Lovelock: give up on trying to save the planet

lifeboatJames “Gaia Theory” Lovelock suggests that there may be as few as one billion human beings left in 100 years time:

Lovelock’s point seemed to be that we should give up on trying to save the planet and the entirety of the human species by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and focus instead on equipping “lifeboat nations” with the necessary infrastructure (schools, roads, houses) to support swarms of climate refugees.

The UK and Canada are lifeboat nations, in case you’re wondering. Probably Siberia too. Basically, anywhere that will be relatively cool and have water in a world that is on average 5°C warmer than it was 100 years ago.

Which sounds interesting and… controversial. The suggestion that places like the UK and Canada should massively overinvest in infrastructure over the next few decades may be be Quite A Good Idea in any case (fiscal stimulus, anyone?).

But is this giving up too soon?

[image from Troon Lifeboat on flickr]

6 thoughts on “Lovelock: give up on trying to save the planet”

  1. It’s an interesting notion, but personally, I would prefer we seek to terraform lifeboat worlds (Mars, perhaps) and/or build lifeboat space colonies, such as popularized by the late great Gerard K. O’Neill. For a scholarly (and surprisingly entertaining) perspective on climate change, prohibition(!), fears for the future, scientific controversy, and more, may I suggest the essay [actually, testimony today before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee] by Prof. Willam Happer of Princeton University, available at:

  2. The idea that an investment in infrastructure would be needed now is just nonsense. Most of all, it underestimates the rate at which such infrastructure can be built. Anyone who looks back at WWII and the US industrial ramp-up back then realizes that, if people truly believe they need to be productive, they can make things quickly. If a climate shift is happening, an infrastructure change could be made swiftly.

    More importantly, it assumes that our only response to a climate crisis would be to build more of what we have, just in a different place. If the world changes that dramatically, the design of infrastructure that is practical will likely change as well.

    The only reason to start this sort of build-up now is if, as suggested above, we go off-planet instead of just a-little-bit-further-north.

  3. I was inspired by Lovelock’s Gaia theory when I was in high school, at the time I was really becoming environmentally aware. I took his holistic theories with a grain of salt, seeing them metaphorically (as opposed to those who took them almost literally), but as I’ve gotten older, and Lovelock’s become older and more cynical, I’ve seen a constant progression of disappointing hypocrisy from him.

    Abandon the world? Que? That’s idiocy.

    We know the problem, and we know the solutions. ‘Lifeboat’ countries are not going to address anything. Bad things are going to happen, and they’ll be our fault, but sticking our heads in the sand is not a solution, it’s a cartoonish admission of sheer stupidity.

  4. The comments on this post somewhat mirror the submissions I get for @outshine where I ask for optimistic, near future SF tweets that thinks about today’s problems: most want to go into space (I call this the flight forward), some deny certain problems exist, and a rare few try to come up with solutions.

    If this is a precursor of the stories I’ll be seeing for the Shine anthology in May and June, then slush reading is going to be fast.

  5. Why on earth would you want to flee to space/mars/whatever? You would abandon a slightly warmed place filled with water and breathable air for a frozen radioactive vacuum with almost no resources that costs extreme amounts of money to get to?

    Um… no.

    Even in the worse eco-armageddons, Earth remains the nicest place in at least a few light years. Abandoning it is utterly absurd. If we are resigned to climate change, I would rather just build higher retaining walls start contemplating minor terraforming projects (minor compared to say making Mars a place where you can go outside with just an oxygen mask).

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