That James Lovelock is a strange case, as discussed by Natalie here on Monday. After hearing him on the Today programme the other day, I had to interrupt my bath and rush off to make notes, yelling to my wife as I went that he’s an old charlatan. The immediate provocation was the claim that’s bothered me in the past and had me quarrelling with fellow members of a science journalists’ mailing-list – the claim that global warming could cut the world’s population to a billion. I don’t know where he got this from, but it’s fixed in his head now – he keeps saying it. He talks of the scientific sin against the Holy Ghost being to fudge the data, but there’s another mortal sin too – lending the weight of your authority to pronouncements made in a field in which you’re not actually expert. Calculating the demographic effects of such a geophysical change, if it’s possible at all, would be the province of a team of – what? – geoscientists, economists, geographers, sociologists (sociologists – right, yeah, duh, like they’re really going to be any use – as the young people say). It’s not something that can just be dreamed up in the noggin of an old greybeard who did some useful geophysics decades ago and then got deified for the barmy green non-hypothesis of Gaia.
When I read the notes of his Guardian interview published by Leo Hickman on the paper’s environment blog, I found the charlatanism mixed with all sort of stuff that sounds superficially congenial to libertarians. But it’s clear that he’s got no clear ideological compass to make sense of it all. He seems to think that climate science is in a mess because all these terrible oiks were churned out by state-funded education instead of the right sort of chap, like himself, that we had in the good old days. And the journalists are to blame too, presumably for demanding sensationalist answers from those naturally bashful creatures, the climatologists.
Whereas the journalists, when they do their job right, are part of the solution – part of the scrutiny that all specialists need.