The Dark Side of Climate Change: It's Already Too Late, Cap and Trade Is a Scam, and Only the Few Will Survive
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Lovelock has not arrived at his views lightly. They are the product of years spent carefully considering the known science through the revolutionary and frequently misunderstood lens he began developing 40 years ago while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Gaia Theory holds that Earth possesses a sophisticated planetary intelligence that responds to levels of heat from the sun in such a way as to maintain a climate homeostasis supportive of life. In four decades of research and experiment, the most famous being the “Daisyworld” model, Lovelock has overcome the once-widespread skepticism of his peers to officially move Gaia from a Hypothesis to a Theory. He has established that the various components of the biosphere -- plants, animals, minerals, gases, the sun’s heat -- interact in such a way as to create and maintain a climate amenable to life. Far from a passive collection of independent actors responding to conditions, the biosphere’s contents, including humans, form a living web which actively creates and maintains those conditions. Gaia prefers these conditions and will do her best to maintain them. But there is a limit to how much Gaia can do if we keep running over the safety mechanisms -- negative feedback loops -- she puts in our path. Lovelock believes that we have pushed Gaia beyond the point of return. The cold seas, for example, can only pump down so much of our carbon before they cry mercy and turn to acid.
Lovelock argues that Gaia Theory offers a more holistic understanding of what's happening to the climate than does mainstream climate science, stuck as it is in reductionist thinking and fractured into its constituent fields. Using the Gaia lens, he maintains, allows for a more comprehensive, intuitive, and ultimately more predictive approach. He spends much of Vanishing explaining why he thinks our attempts to accurately model climate change with computers is akin to the blind efforts of a 19th century doctor trying to treat diabetes. He notes that the IPCC and its many powerful computers have successfully undershot all of the indicator trends of climate change so far. Most notably, sea-level rise has outpaced IPCC predictions at a rate of 2 to 1.
Of all the indicators of climate change, Lovelock maintains sea-level rise is the most important. Given the complexity of the millions of interactions within the Gaia system, Lovelock argues it is best to ignore year-to-year temperature fluctuations and instead watch the oceans. The seas, he says, are the lone trustworthy indicator of the earth’s heat balance. “Sea level rise is the best available measure of the heat absorbed by the earth because it comes from only two things,” he writes. “[These are] the melting of glaciers and the expansion of water as it warms. Sea level is the thermometer that indicates true global heating.”
Using Gaia Theory as his lens, Lovelock also examines five dreaded positive feedback loops, those processes now underway that at some point will become ferocious amplifiers of global heating (he finds "warming" too soft a word for the process). Lovelock describes how the most important of these feedback loops already in motion—the loss of reflective ice cover, the death of carbon eating algae as oceans warm, and methane released by thawing permafrost—will soon accelerate the heating trend underway, leading to sudden and dramatic shifts in global climate. Rather than the steady rise predicted by the UN’s IPCC, Lovelock is confident the change will resemble economic charts of boom and bust, full of sudden and unexpected discontinuities, dips, and jumps. “The Earth’s history and simple climate models based on the notion of a live and responsive Earth suggest that sudden change and surprise are more likely than the smooth rising curve of temperature that modelers predict for the next ninety years,” he writes.