Never mind the Global Recession. Read James Lovelock’s interview in the new edition of the New Scientist. He offers us this cheery vision of the future:

I think it’s wrong to assume we’ll survive 2 °C of warming: there are already too many people on Earth. At 4 °C we could not survive with even one-tenth of our current population. The reason is we would not find enough food, unless we synthesised it. Because of this, the cull during this century is going to be huge, up to 90 per cent. The number of people remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less. It has happened before: between the ice ages there were bottlenecks when there were only 2000 people left. It’s happening again.

I don’t think humans react fast enough or are clever enough to handle what’s coming up. Kyoto was 11 years ago. Virtually nothing’s been done except endless talk and meetings.

God help us. 90% of the world’s population wiped out this century? I mean, even if it was 10%…that would still be a humanitarian disaster that made everything else we worry about look insignificant.

Are we too dumb to handle climate change? Personally, I haven’t really done anything to try and help the effort to deal with it. This despite the fact that I am entirely convinced that this juggernaut is heading for us, and is likely to have a seriously big impact on our civilisation…And yet I personally have done nothing to try and avert this crisis. I continue living my life, writing about the well-being movement, and about the finance industry.

But how much well-being will there be if our societies are plagued by floods, droughts, food shortages, water shortages, resource wars?

One person who considers these issues and has at least some idea where we might be heading is my brother, Alex, who recently published a report on the upcoming food shortage for Chatham House.


  • Eric says:

    Putting hard figures on it seems like guesswork. Predicting dramatic consequences does not. 90 percent? 50 percent? 10 percent? The numbers are staggering, but the fact is that this planet cannot support its current population, especially with the warming trend. I agree with Lovelock’s general point.

  • Olly says:

    I am hoping that Lovelock has bought into the ‘end of the world’ narrative a bit too much. I appreciate that things have to change, and that there are some hard times ahead, but there are prophets in every generation who propound our imminent demise.

    The accountant of an organisation I work for predicted three years ago that the organisation would have only three years left given our financial losses at the tiem, and extrapolating trends from that. This year we calculate we have 20 more years, because the trends did not predict – things changed. I am hoping, from my position of ignorance, that the same is true of Lovelock’s predictions, and that in his old age he has taken on the ‘phrophet of doom’ persona that has allowed his scientific predictions to drift in a certain direction.

    But maybe I have my head in the sand. Its a bit much to contemplate.


  • Jules Evans says:

    Yes, it’s definitely guess work, and Lovelock is probably being too pessimistic – remember all the Y2K doom-mongers?
    But it still seems like we’re facing a significant threat that is going to start hitting us in our lifetime, and makes me feel we should be exerting ourselves more to avoid the iceberg heading for the ship…
    Still, they say all action should be at the government level. in that case, we need proper lobbying groups set up – on facebook, via Avaaz, by email, with meetings, with e-magazines sent out, with rallies. government will only do what we insist they do.

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