Scientific papers

Ocean pipes could help the Earth to cure itself

Letter to Nature from James Lovelock and Chris Rapley, 26 September 2007.

‘‘We propose a way to stimulate the Earth’s capacity to cure itself, as an emergency treatment for the pathology of global warming … The oceans, which cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, are a promising place to seek a regulating influence. One approach would be to use free-floating or tethered vertical pipes to increase the mixing of nutrient-rich waters below the thermocline with the relatively barren waters at the ocean surface …Such an approach may fail, perhaps on engineering or economic grounds. And the impact on ocean acidification will need to be taken into account … But the stakes are so high that we put forward the general concept of using the Earth system’s own energy for amelioration. The removal of 500 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from the air by human endeavour is beyond our current technological capability. If we can’t ‘heal the planet’ directly, we may be able to help the planet heal itself.’’

Failure of climate regulation in a geophysiological model

By James E. Lovelock & Lee R. Kump, Nature 369, 732 – 734 (30 June 1994).

‘‘There has been much debate about how the Earth responds to changes in climate – specifically, how feedbacks involving the biota change with temperature. There is in particular an urgent need to understand the extent of coupling and feedback between plant growth, global temperature and enhanced atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Here we present a simple, but we hope qualitatively realistic, analysis of the effects of temperature change on the feedbacks induced by changes in surface distribution of marine algae and land plants.’’

Geophysiology, the science of Gaia

By James E. Lovelock, Coombe Mill, St. Giles on the Heath, Launceston, Cornwall, England. Copyright 1989 by the American Geophysical Union. Published in Reviews of Geophysics 17, 11 May 1989, pages 215-222.

‘‘The Gaia hypothesis postulates that the climate and chemical composition of the Earth’s surface environment is, and has been, regulated at a state tolerable for the biota …Gaia has matured and might be better stated as a theory that views the evolution of the biota and of their material environment as a single, tightly coupled process, with the self-regulation of climate and chemistry as an emergent property. It is a theory that makes ‘risky’ predictions, for example, that oxygen is and has been regulated during the existence of land plants, within ± 5 of its present level; it is therefore falsifiable. Numerical models are used to illustrate the potential for stable self-regulation of tightly coupled systems of organisms and their environments.’’

Oceanic phytoplankton, atmospheric sulphur, cloud albedo and climate

By Robert J. Charlson, James E. Lovelock, Meinrat O. Andreae & Stephen G. Warren. Published in Nature Vol. 326 No. 6114, 16 April 1987.

‘‘The major source of cloud-condensation nuclei (CCN) over the oceans appears to he dimethylsulphide, which is produced by planktonic algae in sea water and oxidizes in the atmosphere to form a sulphate aerosol. Because the reflectance (albedo) of clouds (and thus the Earth’s radiation budget) is sensitive to CCN density, biological regulation of the climate is possible through the effects of temperature and sunlight on phytoplankton population and dimethylsulphide production. To counteract the warming due to doubling of atmospheric CO2, an approximate doubling of CCN would he needed.’’

Geophysiology: a new look at earth science

By James E. Lovelock. Published in the Bulletin Of The American Meteorological Society Vol. 67, No. 4, April 1986, and in Geophysiology in Amazonia: Vegetation and Climate Interactions (Robert Dickinson, Ed.), the proceedings of a United Nations University international published by J. Wiley and Sons.

Gaia as seen through the atmosphere

By J. E. Lovelock, published in P. Westbroek and E. W. deJong (eds.), Biomineralization and Biological Metal Accumulation, 1983.

‘‘Life can flourish only within a narrowly circumscribed range of physical and chemical states and since life began the Earth has kept within this range. This is remarkable for there have been major perturbations such as a progressive increase in solar luminosity, extensive changes in the surface and atmospheric chemical composition and the impact of many planetesimals. The anomalous and chemically unstable composition of the Earth’s atmosphere when compared with those of the other terrestrial planets was the first indication of homeostasis by the biota to maintain conditions favourable for their continued survival.’’

Biological homeostasis of the global environment: the parable of Daisyworld

By Andrew J. Watson, and James E. Lovelock. Published in Tellus (1983). 35B, 284-289 284. Manuscript received 20 October 1982.

‘‘We chose to develop a model of an imaginary planet having a very simple biosphere. It consisted of just two species of daisy of different colours and was first described by Lovelock (1982). The growth rate of the daisies depends on only one environmental variable, temperature, which the daisies in turn modify because they absorb different amounts of radiation. Regardless of the details of the interaction, the effect of the daisies is to stabilize the temperature …’’

The regulation of carbon dioxide and climate: Gaia or geochemistry

By J. E. Lovelock and A. J. Watson, published in Planet. Space Sci., Vol. 30, No. 8, pp. 795-802, 1982. (Received 12 September 1981). Paper presented at the IAMAP / ICPAE Symposium “Origin and Evolution of Planetary Atmospheres”, 17-18 August 1981, Hamburg, West Germany.

‘‘This is a review of the Gaia hypothesis which postulates a condition of planetary homeostasis affecting chemical composition and climate. Some criticisms are answered and a new model is introduced for the long term regulation of the mean surface temperature through the biological control of CO2 partial pressure.’’

Thermodynamics and the recognition of alien biospheres

By J. E. Lovelock, FRS, Department of Applied Physical Sciences, University of Reading. Published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 189, 167-181 (1975).

‘‘A distant view of the Earth in this context shows that certain of its thermodynamic properties are recognizably different from those of the other terrestrial planets, which presumably are lifeless. The general application of this test for the remote detection of other biospheres will be discussed, as will some implications of this way of viewing biospheres on the nature and organizations of life on Earth.’’

Atmospheric homeostasis by and for the biosphere: the Gaia hypothesis

By James E. Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, published in Tellus XXVI (1974).

‘‘During the time, 3.2 x 109 years, that life has been present on Earth, the physical and chemical conditions of most of the planetary surface have never varied from those most favourable for life … During this same period, however, the Earth’s radiation environment underwent large changes. As the sun moved along the course set by the main sequence of stars its output will have increased at least 30% and possibly 100% … early after life began it acquired control of the planetary environment and that this homeostasis by and for the biosphere has persisted ever since.’’

Planetary Atmospheres: compositional and other changes associated with the presence of life

This paper by James E. Lovelock and C. E. Giffin was submitted September 1968 to the American Astronautical Society and published in Advances in the Astronautical Sciences 25, pp.179-193, 1969. It is the first scientific paper to discuss Earth System Science as it is currently understood. It presents the results of one phase of research carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under Contract No. NAS 7-100, sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Life detection by atmospheric analysis

By Dian R. Hitchcock and James E. Lovelock. Originally published in Icarus: International Journal of the Solar SystemVolume 7, Number 2, September 1967. Copyright © 1967 by Academic Press Inc. Icarus 7, 149-159 (1967).

A physical basis for life detection experiments

First published in Nature Vol. 207, No. 4997, pp. 568-570, August 7, 1965.