View Full Version : James Lovelock interview


GabbleRatcht
22-05-2006, 22:10
Although this has just been on BBC4 I don't count it as entertainment.

Never have I seen an interview with someone that kept me rivited for an hour that spoke with such conviction, humility, lucidity and authority.

I know him as the author of 'Gaia' but, although I have the book, have never read it. I will now.

His predictions are, in my opinon, what every politician should be listening to. But they are not good news of course.

There was a thread here about 'green' technologies. The 'king' of green says, ' forget it, too little , too late ', go nuclear, it's safe. My thoughts exactly.

Keep an eye out for repeats, it's well worth a watch.

Draggletail
23-05-2006, 00:29
I sort of read a potted history of his Gaia Theory book years ago and found it fascinating. He was pro nuclear back then in the 'anti nuclear eighties' (if I remember correctly)
Not happy about the nuclear thing personally, (used storage rods stored in concrete underground bunkers for 1000s of years before they become safe)
But there again I have no answers......

I'll look out for the programme repeated on bbc4, it's something I would like to see.

Do you know how old it was? Possibly a re make of eighties footage?

Phanerothyme
23-05-2006, 02:12
he wants a nuclear waste disposal facility in his garden for handy domestic uses like sterilisation, cooking etc.

Or so he said. Unfortunately, the industry of vested nuclear interested is poisoned by an obsession with secrecy and cover-up, not to mention billion pound government subsidies for decommissioning some very old plants indeed.

So I disagree with him on that point alone out of purely pragmatic reasons - the industry is not in a fit state to deliver.

There's the issue of waste disposal and weaponisation, terrorism and accident to consider as well, but that belongs in another thread.

But he is a scientist, communicator and thinker of the first order.Daisyworld is fun - http://gingerbooth.com/courseware/swingdaisyball.html

Wish I'd seen it, <goes off to check BBC4 site>

GabbleRatcht
23-05-2006, 21:46
It is not a rehash. I believe it was filmed earlier this year and it was the first airing.

I love the way he says he would have a dump in his back yard so he could use excess heat to power his house. This is forward thinking. IF it can be safe, do it.

We waste so much power by not using 'excess' heat from power stations, incinerators etc. It's not excess, just not utilised.

One of his most interesting comments was about air travel.

Apparently if the airlines used unrefined fuel, without the sulpur taken out, the sulpur particles would block out 3% of sunlight and put a hold on global warming in the short term and give us chance to come up with better solution. The more we fly the better!

Sulpur would be above the clouds so no acid rain.

Phanerothyme
28-05-2006, 17:36
Apart from when planes expend the most amount of fuel: take off. That would be ground level sulphur emissions. And with the rising rate of increase in air travel, that is going to have an impact.

Burning stuff to make power, no matter how many heat exchangers you use, is always going to be pretty inefficient . The number of conversions that the process involves makes this almost inescapable. Even in a modern willow burning power plant, you still have to plant vast swathes of willow to a) ensure fuel supply and b)remain carbon neutral.

Carbon neutrality is better achieved by not releasing it in the first place, surely.

GabbleRatcht
28-05-2006, 22:47
Apart from when planes expend the most amount of fuel: take off. That would be ground level sulphur emissions. And with the rising rate of increase in air travel, that is going to have an impact.

Burning stuff to make power, no matter how many heat exchangers you use, is always going to be pretty inefficient . The number of conversions that the process involves makes this almost inescapable. Even in a modern willow burning power plant, you still have to plant vast swathes of willow to a) ensure fuel supply and b)remain carbon neutral.

Carbon neutrality is better achieved by not releasing it in the first place, surely.

Agreed, but almost certainly unattainable.

My personnal hope is here

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5012638.stm

I can't believe they are actually going to give it a serious go. Of course I want them to, but if it works, will spell the end for what is our 'global economy'. Saudi, Nigeria etc we don't need your oil anymore, bye bye. What will happen then?

My answer, sell your oil and put the funds into fusion reasearch. It will work, but it will take lots of time and money, and the one that gets there first will make Bill Gates look like a pauper.

Crayfish
28-05-2006, 22:53
I'm excited about the fusion reactor too. All the theory says it should work, just never been done on a sufficiently large scale before. Although... it's actually going to end up half the size it started out at in early planning due to funding shortfalls, lets hope that this doesn't cause it to not function and discredit the whole field! Mind, I think there's another larger one planned in India or somewhere... I'll have a look for the details some time. ITER won't be a fully functioning fusion plant anyway, it's an intermediate step just to see if it works when scaled up a bit. Wouldn't expect anything full scale for at least two decades (probably three) yet.

The only worrying thing is that some have suggested a truly self perpetuating fusion reaction could be impossible to stop, whole planet going kind of temporary-sun. But the fact they're going ahead with it makes me think that this is probably not a majority concern.

It does seem odd that just when several breaking technologies offer the potential to revolutionise the energy industry we're thinking about spending vast amounts of money on nuclear power.

Lovelock's definitely an interesting person and on the right side. I think he sometimes gets locked into his own analogy a little with the gaia theory thing... but what he is good at is educating and inspiring people, which we need more of.

Divine toy
08-06-2006, 16:35
I had the pleasure of watching James Lovelock on the subject of global warming- it is all well for Tony Blair and James to be so pro Nuclear, and to shout out how the new plants are going to be so easy to decommission when they come to the end of their useful lives but what about the waste thats left? At present the technologies available are very limited, we need to find deep burial sites away from urbanistaion, reservoirs and soft rock, the sites need to be in hard rock such as granite with no faulting or permeability of water and on top of this the waste needs filling in with vast amounts of concrete. Does it not seem more logical to invest time, effort and funds into pushing for wind farms along 70% or more of Britains coastline and to hell with the opposition?

Crayfish
08-06-2006, 16:58
I kinda like wind farms. Don't see the problem, they're quite pretty.

Even if you don't find them so, it's a little egocentric to assume that your once a year beach trip aesthetics are more important than the future of the planet.

I seem to remember the David attenborough program mentioning we'd need about 1000 farms to make a decent go of it. This doesn't seem altogether impractical to me.

GabbleRatcht
08-06-2006, 18:35
Heard on five live yesterday that 500 square miles of baron Sahara fitted with solar panels could power the entire world!

Divine toy
08-06-2006, 19:01
We then have the problem of shielding such a vast area from sand storms and the irratic movement of large volumes of sand, it is a good idea though although what would be the lifespan of a panel as the intense sunlight has got to degrade the material over time

Phanerothyme
09-06-2006, 01:23
Agreed, but almost certainly unattainable.

My personnal hope is here

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5012638.stm

I can't believe they are actually going to give it a serious go. Of course I want them to, but if it works, will spell the end for what is our 'global economy'. Saudi, Nigeria etc we don't need your oil anymore, bye bye. What will happen then?

My answer, sell your oil and put the funds into fusion reasearch. It will work, but it will take lots of time and money, and the one that gets there first will make Bill Gates look like a pauper.

Well ITER is a global collaboration between state agencies and private contractors - and whilst there is obviously a cost model for the research I think it goes beyond company economics. It is certainly going to change the global map of economic interdependency.

But it is by no means a panacea - what still needs to be addressed is our ever inrceasing power usage. With unlimited free power (for an extreme example of what is possible with fusion) the temptation to use it becomes irrestistable. Suddenly we have a whole new and interesting toolkit with which to haplessly bugger about.

What is required is a renewable portfolio. Nuclear fission is still dependent on imported nuclear fuel, which is largely sourced from ore in a very few locations, mostly politically unstable or developing countries. Not too dissimilar to the current situation with oil.

Investment in energy storage seems to be instrumental in the success of any energy production policy. Considering plenty of the power generated using massive powerplants built at huge cost is simply used to gently heat birds feet, a net of smaller local plants, even domestic solar and/or wind generation, can be used efficiently - i.e stored until needed and not stepped up and down and conducted over long distances. How much space can electricity take up after all?

The waste issue is still unresolved, as has been pointed out. Currently high level nuclear waste is stored above ground in sealed barrels within a special facility.