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Gaia scientist Lovelock predicts planetary wipeout
Posted on Wednesday, November 29, 2006 @ 20:04:20 GMT by vlad
Overtone writes: Gaia scientist Lovelock predicts planetary wipeout
By Jeremy Lovell /Nov 28, 2006
LONDON (Reuters) - The earth has a fever that could boost temperatures by 8 degrees Celsius making large parts of the surface uninhabitable and threatening billions of peoples' lives, a controversial climate scientist said on Tuesday.
James Lovelock, who angered climate scientists with his Gaia theory of a living planet and then alienated environmentalists by backing nuclear power, said a traumatized earth might only be able to support less than a tenth of it's 6 billion people.
"We are not all doomed. An awful lot of people will die, but I don't see the species dying out," he told a news conference. "A hot earth couldn't support much over 500 million."
"Almost all of the systems that have been looked at are in positive feedback ... and soon those effects will be larger than any of the effects of carbon dioxide emissions from industry and so on around the world," he added.
Scientists say that global warming due to carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels for power and transport could boost average temperatures by up to 6C by the end of the century causing floods, famines and violent storms.
But they also say that tough action now to cut carbon emissions could stop atmospheric concentrations of CO2 hitting 450 parts per million -- equivalent to a temperature rise of 2C from pre-industrial levels -- and save the planet.
Lovelock said temperature rises of up to 8C were already built in and while efforts to curb it were morally commendable, they were wasted.
"It is a bit like if your kidneys fail you can go on dialysis -- and who would refuse dialysis if death is the alternative. We should think of it in that context," he said.
"But remember that all they are doing is buying us time, no more. The problems go on," he added.
Lovelock adopted the name Gaia, the Greek mother earth goddess, in the 1960s to apply to his then revolutionary theory that the earth functions as a single, self-sustaining organism. His theory is now widely accepted.
In London to give a lecture on the environment to the Institution of Chemical Engineers, he said the planet had survived dramatic climate change at least seven times.
"In the change from the last Ice Age to now we lost land equivalent to the continent of Africa beneath the sea," he said. "We are facing things just as bad or worse than that during this century."
"There are refuges, plenty of them. 55 million years ago ... life moved up to the Arctic, stayed there during the course of it and then moved back again as things improved. I fear that this is what we may have to do," he added.
Lovelock said the United States, which has rejected the Kyoto Protocol on cutting carbon emissions, wrongly believed there was a technological solution, while booming economies China and India were out of control.
China is building a coal-fired power station a week to feed rampant demand, and India's economy is likewise surging.
If either suddenly decided to stop their carbon-fuelled development to lift their billions of people out of poverty they would face a revolution, yet if they continued, rising CO2 and temperatures would kill off plants and produce famine, he said.
"If climate change goes on course ... I can't see China being able to produce enough food by the middle of the century to support its people. They will have to move somewhere and Siberia is empty and it will be warmer then," he said.
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.
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|Weakening of Gulf Stream linked to Europe's 'Little Ice Age' (Score: 1)
by vlad on Wednesday, November 29, 2006 @ 20:57:56 GMT
(User Info | Send a Message) http://www.zpenergy.com
Four hundred and seventy years ago, England's King Henry VIII travelled on the surface of the River Thames -- by horse.
Legend has it that the monarch was pulled all the way from central
London to Greenwich on a sleigh on the icy surface of the river, which
had frozen from bank to bank that winter because of bitter cold.
London's so-called Frost Fairs, in which carnivals were
occasionally held on the thickly frozen river, were a hallmark of the
"Little Ice Age" that gripped Northwestern Europe from around 1200 to
And a new study, published on Thursday in the British scientific journal Nature, explains why this phenomenon occurred.
It puts the blame on a weakening of the Gulf Stream, the current
which takes warm water from the tropical mid-Atlantic up to Europe's
western coastline and provides those countries with balmy weather even
though they are on the same latitude as chilly Labrador.
The evidence comes from sediment cores from the region where the
Gulf Stream enters the North Atlantic Ocean, called the Florida
The cores hold a calcified species of plankton called foraminifera,
whose presence is detectable by levels of the isotope oxygen 18.
This isotope, in turn, is dependent on the salinity and temperature
of the seawater, which in turn indicate the seawater's density and thus
During the Little Ice Age, the Gulf Stream's flow was 10 percent lower
in volume than today's, according to the study, lead-authored by David
Lund of the Californian Institute of Technology (Caltech).
A year ago, a paper also published in Nature by oceanographers at
Britain's University of Southampton found that a key branch of the Gulf
Stream system, the North Atlantic Drift, had lost 30 percent of its
flow since 1998.
Those findings were made by a survey ship, which travelled along 24
degrees latitude north on a line from the Bahamas to tropical West
Africa, measuring salinity and temperature every 50 kilometers (31
Previous research was conducted along the same line, in 1957, 1981, 1992 and 1998.
The paper revived fears that global warming could paradoxically plunge Northwestern Europe into a mini Ice Age.
Under this doomsday scenario, freshwater from melting Greenland ice
and Siberian permafrost would rush into the North Atlantic, braking the
Gulf Stream's conveyor belt of circulating warm water.
Other scientists, though, criticised the Southampton University
study, saying its data was too narrow to permit any firm conclusion.
© 2006 AFP