OR, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love CO2
James Ephraim Lovelock was the much honoured British scientist famous for a beautiful and irresistible idea known as the Gaia hypothesis. Dr Lovelock was a self-made man in the best tradition of scientists of a previous age. His parents were poor, and he financed his own education through evening classes at Birkbeck college before being accepted into Manchester University to study Chemistry. He went on to receive a PhD from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, worked at the London Institute for Medical Research and conducted research at both Yale and Harvard Universities. While his work up to this point had been in the medical field, in 1961 he was engaged by NASA to develop instruments for the study of the atmospheres of other planets. He invented an electron capture detector, which led to the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons were depleting the Earth’s ozone layer. He was studying the planet Mars, knowing that if life existed on the planet it would have altered the composition of its atmosphere. It was the inert stability of the Martian atmosphere, with its dearth of oxygen, hydrogen or methane and its disproportionate abundance of carbon dioxide, that told him that the planet was dead: a stark contrast with the chemically dynamic nature of Earth’s biosphere. It was as a result of this that he began to develop his Gaia hypothesis.
Essentially the Gaia concept is that the animate and inanimate components of planet Earth together constitute a self-regulating, interactive system that can be thought of in its totality as a single living organism. The biosphere, in other words, has a regulatory effect on the environment that acts to preserve the balance necessary to sustain life. It builds on the so-called CLAW hypothesis (an acronym of the names of four collaborating scientists, Charlson, Lovelock, Andreas and Warren) proposing negative feedback loops between oceanic ecosystems and earth’s climate. As an example, Lovelock detailed the role of marine phytoplankton’s production of dimethyl sulphide in response to rises in temperature. The sulphide rises into the atmosphere, seeding clouds, the resultant albedo effect then cooling the surface. The feedback also works in reverse, falls in temperature leading to lower production of sulphide, decreased albedo, and an increase of sunlight reaching the surface. The Gaia hypothesis is built on numerous and diverse examples of negative feedbacks which contribute to a planetary-scale homeostasis: “a biocybernetic universal system tendency”, in Lovelock’s original formulation.
The hypothesis has that quality of many brilliant ideas, that once conceived it seems absolutely obvious, and amazing that nobody had articulated it before. The only people who couldn’t accept it were militant materialists like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, to whom the idea that nature might attain spontaneous balance and order seemed a little too redolent of an intelligent system to suit his nihilistic view of the universe. John Maynard Smith, who made his name by the application of game theory to evolution, called the Gaia hypothesis an “evil religion” in a quite maniacal outburst.
Lovelock’s theory does not go beyond the parameters of science; any such inferences are left to others to make. It’s true that a teleological inference is invited by the personification of homeostatic earth systems as Gaia, the Greek Earth goddess, but it was intended merely as shorthand for a complex theory. The name, without which one doubts whether the idea would have become so well-known beyond scientific circles, was suggested by his neighbour and friend, the novelist William Golding, and Lovelock certainly encouraged the inference by constantly referring to his ‘system tendency’ as ‘She’, ‘Mother Nature’ and so on. But it’s a metaphor, not intended to be taken literally.
“The Gaia Hypothesis, now Gaia Theory, is still up for trial,” wrote Lovelock in the nineties. “A common criticism is of teleology. This accusation is unjust; neither purpose or foresight were ever claimed. Whether right or wrong, it is a testable theory and capable of making ‘risky’ predictions.”
A ‘risky’ prediction is “a prediction made on the basis of a scientific hypothesis that has a real possibility of proving that hypothesis wrong. The influential philosopher of science Karl Popper (1902–1994) held that scientific theories must be tested by means of such risky predictions.
Over the last quarter of century, Gaia theory has gradually been accepted into the academic mainstream, where it is generally taught under the title of Earth Systems Science.
In 1974, at the age of 55, Lovelock was elected to Britain’s Royal Society of scientists in recognition of his work on cryopreservation, atmospheric physics, marine biology, gas chromatography and much more. He served as president of the Marine Biological Association, became an honorary fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, and continued his work as an independent scientist, author and inventor. In 1990 he was awarded a CBE — Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
It was only after the turn of the century that Lovelock’s career entered a chaotic phase that did considerable damage to his reputation, with his involvement in the catastrophic global warming movement. In 2006 he published a book which he would repudiate within a few years. Its premise was that destruction of primary forest and consequent reduction in biodiversity is stretching Gaia’s capacity to absorb the additional greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels. It was Lovelock’s apocalyptic projection of this observation into the future that suggested the book’s sensationalist B-movie-style title, The Revenge of Gaia. In his thesis, humanity’s destruction of tropical rainforest eliminated the regulatory negative feedbacks and switched them into positive mode — vicious cycles, in other words. Warming oceans would extend the thermocline layer of tropical waters into the the Arctic, preventing oceanic nutrients from rising to the surface waters and eliminating the blooms of phytoplankton on which food chains depend. Most of the earth’s surface, he predicted, would be turned to desert. The Sahara would reach to Paris and Berlin. All food production in Europe would cease; billions would die — 80% of the human race, he predicted — and by the end of the 21st century human survival would depend on a few breeding pairs of humans who had managed to hang on in the Arctic, the only region where the climate would remain tolerable. The only way to avoid this apocalyptic scenario would be the exclusive adoption of nuclear power, radioactive waste being absolutely preferable to “that truly malign waste, carbon dioxide.”
“The earth is about to fall into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years,” he said in an interview with The Independent newspaper. “We have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can.”
It’s an astonishing episode in the thought-history of the scientist — to go from conceiving of the Earth as a living, self-regulating organism to characterising atmospheric carbon, which is the foundation of all life on the planet, as “truly malign”. How could such a contradiction be resolved? Was the Earth Goddess so fragile that the evolution of a creative life-form would destroy her capacity to sustain life?
If the Gaia hypothesis is valid, then humanity, like every other species on the planet, must be thought of as a cog in the “biocybernetic universal system tendency” — a child of Gaia. Of course humanity has an effect on the environment. But the same is true of all other species, and that is the basis of the whole Gaia hypothesis, that Earth’s dynamic atmosphere is the product of its biosphere. The question then is at what point do we or did we depart from our natural destiny to the extent of exhausting the mother’s tolerance for her problem child and invoking her ‘revenge’? Something about us, according to the catastrophists, puts us in opposition to the Gaia system — but what? How do we define it?
During Locklock’s 21st Century catastrophist digression, he pinpointed that original sin as humankind’s use of fire.
“Our giant mistake was combustion, learning to burn things. At first it was harmless, just for cooking. But we never stop at that level, we start doing it on a grand scale, like burning down whole forests because you get cooked meat much cheaper that way, it’s much less effort. That was our mistake, and we’ve been making it for a long time. We’re only just beginning to discover how serious a mistake it was.” (Pioneer Productions, 2007)
So it’s not just about fossil fuels; it’s about fire itself. Once again, a mythological context is evoked: the Promethean theft of fire from the gods of Mount Olympus. To argue that humanity’s accessing of energy from combustion is in itself wrong and immoral is to say that we rebelled against Gaia at the very beginning of our existence. Even our hominid precursors — Neanderthals, Australopithecines and Homo Erectus — used fire. Archeological evidence dates the earliest use of fire by human precursors at around 1 to 1.5 million years ago. Did it really all go wrong when Prometheus saved us poor naked humans with the gift of fire, the spark of all technology and civilisation?
Prometheus is the son of Themis, identified with divine law. As well as giving humans divine fire, he taught them the arts of civilisation — writing, mathematics, agriculture, medicine and science. Prometheus thus stands for human creativity in all its aspects, and our ascent from primitive misery to a civilised condition. But if the theft of fire is our original sin, we are cursed from the beginning.
Lovelock does not condemn the use of fire for cooking, which increased human lifespan and cognitive development. He condemns its misuse by Homo Sapiens as a weapon, for fire-drive hunting, land-clearance, warfare, and and so on. So it seems to be a moral rather than a scientific distinction — in line with Lovelock’s Quaker upbringing rather than his scientific career. Humans are an ‘unpleasant’ species, he says, which does ‘bad’ things. And the taming of fire is The Fall of Man. It’s the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.
But Gaia does not make ethical judgments. Species are selected, according to Gaia theory, not only for their ability to adapt to the environment, but for their tendency to adapt that environment to the needs of life, in ways that contribute to the homeostasis of the whole system. Since plants require CO2, it would seem rather obvious that a species such as homo sapiens, producing CO2 through combustion, contributes to the homeostatic system tendency. The significance of this contribution is confirmed by the ‘global greening’ which is now taking place, fed by higher levels of atmospheric carbon. For the originator of Gaia theory to overlook this potentially crucial contribution to planetary homeostasis is a major oversight.
If humanity is a problem for Gaia, it is not because of our production of CO2, which is essential to the continuation of the system. In fact this is one of our redeeming features. In any case, if our ‘original sin’ is that we produce CO2, then how are we different from bacteria and decaying vegetation and volcanoes and oceans and all the other sources of carbon dioxide, responsible for the presence of at least 97% of the life-giving gas in the atmosphere? The argument and his statements in support of it are contradictory, and represent an absolute contradiction of his original hypothesis that could only make sense if humanity is viewed as separate from the Gaia system. How could that be true of our species, unless we came from somewhere else or were genetically engineered by aliens or something like that? Lovelock never espoused any such notion.
Less than a year after this attack of panic-stricken hyperbole, Lovelock was already backing off from his apocalyptic pronouncements, saying that the climate would stabilise and that the Earth was in no danger. Nevertheless, in an article in Nature in 2007, he promoted a geo-engineering solution using ocean pumps to bring water up from beneath the thermocline to “fertilise algae in the surface waters and encourage them to bloom”, thus accelerating the transfer of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the oceans, where it would eventually fall to the bottom in the form of ‘marine snow’. His drift into the eugenicist worldview behind catastrophic global warming theory was confirmed in 2009 when he became a patron of the organisation Population Matters (formerly the Optimum Population Trust).
Lovelock’s geo-engineering scheme attracted a lot of media attention and was roundly criticised in some quarters. “It doesn’t make sense,” objected Corinne la Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia, in an article in The Times. “There is absolutely no evidence that climate engineering options work or even go in the right direction. I’m astonished that they published this. Before any geo-engineering is put to work a massive amount of research is needed – research which will take twenty to thirty years”. That didn’t stop a commercial company from designing the technology to realise Lovelock’s proposal for marine biological sequestration of CO2.
By 2012 Lovelock had come to his senses, and thoroughly repudiated his Revenge of Gaia aberration, saying he had made a mistake and been guilty of alarmism in that book, and dismissing Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth in the same terms. He called anthropogenic global warming theory ‘green drivel’, and accused the alarmists of behaving like the priests of a new religion.
“It just so happens that the green religion is now taking over from the Christian religion,” he said in an interview with the Toronto Sun (“Green ‘drivel’ exposed”, 23 June 2012.) “I don’t think people have noticed that, but it’s got all the sort of terms that religions use… The greens use guilt. That just shows how religious greens are. You can’t win people round by saying they are guilty for putting [carbon dioxide] in the air.”
His repudiation of his 2006 work was explicit. In an MSNBC article Lovelock made it clear that “we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew twenty years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened. 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. The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… [the temperature] has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that.”
The point is well made and still valid in 2023; the millennial temperature plateau turned into a decline, already a problem for the University of East Anglia’s ‘Climategate’ scientists as early as 2010, as they colluded to “hide the decline”, and current data confirms that global temperatures are now in a seven-year cooling trend. Whether this effect is a matter of sun cycles, cycles in the earth orbit and tilt, or homeostatic negative feedback mechanisms at work, as detailed in the work that made Lovelock’s name as a scientist, the fact is that the climate alarmists have never made a single prediction that has been fulfilled.
Lovelock’s outlook during his somewhat brief catastrophist phase was in direct contradiction not only to his own theory but well-established scientific fact: specifically the logarithmic dependence of temperature on atmospheric carbon concentration — i.e., that the progressive addition of CO2 to the atmosphere has less and less effect on temperature, and no effect at all beyond the point of carbon saturation at around 1200 ppm. Therefore — and Lovelock must know this — there can be no ‘tipping point’, no ‘runaway greenhouse effect’ due to atmospheric carbon dioxide. In other interviews post-2012 he admits to elementary mistakes or oversights, such as overlooking the cooling haze-effect of industrial pollution, as well as copious natural sources of atmospheric particulates which renders ‘clean-world’ models obsolete. It’s difficult to believe that any atmospheric scientist would not know this; after all, the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions which atmospheric geo-engineering schemes seek to imitate had been conclusively demonstrated by a series of volcanic eruptions in recent history: Mt. St Helens (1980), El Chichón (1982), and Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. I remember these ‘years without a summer’ very well, and so do the geo-engineers.
These are glaring critical lacunae on the part of this great scientist. There are many reasons to be horrified by the destruction of primary forest. But higher availability of carbon dioxide for photosynthesis leads to increased plant growth everywhere (NASA, CSIRO) in the kind of negative feedback loop which is central to his signature theory. So what happened? Was his mind overpowered by propaganda, like any unscientific member of the public? Or were there other reasons for him to turn his back on Gaia?
Lovelock was already in his eighties when he sold out his sophisticated vision of earth’s compensatory mechanisms to the politically motivated purveyors of junk UN climate science. He was not senile — far from it. Even in interviews given in his centenary year, he is as articulate as ever, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with his powers of recall. Could there be something else behind his aberration? It’s a hard thought to entertain, given Lovelock’s attractively naïf persona and mischievous sense of humour. Perhaps that last quality holds the key, and Lovelock should ultimately be seen as a kind of trickster figure; but underneath the mischievous grin was there something more ruthless, to which he was prepared to sacrifice even his own scientific reputation?
Asked in 2019 to “spend a few minutes telling us how you view Gaia now — what is Gaia?”, the centenarian Lovelock gives a rather intriguing answer.
“You can’t sum up Gaia in a few words,” he says, “any more than I could sum up an answer to the question ‘Who am I?’”
It’s not a typical remark, and one gets the sense that at a hundred years of age it amuses him to invite a little speculation… for there is, actually, more to Lovelock than meets the eye. After his death in 2022, various newspaper articles were written in which his ‘decades-long’ involvement with British military intelligence were revealed, as confirmed by his private correspondence. These revelations were originally shared by the journalist Brian Appleyard, a WEF alumnus and fellow Commander of the British Empire. I think they served only to confirm what many already suspected. The Independent’s Year 2000 profile of the then 80-year-old scientist had touched on the same information in the rather coy formulation “a supporter of MI5”, which evokes a giggle from the great man. After all, how do you ‘support’ an intelligence agency? Intelligence agencies don’t require cheerleaders. But they have many uses for genuine talent, in this case a phenomenally ingenious inventor, who, Appleyard asserts, served as the real-world equivalent of Q in the James Bond films: technologist to the spook world.
Reviewing the outline of his career, it seems to fit pretty well. Mill Hill, Yale, NASA and JPL — and those billionaire-friendly research foci: cryogenics… airborne coronavirus transmission… his environmentalism, counter-intuitively, was undoubtedly of use in narrative-creation for a financial-corporate elite which saw the potential for control in apocalyptic visions of the consequences of human energy-use. As with Elon Musk, everything Lovelock worked on just happened to fit the globalist agenda as far as we know it (which is rather far) like a glove. As the elite worked to co-opt the nascent environmental movement in the wake of the Report from Iron Mountain, that electron capture detector was just the device they needed, able to detail the chemical pollution of all parts of the planet in microscopic detail, giving the movement extraordinary momentum. And — please don’t get me wrong — what his detector revealed about the ubiquity of pesticide residues and halogen compounds in every terrestrial region and biological niche is horrifying information which should have brought about changes in the way we farm. But in his climate alarmist period, Lovelock was not talking about these real problems, instead participating in the diversion of the movement into a war on carbon, and a betrayal of the authentic environmental impulse.
Now, all this might conceivably occur unwittingly and coincidentally, these critical lacunae arising out of the cultural/scientific zeitgeist, so we should look further back in the chain. As a well-connected friend told me once, “You don’t even know you’re being recruited, the way they groom you.” Especially if you have been raised in almost total solitude by Quaker grandparents and have far more experience of, and interest in, the natural world than the human. I’m sure these agencies are very skilled in exploiting human naivety and innocence.
But at some point you know, and Lovelock was more than comfortable with it. His relationship to the agency remains clouded. But he made no secret, at least as an old man, of his disdain for the common herd. In one of the centenary interviews he comments on Elon Musk’s desire to go and live on Mars, the solar system’s dead planet. The only explanation for such a stupid notion, he thinks, is that “he [Musk] must hate people even more than I do.”
It’s meant as a joke, but there’s a flicker across his face, as a remark so incongruous with his lovable persona hangs in the air for a second… but the interviewer moves swiftly to the next question and that momentary embarrassment quickly evaporates. It’s not so much a critical lacuna as an ethical abyss over which some of his listeners must hover for a moment before hurrying to the next question.
Did Lovelock’s hatred of humanity make him susceptible to the eugenicist worldview for which catastrophic anthropogenic global warming theory serves as profasis? This charming and brilliant man had long been an admitted Malthusian, who accepted the premise that the Earth is over-populated and that Nature must rebalance herself by deseleccting a species whose impacts can no longer be accommodated within the Earth’s homeostatic systems. The fact that in 2009 he became a patron of the organisation Population Matters (formerly the Optimum Population Trust) goes some way to answering this question.
Lovelock’s repudiation of his alarmist phase represented a return to science and sanity. Where a correlation appears to exist in the detailed climate reconstructions we now have, it is clear that temperature leads CO2 levels rather than following them. When it is warmer, more carbon dioxide, exhaled by the oceans, appears in the atmosphere, not the other way round. For long periods in the record there is no linkage at all. And of course, as in Gaia theory, the Earth creates negative feedback loops which operate to mitigate extremes. A fundamental such loop which any lay person can understand is that higher temperatures energise the water cycle; increased evaporation brings increased cloud cover, and the enhanced albedo effect cools the planet; however, UNIPCC climate models do not factor in cloud-cover, an omission which at a stroke renders them scientifically irrelevant. And yet the policy of the UN and its proliferating agencies and affiliated entities (including, now, the WEF) is based entirely on the flawed projections of these models.
Lovelock’s intervention in the global warming controversy had an effect, hyping up the apocalyptic imagery and setting a precedent for ham-fisted interference in interactive Earth systems with the hubristic geo-engineering schemes which Lovelock once again started touting as he approached his 100th birthday in 2019.
Of course he was right to highlight the destruction of primary forest and habitat. Of course that is injury and gross insult to Gaia. But the destruction of rainforest is wrong in itself. The values are all backwards here. We must defend the rich biodiversity of primary forest from rapacious corporations for its own sake, not on account of some ill-founded and irrational fears about how average global temperature might affect human affairs. Gaia does not create forests to serve as ‘sinkholes’ for carbon dioxide; on the contrary, carbon dioxide exists to create the forests.
So let’s do it, as a thought-experiment; that is, apply Gaia Theory in its teleological form to the history of life on this planet; and see how it reads. Lovelock abjures the teleological error, but it’s an aspect of the original hypothesis that should be discussed rather than thrown out by academic prejudice. Arguments for intelligent design in physics and biology have emerged ever more strongly over the past century, gaining increased traction in recent years, and it should be clearly understood that these are not arguments from faith but from science. Bear in mind that Hoyle, like many other ‘scientific converts’, was an atheist until he studied the origins of carbon. So I beg the reader’s indulgence to entertain the full implications of the Gaia theory for a few paragraphs. It’s a speculative argument, of course. But let’s lay aside our preconceptions and consider the climate question through its lens. And let’s take the theory seriously, as its author, perhaps, never really did.
When most of the major phyla of animal life suddenly arrived in the Cambrian era, atmospheric carbon dioxide was super-abundant at around 6,000 parts per million — as compared with the puny 400 ppm considered to be cause for such panic in our own times. Carbon is the basis of all known life-forms, its unique properties distinguishing it from other elements: specifically, its ability to form an endless diversity of organic compounds, with more than ten million scientifically described to date, a figure which represents only a fraction of those theoretically possible. In addition, it has an unusual ability at temperatures experienced on earth to form polymers, that is, macromolecules with repeating sequences, as found in DNA. An atmosphere thus loaded with carbon is ready for the evolution of life.
CO2 levels were not much lower at the beginning of the Carboniferous, when trees evolved and great forests spread across the surface of the planet, binding most of the remaining atmospheric carbon over the course of fifty million years and inducing a steep, deep plunge to very low levels. Atmospheric carbon stayed low throughout the Permian, even while temperatures rose steeply. Consistently warm temperatures throughout the Triassic and Jurassic brought atmospheric carbon levels slowly back up to around 1,000 ppmV at the beginning of the Cretaceous, 150 million years ago.
At that point, the success of marine calcifying organisms becomes a major factor in the carbon cycle, locking up more and more of the element in calcium carbonate shells and exoskeletons, and ultimately in limestone and other carbonaceous sedimentary rocks. With more and more carbon inaccessible to the life-cycle in oil, coal and limestone deposits, atmospheric carbon entered on a continuous downward trend. By the mid-Pliocene epoch, during which hominids evolved, atmospheric carbon was already at dangerously low levels, perilously close to the lower limit at which any plant — and therefore any life on earth — starves to death. If this downward trend were to continue, all life on earth would become extinct within another 2-3 million years.
Gaia had to do something to save herself. Something had to happen, and it did.
During a three million year carbon famine, an intelligent, creative species evolved which, like its hominid forerunners, knew how to use fire — which of course puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: an interesting symmetry, to my mind.
Gaia had to do something to save herself. Something had to happen, and it did.
During a three million year carbon famine, an intelligent, creative species evolved which, like its hominid forerunners, knew how to use fire — which of course puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: an interesting symmetry.
Of course, the amounts of carbon dioxide produced by humans were much too small to have any effect on the composition of the atmosphere until several millennia later. Nevertheless the significance of human discovery of the tool of fire is powerfully and ambiguously reflected in human culture. In Greek mythology, fire belonged to the Olympian gods and was stolen from them by the creator of the human race, the Titan Prometheus, to alleviate their naked, defenceless state.
There are rival etymologies for the name, which seem to reflect the ethical ambiguity of the discovery: the ancient Greek etymology interpreted it as ‘forethinker, foreseer,’ from promēthēs ‘thinking before,’ from pro ‘before’ plus mēthos, related to mathein ‘to learn’ (from an enlargement of PIE root men-, ‘to think’). However, an alternative and equally convincing derivation identifies it with Proto-Indo-European roots, the Vedic pra math, ‘to steal’, hence pramathyu-s, ‘thief’.
When Zeus, the king of the gods, discovered the theft he was furious, fearing that with the gift of fire humans would in time become powerful enough overthrow the Olympians. He inflicted a hideous and eternal punishment on Prometheus, chaining him to a rock in the Caucasus mountains and sending an eagle to gnaw out his liver in agonising torture, a perpetual living death: as an immortal, Prometheus could not die, and his liver regenerated every night, only for the eagle to eat it again the next day, and so on for all eternity, as Zeus intended. However, after thirty thousand years of this torment, the hero Heracles passed by on his search for the Apples of Hesperides, killed the eagle, and freed Prometheus from his agony.
Without divine fire, humans, the weakest of animals, would not have survived at all. But with it, they had heat and light and defence against night-predators, the means to create weapons, and eventually to smelt metals, drive engines and generate electricity, and they not only survived and prospered, but finally began to revive the impoverished carbon cycle by unlocking the element from mineral deposits and releasing it back into the air. We can agree that the recent uptick in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic — but the task of restoring a carbon-rich atmosphere has only just begun: plants thrive at 1000-1200 ppm, which must therefore be considered the optimum level.
The burning of any organic fuel, whether wood, peat, coal, oil or natural gas, produces carbon dioxide. To maintain that mankind departs from nature and destroys the balance of the system by using the gift of fire is a superstition, as Lovelock implicitly admitted in his comments about the use of guilt in the ‘green religion’. Still in the midst of carbon famine, we should look at it instead as liberating sequestered carbon and replenishing atmospheric CO2 exactly as Gaia needed.
The industrial revolution was powered by coal. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, humans began bringing oil deposits back into the cycle. As atmospheric carbon rose and Earth began tentatively to emerge from its carbon famine, a wonderful thing started to happen — across the surface of the planet, vegetation thrived, growing faster and stronger, especially in dry, semi-desert areas, since carbon dioxide confers drought-resistance on plants, enabling them to use and conserve water more efficiently. Increased crop yields promised to relieve human hunger and poverty, for even in the twentieth-first century much of humanity was still in the miserable state which had evoked the pity of the Titan.
It is industrial development that registered that tiny uptick in atmospheric carbon to 400+ ppm in our own times, and the rise is feeding reforestation. Tree cover is greater now than it was a hundred and fifty years ago. The use of coal, and later oil, prevented the utter destruction of forests across all of Northern Europe during the industrial revolution, giving us a much more concentrated fuel than wood.
And so it was that coal saved the forests. Forest cover continues to expand, though mainly in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions. Tropical rainforest continues to suffer destruction. We must stop this — but doing so does not require the dismantling of industrial civilisation in the West as envisioned by UN’s agenda 21, which seeks to deny humanity access to 98% of the energy available to it at current levels of technological development.
It is humanity’s production of CO2 that has begun to reverse the disastrous decline of atmospheric carbon which threatened all life on earth. Greenhouse farmers have long increased yields by pumping in carbon dioxide from special generators or engine exhausts. Regardless of irrigation and and the use of artificial fertilisers, atmospheric carbon is always the limiting factor on yields.
The Gaia hypothesis states that the biosphere regulates the atmosphere, and as part of that biosphere we have done what Gaia needed us to do. Carbon dioxide is the gas of life, and we are freeing it from its prisons.
None of this is an offence to Gaia.
Only to Zeus, the eternal enemy of mankind.
Must we side with the eugenicists at the UN, who use global warming theory to block Third World development and dismantle the industrialism which increased human life-span and hugely improved our quality of life? Must we side with Zeus, and return to the shivering vulnerability from which Prometheus rescued us?
A provocative argument, no doubt, and readers who have drunk deeply from the cup of ‘global warming/climate change’ propaganda will probably find it utterly outrageous. But the past proves that carbon dioxide does not drive climate; anyone who claims it does is, I’m afraid, a eugenicist liar or a ‘useful idiot’ in their cause. We know that atmospheric carbon levels do not drive variations in temperature but follow them. Our tiny contributions to overall CO2 levels have a negligible effect on temperature, but make a huge difference to the proliferation of the plant-life on which every creature on this planet depends. Yes, the conflict and pain wrapped up in the Prometheus myth evokes the ambiguous impact of human creativity on the rest of creation. We must be thoughtful and responsible and ready to do battle with the greedy and destructive, psychopathic strain within us. But let no one tell you that the gift of fire is a sin against nature or is destroying the planet. The opposite is true. The eugenicists want to deprive humanity of the energy it needs. They want to block Third World development. For them the end of poverty and hunger is the great catastrophe to be averted, because without it they lose their power at the top of this hierarchical society — and they have enlisted most of us unknowingly to their side, using our best instincts against us.
As for the point at which we genuinely depart from Gaia, severing our connection with nature and its self-regulatory negative feedbacks, is it not when we start to think we know better than the Earth Goddess herself, and clumsily try to re-engineer her systems, burying the gas of life in great vats underground, and erecting a screen of metallic particles in the sky to block the sun. To usurp Gaia is insane hubris.
That’s why I find Lovelock such a strange case. What happened to his powers of intuition that he took his great theory and brutally turned it inside out? What devil got into him? His playful imagination turned dark in a weird loss of faith in his own great discovery. Was he no better than the rest of us, swayed by the unrelenting propaganda of the eugenicists? As a scientist, was he betrayed by his own hatred of the human species?
Humanity has committed terrible crimes, but producing carbon dioxide is not one of them. It’s the corporatists who want us to think that, to distract us from their own vast crimes against Nature.
We must stop destroying the sacred, ancient forests.
But we must not, cannot, renounce the gifts of Prometheus. Instead we must slay the eagle that never stops tormenting us, and reject Zeus and the eugenicists, the haters of mankind, the usurpers of Gaia.