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The Guardian: Letters: Climate change and the Dunkirk spirit

Tuesday March 4 2008: This article appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday March 04 2008 on p31 of the Leaders & reply section.

James Lovelock is right to suggest we have already crossed the tipping point into irreversible climate change (Enjoy life while you can, March 1). The time lag between cause and effect means that the momentum in the climate system will inevitably propel us over the critical CO2 threshold of 450 parts per million in the atmosphere. He is right to be sceptical about offsetting schemes and the potential of wind power, but he is wrong to put his faith in nuclear energy. Like all fossil fuels, uranium reserves are limited and some put exhaustion of stocks at 2030. Nuclear will never be sufficient to power the UK economy after oil begins to run out in about 2040 and gas a decade or so later. Even peak coal is put at 2025.

The UK will survive provided it: legislates to achieve dramatic reductions in energy use; embarks immediately on harnessing the power of tidal energy; and changes building and planning codes to cope with everything that escalating climate impacts will inflict on us over the coming decades.
Professor Peter F Smith
Special professor in sustainable energy, University of Nottingham

James Lovelock is right to be sceptical about controlling carbon emission with renewable-energy systems. Biofuels take land from food production to provide minimal energy output while destroying biodiversity at an ever-increasing rate. He is not right, however, to be so pessimistic about climatic disaster and sea level rise by 2040 being driven by the increase in atmospheric CO2. Has he not noted that while CO2 has increased very steadily by one or two volumes per million annually over the past few decades, global temperature peaked in 1998 (Meteorological Office Hadley Centre), has flatlined since 2001-02, and more recently dropped back almost to the 1961-90 average?

The constant cry of climatic catastrophe, echoed by Lovelock, is already looking like the emperor’s new clothes. We suggest that he invests in thermal underwear to hide this naked truth.
Dr John Etherington
Llanhowell, Pembrokeshire
Dr David Bellamy
Bishop Auckland, County Durham

James Lovelock has been proved right in the past and will doubtless be so in the future. Gaia can shrug off the loss of 80% of her most destructive species, but those who survive must have beliefs and practices that respect the super-organism. Recycling plastics, renewable energy and carbon offsetting are insufficient responses to the crisis, but they do represent the first faltering steps on a journey away from rampant consumerism, the waste of scarce resources and gross inequality. Lovelock sees the present time as the prewar hiatus. I have more confidence than he in the capacity of ordinary people to rediscover a Dunkirk spirit and make significant sacrifices and contributions towards a sustainable future.
Brian Foster
London and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

1 Comment on “The Guardian: Letters: Climate change and the Dunkirk spirit”

  1. #1 Danny Bloom
    on Mar 5th, 2008 at 21:26

    Lovelock is right. We will need polar cities to survive in the future. Don’t believe me? Google Polar Cities as a term or ask an reporter to interview me at in Taiwan

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