James Lovelock’s parting words last time we met were: “Enjoy life while you can. Because if you’re lucky, it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.” It was early 2008, and the distinguished scientist was predicting imminent and irreversible global warming, which would soon make large parts of the planet uninhabitably hot or put them underwater. The fashionable hope that windfarms or recycling could prevent global famine and mass migration was, he assured me, a fantasy; it was too late for ethical consumption to save us. Before the end of this century, 80% of the world’s population would be wiped out. Lovelock now believes that “CO2 is going up, but nowhere near as fast as they thought it would. The computer models just weren’t reliable. In fact,” he goes on breezily, “I’m not sure the whole thing isn’t crazy, this climate change. You’ve only got to look at Singapore. It’s two-and-a-half times higher than the worst-case scenario for climate change, and it’s one of the most desirable cities in the world to live in.” Even more heretical than his enthusiasm for fracking is Lovelock’s passionate support for nuclear power. But, like fracking, he says, it offers only “a stopgap” solution. “Because in the long term, they’ll use up all the uranium.” How long would that take? He pauses to do some quick mental arithmetic, as casually as I might tot up how many pints of milk to grab from Sainsburys. “Let’s see … I think uranium that is affordable to extract would last about 50 years, something in that range. It might be 100. When you’ve used all that up, you go to thorium, and that would last you three times as long as uranium – so, shall we say, about 200 years?” The most sensible energy solution would be to cover 100 sq miles of the Sahara in solar panels. “It would supply the whole of Europe with all the energy they needed,” but it won’t happen “because it would be so easy for terrorists to go and bugger it up”. So for now, nuclear energy is the only viable option.
Guardian 30th Sept 2016 read more »