Lovelock and Nuclear Power
James Lovelock, in his new book that will be out later in the year, The Revenge of Gaia, has suggested that it is probably already too late to stop climate change, that by the end of the century we are probably going to exceed the Palaeocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum that led to the extinction of 95% of the world's species 54 million years ago. This event was an 8 degrees Celsius rise in temperature that occurred in just a few years, probably triggered by the melting of methane hydrates beneath the sea bed releasing billions of tons of methane into the atmosphere all at once (methane being many times as powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2).
Lovelock is best known for his Gaia hypothesis, which states that the planet is a self regulating system, that planet and biota (the sum of all the lifeforms on the earth) interact in a way that keeps the earth fit for life, of which process the carbon cycle is a major component. The extra dimension that the human emissions have given to this cycle since industrialisation (the burning of first coal then oil, thus releasing billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere that was previously underground) means that the feedback mechanisms that keep the earth's climate fit for life, now work against us. Positive feedback mechanisms ensue. Melting sea ice due to global warming in the arctic means that white reflective ice is replacing by dark absorbing ocean, thus heating up the planet more and melting more ice. Melting peat bogs in Siberia release more methane into the atmosphere, which heats the planet up more and melts more peat bogs. As the planet heats up, plants themselves (our major carbon 'sink') give out more CO2 and CH4 (methane), which heats the planet up more. Read the full story in the excellent Scotsman.
Lovelock is a well-known advocate of nuclear power for mitigating, if not solving, the problem of climate change, and is a Conservative. However, Zac Goldsmith who is part of the Conservative's Quality of Life Policy Review, has gone against majority party opinion by referring to nuclear power as an 'option of last resort'. I spoke to my MP, Philip Davies (Con., Shipley) last week and he was very concerned about climate change, but was keeping an open mind about nuclear power, like David Cameron himself.
Kevin Anderson, a researcher in the Hadley Centre for the Study of Climate Change, is dismissive of the nuclear option, which could only ever be a minor contributor to emissions cuts. He wants to see far more investment in renewables and in minimising energy waste by better insulation of houses, etc. Read the full story here.