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British scientist James Lovelock

“The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened.”

-JAMES LOVELOCK, British scientist and creator of the ‘Gaia hypothesis,’ in an interview with MSNBC last week. The 92-year-old scientist has long been a hero to the green movement for his groundbreaking theory that the Earth essentially functioned as a single organism—one that could react violently to our interference. In the past Lovelock had sounded the alarm over unchecked climate change, predicting in 2006 that billions would die because of warming before the end of the century, with much of the world left uninhabitable. But in a new book Lovelock is backing off those statements, arguing that the planet hasn’t warmed as fast as he thought it would, and that he had extrapolated too far in some of his earlier statements. Lovelock’s extreme pessimism about the effects of climate change always made him an outlier among even concerned scientists—who are also quick to note that he isn’t actually a climatologist—but expect climate skeptics to seize on Lovelock’s statements as more evidence that they’re winning the PR war on warming, if not the scientific one.

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