Mark Lynas (born 1973) is a British author, journalist and environmental activist who focuses on climate change. He is a contributor to New Statesman, Ecologist, Granta and Geographical magazines, and The Guardian and The Observer newspapers in the UK; he also worked on the film The Age of Stupid. He was born in Fiji, grew up in Peru and the United Kingdom and holds a degree in history and politics from the University of Edinburgh. He lives in Oxford, England. He has published several books including Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet (2007) and The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans (2011). He has stated "I think there is a 50–50 chance we can avoid a devastating rise in global temperature."
Main work and publications
In 2004, Lynas' High Tide: The Truth About Our Climate Crisis was published by Macmillan Publishers on its Picador imprint. He has also contributed to a book entitled Fragile Earth: Views of a Changing World published by Collins, which presents before-and-after images of some of the natural changes which have happened to the world in recent years, including the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, alongside a bleak look at the effects of mankind's actions on the planet.
In January 2007, Lynas published Gem Carbon Counter, containing instructions to calculate people's personal carbon emissions and recommendations about how to reduce their impact on the atmosphere.
In 2007, he published Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, a book detailing the progressive effect of global warming in several planetary ecosystems, from 1 degree to 6 degrees and further of average temperature rise of the planet. Special coverage is given to the positive feedback mechanisms that could dramatically accelerate the climate change, possibly putting the climate on a runaway path. As a possible end scenario the release of methane hydrate from the bottom of the oceans could replicate the end-Permian extinction event. This book won the Royal Society's science book of the year award in 2008.
In 2010, Lynas published an article in the New Statesman entitled "Why We Greens Keep Getting It Wrong" and the same year was the main contributor to a UK Channel 4 Television programme called "What the Green Movement Got Wrong." In these he took a line similar to environmentalists such as Patrick Moore, Bjørn Lomborg, Stewart Brand and Richard D. North, explaining that he now felt that several of his previous strongly held beliefs were wrong. For example, he suggested that opposition by environmentalists, such as himself, to the development of nuclear energy had speeded up climate change, that proscription of DDT had led to millions of deaths and that GM crops were necessary to feed the world.
This latter position was attacked as patronising and naive by some developing world commentators, including one featured in a Channel Four debate after the programme aired. A number of experts also criticised Lynas's factual errors in contributing to the film. British environmentalist George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian that 'Brand and Lynas present themselves as heretics. But their convenient fictions chime with the thinking of the new establishment: corporations, thinktanks, neoliberal politicians. The true heretics are those who remind us that neither social nor environmental progress are possible unless power is confronted.' Since writing this, George Monbiot is no longer opposed to nuclear power as an alternative to more polluting sources such as coal.
In July 2011, he published in the U.K. the book entitled The God Species: How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans. It was also published in the U.S. by National Geographic in October 2011 as The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans (ISBN 978-1426208911). Lynas argues that as Earth has entered the Anthropocene, and as such humanity is changing the planet's climate, its bio-geochemical cycles, the chemistry of the oceans and the colour of the sky, as well as reducing the number of species. Based on the planetary boundaries concept, he proposes several strategies that are controversial among the environmental community, such as using nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions and geoengineering to mitigate inevitable global warming; or genetic engineering (transgenics) to feed the world and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.
"In defence of nuclear power"
In January 2012, Lynas published an article titled In defence of nuclear power, in which he states that "nuclear provides the vast majority of the UK’s current low-carbon electricity – as much as 70%, whilst avoiding the emission of 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. This is why I want to see more nuclear power in the UK and elsewhere, in order to avoid more carbon emissions". In September 2012, Lynas wrote a follow-up article in the Guardian entitled "Without nuclear, the battle against global warming is as good as lost."
Conversion to support GMOs
In a January 2013 lecture to the Oxford Farming Conference, Lynas detailed his conversion from an organizer of the anti-GMO food movement in Europe to becoming a supporter of the technology. He admitted "... in 2008, I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM – even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding. I don’t think I’d ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science..." He apologized for engaging in vandalism of field trials of genetically engineered crops, stating that "anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change." Lynas criticized organizations with which he was previously associated, including Greenpeace and organic trade groups like the U.K. Soil Association, for ignoring scientific facts about genetically modified crop safety and benefits because it conflicted with their ideologies and stated he "was completely wrong to oppose GMOs."
In October 2011 leaked documents from Europe's largest biotech industry group, EuropaBio, claimed to have potential interest in Mark Lynas as well as several other individuals for becoming ambassadors for GMOs in Europe. In response to news of these leaked documents Mark Lynas said, "I have never had any contact of any sort with EuropaBio, nor any 'Christopher Flores', who seems to have written this letter. I have not been asked to be an ambassador, nor would I accept such a request if asked."
- Staff Mark Lynas. Broadcast Commentator, Journalist, and Author National Geographic, Explorers Bios, Retrieved 5 January 2013
- ISBN 0-312-30365-3
- ISBN 0-00-723314-0
- Collins, ISBN 978-0-00-724812-4
- Irvine, Lindesay (17 June 2008) Lynas's Six Degrees wins Royal Society award The Guardian, Retrieved 19 January 2012
- Lynas, Mark (2010) Why We Greens Keep Getting It Wrong The New Statesman, 28 January 10, Retrieved 5 November 2010
- Lynas, Mark (2010) What the Green Movement Got Wrong: A turncoat explains The Daily Telegraph, 4 November 2010, Retrieved 5 November 2010
- , additional text.
- Monbiot, George Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power The Guardian, 21 March 2011, Retrieved 9 July 2011
- "Earthly powers – How we can save ourselves". The Economist. 14 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-22. 16 July print edition pp. 86,
- Lynas, Mark (14 September 2012) Without nuclear, the battle against global warming is as good as lost The Guardian, Environment, Retrieved 5 January 2013
- Lecture to Oxford Farming Conference, by Mark Lynus, 3 January 2013.
- I Was Wrong:' How One Activist's Apology Changes the GMO Debate 17 January 2013 Forbes.com
- Environmentalist who opposed GMOS admits he was wrong, by Torrie Bosch, Slate Magazine, 3 January 2013.
- Mark Lynas from Oxford Farming Conference on Vimeo
- Biotech group bids to recruit high-profile GM 'ambassadors', by John Vidal and Hanna Gersmann, The Guardian, 20 October 2011
- MarkLynas.org – personal website
- "How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room" – article by Mark Lynas on negotiations in Copenhagen 2009