ARTYFACTS: Day 11 – James Lovelock - Hell on earth

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Day 11 – James Lovelock - Hell on earth

On the very evening that Lovelock gives his talk about the necessity for the large-scale adoption of nuclear power, Blair announces that very policy. Lovelock’s position is clear – it is too late to stop global warming, so must adopt damage limitation; the immediate adoption of nuclear power and national programmes to cope with rising sea levels. Our planet has been a stable system for 3.5 billion years (a quarter of the lifespan of the universe) and we’re destroying it in one century. Timescale – 30-40 years. He predicts an eight-degree rise in temperature within our lifetimes, which is catastrophic.

Nuclear power the answer
Nuclear power, he claims, produces hardly any waste compared to CO2 omissions. He described going around Sellafield with a Geiger Counter and recording readings at one third of the natural background radiation in St Ives in Cornwall. On Chernobyl he described much of the news on human casualties as propaganda, quoting the WHO report as identifying only 56-70 casualties (mostly killed in the explosion and clean up) and some childhood thyroid cancers that are curable. Nuclear fission, then nuclear fusion, are our only choices. He puts the commercial use of nuclear fusion at 30 years and given the fact that a nuclear power plant has a 40-year lifespan, we can move from one to the other. Interestingly, fusion produces no waste.

Wind farms and biofuels are futile
Rather surprisingly for the older environmentalist movement, he ridiculed wind farms as being “not very practical” and with recent wind changes “a futile gesture”. Power output increases to the cube of wind speed, this means that a drop in wind speed reduces large windmills to useless objects that clutter up whatever green land we have left. Biofuels are, he thinks, a nonsense. It would take, he calculates, another 3-5 planets to grow enough to make this a feasible energy alternative.

Sustainable development unsustainable
This was an informed audience with a good mix of ages and all of the questions were relevant and advanced the debate. A few of Lovelock’s memorable answers included; “Sustainable development is unsustainable as we’ve gone too far” and “increase the amount of sulphur in aeroplane fuel to create more haze to stop the sun from heating up the planet”.

Some serious science in an incisive interview by John Gribbin, to possibly the most important environmentalist on the planet. At 86 Lovelock was in clear on both the numbers and arguments. Gribbin attacked NASA for spending so much on fatuous Mars missions, and searches for other planets, when our own planet is heading towards catastrophe.

No publicity is good publicity
I would have loved to have included my own photograph of Lovelock and Gribbin, but a member of staff prevented me. No one stated at the start that photography was not allowed. Personal and review photographs do no harm, and a Festival thrives on publicity.

5 stars


Blogger bottlewasher said...

We were surprised that no one appeared to challenge James at all - was he so convincing or was Brighton too polite?
As to photographs - I believe it states it on the back of your ticket. We have to have a no photos policy for all sorts of reasons - not least disturbing others at the events.
Glad you enjoyed the event
Nick Dodds

6:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point about lack of challenge. I suspect thatpoliteness was the cause. tehre were lots of anti-nuclear people muttering away to each other.

6:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truly petrifying. At 87 he was really articulate and in full command of his numbers and data.

11:40 am  

Post a comment

<< Home