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« Unspeakable in pursuit of the iniquitous | Main | New study finds low climate sensitivity »

Lovelock recants

James Lovelock has written a letter of objection regarding a windfarm development in Devon (see link below for the whole thing). This bit strikes me as important.

I am an environmentalist and founder member ofthe Greens but I bow my head in shame at the thought that our original good intentions should have been so misunderstood and misapplied. We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the Earth are not separable from human needs. We need take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilisation.

As Phillip Bratby (to whom a big tip of the hat is due) puts it, there are strong shades of Patrick Moore's regrets over the monster he created in Greenpeace. One might add that another parallel would be Mark Lynas's regrets over his anti-GMO activism.

I've said it before, but the damage done by environmentalists to the environment is beyond estimation.

Lovelock letter

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    I might have respected him more if he’d stuck to his guns and said: “despite the fact my backyard is going to get these birdkilling monsters … I still believe in them”. He might then have had some credibility as a “visionary” … because perhaps in 100 years or more, we ...

Reader Comments (58)

What a marvelous letter. I don't think I've seen this basic point made so clearly and powerfully before. Thanks for making sure we all can see it.

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:23 AM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Oddly, his main problem seems to be Nimbyism - who'd have thunk it?

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

James Lovelock's letter is an objection to a single 84m to blade tip wind turbine, applied for by Ecotricity, the company founded by hippie Dale Vince, to trash the countryside with wind turbines, whilst making himself huge personal wealth at the expense of electricity consumers. It is described as a medium sized turbine (equivalent in height to a 28 storey office block). It would be one of those turbines deliberately produced with a maximum output of 500kW to get the maximum subsidy from the Feed-in-Tariff banding. Turbines of the same physical size are available with a greater output, but that would mean Ecotricity would produce more electricity but get less income. Cynical does not come into it! Unfortunately the planning system does not seem to care about such issues.

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:27 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Slowly, ever so slowly, the green “60w eco bulb” is warming up and at long last is shining some light on the 1 amp intelligence upon which this nonsense is built.

PS, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Phillip Bratby for his efforts. Quite an achievement to remain polite and logical when faced with ideological idiocy. An ability that I fear maybe beyond me, Within this normally peaceful soul there is an increasing desire to bang heads together!

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:33 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

CV of James Lovelock

Profession: Paver.

Work Experience: The Road to Hell.

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterredc

Plus ca change...

We had to destroy the village environment to save it

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

It appears to be a trait common to all socialists that they test everything to destruction. And once destroyed, express regret; but of course not regret for what they intended, only for the outcome.

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

So I imagine that we shall see an ever increasing mass bowing of heads in shame in the future as green loons, politicians and eco-fascists come to their senses en masse and start trying to undo the appalling harm they have done, at least in small measure. But then I do have a pretty fertile imagination.

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Reed

I have a lot more respect for James Lovelock, he has looked at the data and has not been afraid to change his mind. Thank you Andrew and Philip for bringing this to our attention.

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Five thousand pound heating bill .Think he he will move to next door to Lefty Luvvie Monbiot Milliband Islington set.Then he can read the Guardian without guilt.

Welcome to the real world James.For now better get a New Green Deal loan and get some more loft insulation only 16% APR.

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

As Luke says, 'I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance.'

The Greens actually had a few halfway reasonable ideas before they were captured by the homeless Marxists and 'Global Justice' campaigners who are among the main driving forces of the CAGW scam.

Jan 26, 2013 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil D

"Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.............." Miss J Mitchell.

Jan 26, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter West

I have always been of the opinion that most human beings have some inherent value, some worth. With people like James Lovelock who appear to have no idea what it is like to live in the real world yet manage to f*ck up the lives of millions of people, I can only come to the opinion that they have negative worth. A danger to our species.

'oops' doesn't sort it for me, James.

Jan 26, 2013 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterN.Tropywins

for those who care to look, there would appear to be mounting evidence of the folly that is disguised as climate policy (particularly) in Europe and the USA.
In spite of all this evidence, the builders of the road to hell have never been in greater demand.

Green Sand
Know exactly how you feel.

Jan 26, 2013 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

James Lovelock reminds me of the story of the sorcerer's apprentice.

You need to be careful what you wish for - because, if you are unfortunate, you might actually get it.

Jan 26, 2013 at 10:52 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Thanks for the post. Too little too late I'm afraid. I echo Green Sand's comments.
The convoy carrying windmills to the Highlands stranded for a week by snow brought more than a smile.
Near Dundee I think.

Jan 26, 2013 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

Never forget you have these folks:
that somehow imposed their will.

They should have stopped after getting their friends to eat marshmellows, hot dogs and chips aroung the campfire while they sang Kumbaya. Sadly, they took the next song, Blowin' In The Wind, to heart.

Jan 26, 2013 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

The letter is not all regret and enlightenment:

It is true that we need a better way of producing energy and there is little doubt among scientists, and I speak as one of them, that the buming of fossil fuels is by far the most dangerous source of energy.

Given the special status of Easter Island with the Malthusian Green ummah, this letter should be nailed to the door of every environmentalist, as Martin Luther did.

Jan 26, 2013 at 11:55 AM | Registered Commentershub

Just for the record, though I disagree with James Lovelock's take on climate science and thoroughly deplore his patronage of the Optimum Population Trust (now "Population Matters"), he has, as his letter implies, been an unspoken opponent of wind power, supporter of nuclear power and critic of the mainstream eco-lobby for over a decade.

True, he has moved away from his extreme We'll-be-confined-to-Antarctica-by-Wednesday position of a few years ago. But not that far.

Jan 26, 2013 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

Thought it might be fun to add Terry Wogan.'.s comment from a while back.

Terry Wogan:
"Although I won't be around to see it, I believe that in 50 years' time, a bigger penny will drop, and our descendants will look at each other in disbelief and say,

"All those windmills! What were they thinking of?"

Putting aside the late Michael Crichton's theory that regular scare stories are used by government to take the public's eye off the ball, it's still remarkable how readily politicians jump on every passing pseudoscientific bandwagon."

Personally i think most polticians are meekly herded onto the bandwagon, because of being to week. Or unaware. Etc to challenge any passing bandwagon

Jan 26, 2013 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Even the Met Office are objecting to windfarms now:

Jan 26, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave ward

The letter shows how Greens know about the problems with their 'visions', and can articulate them at a moment's notice, even if that moment is only when another Green threatens their own idyll.

Yesterday's developer is today's environmentalist.

Jan 26, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Registered Commentershub

Ian E - "Oddly, his main problem seems to be Nimbyism"

A bit harsh perhaps, after all he has said in the past that he would be happy to have radio active waste buried in his garden.

He was also one of the few "warmers" who was prepared to condemn what he saw in the Climategate emails. At least no "nothing to see here move on" from him. His comments about the data fraud in some of the ozone hole work show a scientist who is prepared to look at data and move his position, not just support the cause.

As we all know people have been pointing out that conservation/environmentalism is fascist in nature -

Some of the figures in there are staggering.

BUT when committed Greens start to question the way the cause has developed it should be all the more powerful - but will it. ----

Jan 26, 2013 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterretireddave

Can't make out what he's on about. He's against fossil fuel. He's against wind turbines (especially in places he likes). He seems to think there are other renewables that replace wind. He likes French nuclear. But he does not seem to come out with what he wants (except not to have a wind turbine in a place he likes).

Jan 26, 2013 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

The soil in which Lovelock's virtues arise - nimbyism, open-mindedness, being appalled by climategate emails - are not environmentalism. Maybe he should strive to identify it, and preserve it.

Jan 26, 2013 at 1:07 PM | Registered Commentershub

Only non-thinkers use the word “NIMBY”. Every human being is a nimby. There is no-one who wants a wind turbine in his back-yard. The name makes the user ridiculous.

Jan 26, 2013 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter West

Nimbies, for instance, wont approve of industry X, industry Y, industry Z,...any industry in their backyard, town, immediate countryside, etc. They have their retirements lined up and don't care if the next generation wallow and stagnate. Other nimbies are 'moms' who don't want their 'kids' environment to be 'polluted', of course, after having attained a suitable level of progress. Everyone strives to find their place in the world, and turns their gaze backward, to the world of their childhood. It hurts their heart to see it go away or change into something else.

Every human being is a 'nimby'. Only some think they are more equal than others in this, because, they've managed to successfully displace this self-love onto the 'environment.'

Jan 26, 2013 at 1:52 PM | Registered Commentershub

Jan 26, 2013 at 1:52 PM | shub

Quite right, Shub.

Used to be "Take the ladder away, Jack, I'm alright!"

But the greenies aren't just nimby. More like banana people.
"Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything."

Jan 26, 2013 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

I think we are all well aware what the name means. The name makes the user ridiculous.

Jan 26, 2013 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter West

I don't want to see windmills in anyones back yard.
What does that make me?

Jan 26, 2013 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

There is no-one who wants a wind turbine in his back-yard. The name makes the user ridiculous.
Jan 26, 2013 at 1:10 PM Peter West

One of my neighbours has a wind turbine in his back yard.

I can't say it complements the 300-year old houses around it in this Normandy village.

Its owner is disgruntled, not because it is there but because its output is a fraction of what the salesman convinced him it would be. It's doubtful he'll get his investment back, let alone have the lucrative addition to his pension he had confidently expected.

Jan 26, 2013 at 3:12 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

It seems that James Lovelock is a SOBBY*.




* Some Other Bugger's Back Yard.

Jan 26, 2013 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterBig Oil

I think Lovelock's use of the Easter Island debacle is interesting.

Something I read ages ago came to mind on this. In order to move the great stone figures to their final resting place, the islanders cut down the trees as they used these to help them. IThey may have used them as "rollers" or levers or both, but this led to major problems as you will see from this comment: On this outpost nearly 2,300 miles west of South America and 1,100 miles from the nearest island, the newcomers chiseled away at volcanic stone, carving moai, monolithic statues built to honor their ancestors. They moved the mammoth blocks of stone—on average 13 feet tall and 14 tons—to different ceremonial structures around the island, a feat that required several days and many men.

Eventually the giant palms that the Rapanui depended on dwindled. Many trees had been cut down to make room for agriculture; others had been burned for fire and used to transport statues across the island. The treeless terrain eroded nutrient-rich soil, and, with little wood to use for daily activities, the people turned to grass. "You have to be pretty desperate to take to burning grass," says John Flenley, who with Paul Bahn co-authored The Enigmas of Easter Island. By the time Dutch explorers—the first Europeans to reach the remote island—arrived on Easter day in 1722, the land was nearly barren.

Read more:
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

So, I wonder if this is in Lovelock's mind?

Jan 26, 2013 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

Its owner is disgruntled, not because it is there but because its output is a fraction of what the salesman convinced him it would be. It's doubtful he'll get his investment back, let alone have the lucrative addition to his pension he had confidently expected.</I>


Jan 26, 2013 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter West

I would be quite happy to have worthwhile development in my back yard, wind turbines are not worthwhile. The problem is that the nimbys have destroyed the effectiveness of the planning process by objecting to everything, so the powers that be have developed methods of getting the developments they want despite it.

Wind turbines are the perfect example of this; a few years ago the situation was rapidly developing into one where nothing could be done, particularly in areas designated "rural", due to objections from all and sundry. Then came wind power and suddenly they are all over the country. Communites which object are showered with money (which comes ultimately from our electricity bills) and the objections magically melt away. I have seen a village community council bribed in this way when you can't even see the wind farm in question from the village concerned.

Jan 26, 2013 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

The acronym N I M B Y has shown up several times in these posts. Consider another meaning, other than "Not In My Back Yard". Try "Next It May Be YOU" and see how you feel about it THEN!

Jan 26, 2013 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Foreman

Jan 26, 2013 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Nimbin is a small hippie town in Northern NSW nearly on the border with Queensland. It was a Hippie mecca for spoilt Sydney siders during the 80's and 90's you could actually smoke pot on the street and everybody there was stoned if I recall, 110% of these people there would have embraced AGW.

Jan 26, 2013 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterEliza

Is half an apology better than none? I'm undecided, but Phil D's quote up-thread from the parable of the prodigal son is certainly apposite.

The world is not short of religious adherents who have read their 'Holy Book', but didn't understand it. James Lovelock WROTE a 'holy book', but seems to have forgotten some of it. My take home message from his early book was that the-tree-of-life is, in general, incredibly persistent, resilient, and adaptive. It will outlast humanity's particular branch

From a biologist in a tissue-culture lab, to a gardener weeding the flower bed, to a farmer spraying the crop field, many know that keeping unwanted weeds or micro organisms at bay is a full-time job. But what constitutes a weed, and what constitutes a flower, is an entirely subjective question. IMO, too many others consider the works of humanity to be inherently ugly.

A cynic might say Lovelock has merely found a machine to rage against. But if Blake's dark satanic mills been white, not black, it would not have changed anything. I also doubt if 'Gaia' would much care whether the mills were black, white, or skybluepink.

Minced bird, bats, or bees nothwithstanding, I suspect that his road-to-Damascus is potholed with subjectivity. His letter reads like a lament, but others were there before him. In the foreword to the second edition of The Lord of The Rings J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

"...The country in which I lived in childhood was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten, in days when motor-cars were rare objects (I had never seen one) and men were still building suburban railways. Recently I saw in a paper a picture of the last decrepitude of the once thriving corn-mill beside its pool that long ago seemed to me so important."

I diagnose Cider-with-Rosie disease.

Jan 26, 2013 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Lovelock better watch out , any sign of straying form the path of true AGW belief will bring the act dogs on him, even GM found that out when it looked like he was putting a toe of the path of 'AGW purity '
Its quite usual with religions that those that believe in 'the right way ' get a worse time from the faithful than those that don't believe at all.

Jan 26, 2013 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Re-reading my earlier post, I should emphasise that I am not asserting that any specific wind-farm is either good or bad. They are, or could be, evidence of people at least trying to improve upon existing power generating technology. However I see little evidence of success, which doesn't surprise me.

Lovelock, quite correctly, points out the importance of the relative energy-density as compared to nuclear power. I consider monetary loss or profit (yes, money) to be a good metric in this respect. If the energy delivered cannot exceed the combined production and land costs, then it is a failure.Re-reading my post, I should emphsise that I am not asserting that any specific windfarm is either good or bad. They are, or could be, evidence of people at least trying to improve upon existing power generating technology. However I see little evidence of success, which doesn't surprise me.

Lovelock, quite correctly, points out the importance of the relative energy-density as compared to nuclear power. I consider monetary loss or profit (yes, money) to be a good metric in this respect. If the energy delivered cannot exceed the combined production and land costs, then it is a failure.

Jan 26, 2013 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

shuckman. I made a dog's dinner of that last post.

Jan 26, 2013 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

For an alternative view to Lovelock’s regarding the effect of fossil fuels on “Earth's ecology and on ourselves” check out Humanity Unbound: How Fossil Fuels Saved Humanity from Nature and Nature from Humanity, a recent report published by the Cato Institute, Washington, DC. A brief 2-part summary is also available at MasterResource. Part II, which deals with how fossil fuels saved nature from humanity, is here. Part I, which deals with how humanity escaped nature’s Malthusian trap is there.

Lovelock also seems to suffer from a bout of cognitive dissonance. Despite being “the originator of Gaia theory, a view of the Earth that sees it as a self-regulating entity that keeps the surface environment always fit for life,” he seems to have little faith in the earth’s “self-regulating” capacity to adjust/adapt to climate changes, particularly considering the lack of evidence that these changes don’t seem to be anything that the it hasn’t experienced before.

Jan 26, 2013 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

Cross-posted the above at JoNova's site, with the following addendum:

"Ye, of little faith!"

Jan 26, 2013 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

Interesting to read the full letter....he has certainly not changed his views on fossil fuels.
He mentions the French and their nukes. Anyone driven across France lately? I noticed 4 or 5 "farms" of large turbines visible from the autoroute on the run to the Alps.
In the vein of destroying the environment to save it, the RSPB is seeking to put up a turbine at its HQ. The power will let them write articles about the local decline in numbers of raptors, bats, etc..

Jan 26, 2013 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeH

@Martin A
I hope said disgruntled owner is making his feelings known far and wide and not just relying on his neighbours!

Jan 26, 2013 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

I think France might have similar EU directive "renewable" targets to other member states. Certainly there are windfarms in most regions.

Jan 26, 2013 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

The astonishing opprobrium heaped on the likes of James Lovelock and others who have "seen the light" must surely be off putting for others of like mind.
I applaud James Lovelock, for his character - it takes a big man to admit he was wrong and that his baby turned into a rampant sociopathic serial murderer.

Greenpeace, the useful idiots of common purpose are just the cannon fodder - noisy, nosey, ignorant and youth must vent it's spleen.

But it's the money men, we should be after and how could one forget the politicians - investment bankers, insurance hedgers and manipulative powerful vested interests - notably those promulgating one world government - UN agenda 21, it's they whom we should be aiming our sights on.

Come on George - time for the confessional for you - it's gone soooooo quiet in Machynlleth.

Jan 26, 2013 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Here is the story of the windmill convoy stuck in the snow near Dundee for a week ...

Daily Record

Jan 26, 2013 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Earlier Post.....”Ye of little faith.”

Oh, yeah! Behold..! Faith is acceptance without evidence. Stuff that..!

Jan 26, 2013 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter West

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