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Leading environmental experts have spoke out against comments made by independent scientist James Lovelock.

In an interview with The Guardian, James Lovelock, a controversial figure within the field of climate theory claimed that global warming was unstoppable.

He criticised eco-initiatives such as carbon offsetting and ethical consumption, saying that the idea these lifestyle changes can save the planet is a ‘deluded fantasy’.

Mike Rigby, Director of co2balance.com branded Lovelock’s statements about carbon offsetting ‘hilarious’ and accused him of contradicting himself.

Hilarious

In the Guardian interview, Lovelock said of carbon offsetting, “It’s just a joke. You’re far better off giving to the charity Cool Earth, which gives money to the native peoples not to take down their forests.”

Mike Rigby, of co2balance.com, an organisation which helps businesses to minimise their Co2 emissions and offset those emissions which are unavoidable, said:

I found James Lovelock’s comments about offsetting hilarious.  He says that carbon offsetting is a joke and then goes on to recommend an avoided deforestation carbon offset project – Cool Earth.  It’s rare for scientists to contradict themselves in the same sentence.”

“Avoided deforestation is one of the most nebulous of carbon offset projects as it is incredibly difficult to demonstrate that the forest would otherwise have been destroyed.  If all you are doing is helping to preserve a status quo that would have ensued in any case, you might as well keep your money in your pocket.”

Out-of-date

Rigby went on to say that Mr. Lovelock is ‘very out-of-date’. He explained, “Most carbon offset projects these days are based on technology solutions like widening access to low energy and solar lighting and renewable energy cooking sources.  

Don’t get me wrong, preservation of rainforest is a worthy goal in itself, it just isn’t in our view, a credible means of carbon offsetting like he and Cool Earth claim.”

Final step

Hugh Jones from The Carbon Trust however said that while carbon offsetting can play an important part in a wider carbon management strategy, it should be seen as a ‘final step’.

“Good quality offsetting should only be explored once all means to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions at source have been exhausted. This approach delivers a double bottom line benefit of reducing energy costs and avoiding the costs incurred through offsetting, not to mention doing the right thing for the environment.”

Renewable energy fights back

Lovelock didn’t stop his criticism of eco-initiatives with carbon offsetting. He also spoke against renewable energy, branding the concept a false promise. In particular, he attacked the use of wind energy.

Lovelock said, “Windmills! Oh no. No way of doing it. You can cover the whole country with the blasted things, millions of them. Waste of time.”

Nick Medic, Communications Manager at the British Wind Energy Association said in response, “We see wind energy as an important contributor to the UK’s energy mix. We also realize there is no one-stop solution in terms of energy generating technology.

However, a very significant proportion of UK’s energy capacity could be developed from wind, wave and tidal in a relatively short space of time.”

Hope for the environment?

In his latest book, The Revenge of Gaia, Lovelock predicts that by the year 2020 global devastation will be caused by extreme weather. He claims that the causes of this global warming are irreversible and that there is nothing we can do now to stop it.

In response to this, Dr Melanie Fitzpatrick, Climate Impacts Scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists said:  It’s true that with the amount of heat-trapping emissions now in our atmosphere, we are already locked in to a certain level of global warming. 

But if action is taken now, we can still avoid some of the worst, irreversible effects of global warming like the collapse of ice shelves and major changes to the world’s ocean currents.”  

Reduce emissions by 80% 

Fitzpatrick warned, “Current science tells us that globally by mid-century we need to reduce our emissions by at least 80 percent below 2000 levels to avoid dangerous climate change.  We can do this by increasing our use of renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiencies” 

Lovelock warns us that there is nothing we can do to help the environment and that changing out lifestyles to be more environmentally positive will not combat climate chaos.  

Dr Melanie Fitzpatrick responds to these views with the message that there is hope, but we need to act now. She said: “The longer we wait the harder and more costly it will be to limit climate change. For instance, if we wait until 2020 to start emission reductions, we’ll have to cut twice as fast than if we start in 2010 to meet the same target.

By changing our emissions today we can influence the kind of world our children and grandchildren inherit in several decades.”