So, James Lovelock — he of the famous "Gaia Hypothesis" — has a rather, uh, grim piece in the Independent today, mainly as advance hype for his new book The Revenge of Gaia.

(The paper also has a follow-up piece that does little but point out the existence of the original piece. Oh, and another follow-up piece, doing the same. And, um, another follow-up piece, in case you missed the first three.)

I’m not really clear on what Lovelock thinks he’s trying to accomplish. Does he think people aren’t more concerned about global warming because environmentalists haven’t yelled loud enough? Haven’t been apocalyptic enough? Haven’t painted a vivid enough picture of the end of civilization? Does he think becoming even more melodramatic — "before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic" — is going to snap people awake?

I’m mystified by this attitude, which seems to be widely shared. Just shouting, louder and louder and louder, isn’t going to do anything. Lovelock’s latest piece is not going to reach anybody who’s not already sympathetic. Public opinion polls show that the majority of people believe in global warming and believe it’s human-caused and believe it’s a threat. What are they supposed to do? Panic? They need to see pathways, from where we’re standing now to a place where it will be OK. Lovelock offers no such pathways.

This kind of street-corner "the end is nigh" stuff has, in my humble opinion, largely exhausted its usefulness.

Here are some of the high low points:

I have to tell you, as members of the Earth’s family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.

We are in a fool’s climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.

So what should we do? First, we have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act; and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can. Civilisation is energy-intensive and we cannot turn it off without crashing, so we need the security of a powered descent.

… the notion that there is land to spare to grow biofuels, or be the site of wind farms, is ludicrous. We will do our best to survive, but sadly I cannot see the United States or the emerging economies of China and India cutting back in time, and they are the main source of emissions. The worst will happen and survivors will have to adapt to a hell of a climate.

So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone, and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia. We must do it while we are still strong enough to negotiate, and not a broken rabble led by brutal war lords.