Stewart Brand: Fearless Follower of Lovelock, not science
- November 15, 2010
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Stewart Brand has written an online Afterword intended to update his 2009 book Whole Earth Discipline. In it, Brand tells us that the scientist he trusts most about climate, James Lovelock, has “softened his sense of alarm about the pace of climate change”. Lovelock is now touting the gibberish of the climate denier Garth Paltridge, calling him a “sensible skeptic”.
During the period when Brand wrote Whole Earth Discipline, Lovelock’s view was that catastrophic climate change is irreversible and as such, it is too late to do anything about it. Lovelock was telling all and sundry they might as well enjoy life as best they can while waiting for Armageddon. (Lovelock still has an article from The Guardian saying he is doing this posted as the latest entry on his personal website).
Brand’s Afterword was posted online a year and a half after he finalized the book. In it, Brand tells us other things Lovelock is now saying, e.g.: “climate scientists have become overly politicized”. Brand quotes Lovelock telling him it is “amazing how tribal scientists are”, because his climate scientist friends are appalled now that has dared “to consort with skeptics”.
Brand says Lovelock changed his views because of two things: an article that was published in Science  by Dr. Kevin Trenberth which convinced him that “something unknown is slowing the rate of global warming” and because of the book by Garth Paltridge, i.e. The Climate Caper.
Brand’s views seem to have “softened” as well. E.g.: in a recent speech in Vancouver BC, Brand received a question from an audience member who was concerned because it was his understanding that Brand believed that “climate is going to get worse than we think faster than we think” who asked “can you expand on that?” Brand said: “um yeah I can expand on it by saying it might not be true” . Brand qualified that by saying to do nothing about climate in the face of what is now known would be like playing Russian Roulette, but it seems he is very influenced by Lovelock’s changed perspective.
However, it happens that the author of the Science article Lovelock is referring to, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, has published an online statement intended to clear up any misunderstanding anyone has about what his views on global warming are.
He sees “no evidence”  that global warming has slowed. I asked Trenberth, as I was writing this, if his views had changed. They haven’t . It also happens that Hansen’s group at GISS, who produce what many call the best assessment of the average planetary surface temperature trend, have their latest paper , in press, which is published online, which confirms Trenberth.
Apparently, Lovelock did not understand what Trenberth’s article was about.
[ Update: Trenberth is quoted in this article, on Lovelock: “The fact is he knows little or nothing about climate change.” ]
As for the Paltridge book, it is typical denier claptrap: e.g.: the introduction says the scientists involved with the IPCC are the worst thing that has happened to science in the last several hundred years, because they are on a “religious crusade”, “manipulating” the climate issue “into the ultimate example of the politically correct” acting as if “the science behind the issue” is “irrelevant“, etc., ad naseum.
Brand’s book, before the Afterword was written, was touted by The Energy Collective’s own Marc Gunther on his personal blog as “brilliant, controversial, unconventional, and lively”. Marc said it was the best book he had read in 2009. An interview with Stewart Brand by Gunther was posted and reposted earlier this year at The Energy Collective”. Here and here.
I think its time more people became aware of this Afterword. How can Brand champion the views of a climate science denier who denounces climate scientists and expect to be taken seriously by environmentalists?
I.e. its time to ask him: what’s with all this gibberish?
Here’s a quote from Brand: “I would like to see the environment movement – and indeed everybody – become fearless about following science. Part of that process lies in learning which scientists and which research to track most closely” – page 217 Whole Earth Discipline.
I wonder why he doesn’t actually fearlessly follow the science in the way he advises the environment movement – and indeed everybody – to do. What’s Brand doing telling people to pay attention to a second rate climate science denier like Paltridge? And that aging old friend of his who has so influenced him, Lovelock, he doesn’t seem to understand what recent debate among leading climate scientists means.
– Here is a detailed discussion of the paper in Science by Kevin Trenberth that Lovelock says “softened” his views
– Here is some discussion of the Paltridge book. Its not as detailed as my look at Trenberth. I couldn’t finish reading the book it is that bad.
– And here is some discussion of the author of the Foreword to the Paltridge book, Lord Monckton.
 Trenberth, K. personal communication, (email) to David Lewis, November 2010. Quotes from that email appear in the post “JamesLovelock points to Trenberth as he jumps off into the blue“