James Lovelock is vooral bekend als de grondlegger van de Gaia-hypothese, die stelt dat organismen en hun anorganische omgeving op elkaar inwerken en op deze wijze een synergetisch, zelf-regulerend, complex systeem vormen, dat de voorwaarden voor het leven op aarde heeft geschapen en bestendigt. In vroeger jaren heeft hij zich als klimaatalarmist geprofileerd. Maar later heeft hij een draai van 180 graden gemaakt. In een recent interview met ‘The Guardian’ gaat hij zelfs bijna zo ver om de milieubeweging voor gek te verklaren op dit terrein.

Het is opvallend dat dit interview in ‘The Guardian’ verschijnt. Immers deze krant stelt zich gewoonlijk op als een fervent apostel van het broeikasevangelie en weigert elk artikel dat ook maar enigszins afbreuk zou kunnen doen aan de opwarmingshysterie. Zou ‘The Guardian’ met dit artikel voorzichtig bezig zijn zijn eigen draai te maken?

Onder de titel, ‘James Lovelock: ‘Before the end of this century, robots will have taken over’, schreef Decca Aitkenhead:

Fracking is great, the green movement is a religion, his dire predictions about climate change were nonsense – and robots don’t mind the heat, so what does it matter? At 97, the creator of Gaia theory is as mischievous and subversive as ever. ….

It was early 2008, and the distinguished scientist was predicting imminent and irreversible global warming, which would soon make large parts of the planet uninhabitably hot or put them underwater. The fashionable hope that windfarms or recycling could prevent global famine and mass migration was, he assured me, a fantasy; it was too late for ethical consumption to save us. Before the end of this century, 80% of the world’s population would be wiped out.

His predictions were not easy to forget or dismiss. Sometimes described as a futurist, Lovelock has been Britain’s leading independent scientist for more than 50 years. His Gaia hypothesis, which contends that the earth is a single, self-regulating organism, is now accepted as the founding principle of most climate science … A defiant generalist in an era of increasingly specialised study, and a mischievous provocateur, Lovelock is regarded by many as a scientific genius.

Eight years after our previous encounter, he appears to have aged not one bit. … What has changed dramatically, however, is his position on climate change. He now says: “Anyone who tries to predict more than five to 10 years is a bit of an idiot, because so many things can change unexpectedly.” But isn’t that exactly what he did last time we met? “I know,” he grins teasingly. “But I’ve grown up a bit since then.”

Lovelock now believes that “CO2 is going up, but nowhere near as fast as they thought it would. The computer models just weren’t reliable. In fact,” he goes on breezily, “I’m not sure the whole thing isn’t crazy, this climate change.” …

There are various possible explanations for his change of heart. One is that Lovelock is right, and the models on which his former predictions were based were fatally flawed. Another is that his iconoclastic sensibility made revision irresistible. An incorrigible subversive, Lovelock was warning the world about climate change for decades before it began to pay attention, and just when the scientific consensus began to call for intervention to prevent it, he decided we were already too late. But there is a third explanation for why he has shifted his position again, and nowadays feels “laid back about climate change”. All things being equal – “and it’s only got to take one sizable volcano to erupt and all the models, everything else, is right off the board” – he expects that before the consequences of global warming can impact on us significantly, something else will have made our world unrecognisable, and threaten the human race.

Lovelock maintains that, unlike most environmentalists, he is a rigorous empiricist, but it is manifestly clear that he enjoys maddening the green movement. “Well, it’s a religion, really, you see. It’s totally unscientific.” ….

Thans is Lovelock vurig voorstander van ‘fracking’ en nucleaire energie.

But all this, he clarifies cheerfully, is more or less academic. “Because quite soon – before we’ve reached the end of this century, even – I think that what people call robots will have taken over.” Robots will rule the world? “Well, yes. They’ll be in charge.” In charge of us? “Yes, if we’re still here. Whether they’ll have taken over peacefully or otherwise, I have no idea.”

Notwithstanding his caveats about the dangers of predictions, his confidence in the robotic future he describes is “fairly high. Yes, all sorts of things can happen, but that’s the intuitive feeling I have”. …

As for our interaction with robots: “Well, it’s going to be very peculiar.” In the classic Frankenstein tradition, will humanity not understand what it has created until it’s too late? “Well, too late is the wrong word. Let’s say, until it has happened.” The phrase “too late”, he explains, implies regret – but whereas the robots might see no use for our continued existence, “maybe we’ve got some special property that they will appreciate. ….

Lovelock was no less bafflingly cheerful when he believed climate change was about to wipe out 80% of the world’s population. How can he now feel just as sanguine about a global takeover by robots? …

Lees verder hier.

Natuurlijk, zonder originele denkers als Lovelock is er geen menselijke vooruitgang mogelijk. Wij dienen ze daarom te koesteren. Maar het inruilen van de ene apocalyptische visie voor de andere, alleen op basis van intuïtie, is toch weinig geloofwaardig. Gelukkig maar!

Voor mijn eerdere bijdragen over klimaat en aanverwante zaken zie hierhier, hier, hier en hier.