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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Out-of-date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 Lovelock is ‘very out-of-date’.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.”

This week I’m working on three new stories for the website. Not much has come of them just yet but once I get a few more replies from contacts, I’m hoping they will work out!

I’m not twittering enough though. By now, I should have twittered the original idea, my research progress, every email that I’ve sent out for quotes etc. The journalists are twittering really well, so why can’t I get my head round it? I guess, I’m not sure about posting info about my work-in-progress just in case it doesn’t get finished? But there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. hmm I’ll work on it.

See my twitter page here

My work-in-progress

Right now then, I’m waiting for a few responses regarding an interview in the Guardian with James Lovelock, a scientist who believes that ‘climate change is unstoppable’ and that most eco-initiatives are ‘deluded fantasies’. I feel like I must have emailed every renewable energy company, carbon offsetting scheme, group of scientists and eco-organisation in the land for a reaction yesterday and have received just one reply. I’m not going to give up however, I’m getting straight on the phone after this!

I’m also working on a lead that was sent in to ENO by a reader. It’s about right-wing talk radio stations in the San Diego area of the US who don’t invite climate scientists for interviews on their shows. If this is true (I am trying to find out) then it would speak volumes about the way that the global warming debate is constructed on these shows. Anna Haynes PhD kindly alerted us to this blog commenter who sparked the concern.

I’m also looking to write an article about BTCV’s eco-dating event. The York branch of BTCV set up a speed dating event for environmentally friendly singles, which was the first of its kind. I want to find out how it went and whether there were any blossoming eco-romances!

Investigation?

But could I do something a bit more special? Paul Bradshaw alerted me to The Center for Campus Investigations, which has got me thinking about investigative journalism for the site. I’ve applied for facts through Freedom of Information but that doesn’t count as investigative, does it?

The Center for Campus Investigations say that you must be ‘systematic’ and ‘establish a step-by-step game plan’ and the phrase ‘investigative journalism’ conjures up thoughts of exposing crime or corruption. Can I really do that? Colin Meek says in a report for journalism.co.uk, that what you need for a successful investigation is commitment. I can do commitment. It’s something I’m going to think about.

ENO Podcasts

In the meantime though, I’m looking forward to hearing the journalists podcasts. I’m hopefully making one myself too. I’ve invited Chris Williams from Birmingham Friends of the Earth to come in for an interview on Monday and that should make it onto ENO before the end of next week.

The journalists have been split into four groups and each group assigned an eco debate:

  • Climate change – is it really happening?
  • Is it the supermarkets responsibility to make fairtrade food cheaper and more readily avaliable?
  • Should Governments be forcing large companies to be eco-friendly
  • Is ‘enviro-aware’ the new way to big sales? Companies jumping on the eco-bandwagon.

Alice, Natalie, Laura and Stephanie took their podcast out of the newsroom and went along to a Fairtrade Fortnight event in Birmingham City Centre (UK). They have got some really good interviews including the Chair of the Fairtrade Association, so keep checking back to ENO for the podcast.

Get involved

We’re always looking for new and original stories for ENO. Got a story idea or lead? Email me here.