate scientists around the world. But he felt compelled to write his new book because he is convinced that we don't have another 40 years to debate just how devastating global warming will be.

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere ­ caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels ­ have built up rapidly in the last 100 years to the point where the earths' self regulating systems are collapsing. As the century progresses, Lovelock's models show that world temperatures will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Food and fuel will become scarce on a global scale. Conversely, as The Gulf Stream stops flowing Britain may lose 8 degrees in temperature, and so, for a time become one of the more tolerable regions on earth to live. But only for a time.

In discussion with John Gribbin, himself an eminent scientist and writer, and answering follow-up questions from a packed audience, Lovelock stated very clearly his vision for the way forward. He is no fan of wind power, which he describes as costly and unreliable. Solar panels are, he says, too expensive to produce and must be replaced every ten years.

Lovelock is quite convinced that nuclear power is the one thing that can make a difference. World governments should use their resources developing nuclear energy to supply our electricity. It is, he claims, cheaper and safer than everyone realises.

World summits, like Kyoto, are grand gestures. Lovelock wants each country to look out for its own interests and do the best it can to protect itself now. In UK that means planning for rising sea levels ­ in particular protecting the low lying rich farmland of East Anglia, and the populated areas of London that will flood in the next 30 years.

The audience was stunned by the magnitude of Lovelock's forecast of doom. As I walked home I was afraid that our children will look back on our generation as the one that saw the signs and did nothing.

last updated: 19/05/06
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