Lovelock, a charming 90-year-old with a history of ground-breaking science behind him, has concluded that the effects of climate change are irreversible and that human beings will be largely extinct in the near future. Not all human beings but “as many as 7 out of 8 are likely to be wiped out,” he said in a Canadian television interview. Lovelock attributes our failure to the size of the problem but also to politics—politicians just can’t or won’t act fast enough to address the biggest problems. I’ve called this the Sustainability Gap.
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While Lovelock’s views are not widely held—most scientists believe we still have a shot at turning things around—his points about the nature of the problem are still valid. Until leaders more closely align their short term decisions on things like highways (see, for example, Publicola’s reporting on the Puget Sound Regional Council) we certainly won’t see things getting any better. Lovelock seems to be right about one thing: our problems are less about what to do than about finding the political will to actually do it.
Photo of the Earth from U.S. National Archives‘ DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, compiled 1972-1977 (Record Group 412)