Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Year of the Bean

The Year of the Bean
Beans are our legacy. They could also be our ticket to surviving the 21st century.


Reprinted from The Aquarian, Spring 2016. (I apologize for the tiny text in the first section. There's a bug in Blogger that's preventing me from enlarging it.)

The UN has named 2016 the “International Year of Pulses.” No, they're not talking about that throbbing vein in our necks. Put more simply, this is The Year of the Bean. And it's about time.

Beans, lentils, legumes, pulses – call these protein-rich, pod-enclosed seeds whatever you like – are our legacy. Most of us come from cultures where cheap beans, not costly meats, were – and in some cases still are – a staple protein. But most of us have strayed from that traditional cuisine. We have abandoned the rich variety of leguminous flavours, shapes and colours for the flashy cheap date of factory-farmed meat, milk, cheese and eggs.

We need to do a one-eighty. Why? Because it's 2016.

Beans and other pulses, together with their partner in cheap, plant-based protein, cereal grains, are the greenest, most sustainable way to feed the world.

In a report several years ago, the United Nations Environmental Programme cautioned that as we hurtle toward a collision between mounting overpopulation, diminishing agricultural capacity and accelerating climate change, “a substantial reduction of impacts [will] only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

Last year, the nutritional scientists tasked with advising the U.S. government on its Dietary Guidelines for Americans (commonly known as the Food Pyramid or MyPlate) wrote to the decisionmakers in Washington:

A dietary pattern higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet. The U.S. population should be encouraged to move towards the dietary pattern noted above while decreasing overall total calories.”

So when the UN dedicates a year to the bean, it's not just pumping a commodity.

Mind you, it is classifying it that way, and we need to correct that before we go any further. In keeping with the practice of its Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN classifies legumes that are sold fresh, not dried (think green beans, frozen peas, edamame) as vegetable crops, not pulses. Nor do peanuts and soybeans, which are traded and classified as oilseeds, get to wear a party hat for the official International Year of Pulses. But they do for the unofficial Year of the Bean, because they're all part of the same botanical family which so admirably helps fill the gap in protein, iron and zinc that can arise when we eat less animal food.

It's true that, ounce for ounce, fresh, frozen or cooked dried beans don't pack the same punch as meat, fish, milk and eggs when it comes to those nutrients. But that needn't be an issue. Even vegans, who eat no animal food whatsoever, can more than meet their protein and trace mineral needs with help from beans, as nutritional authorities like the American Dietetic Association attest.

The fact is North American adults typically eat much more protein (around 80 grams per day) than nutritionists say we need (around 50 to 60 grams, depending on gender or weight). Overdo it, and our kidneys feel the strain.

So swap out three ounces of chicken (25.7 grams of protein) from your curry with three ounces of chick peas (7.4 grams) and you'll probably still be eating too much protein. If not – if, say, you're a senior losing bone mass, which requires calcium and protein – it's not exactly a hardship to enjoy a cup of nicely seasoned chick peas (14.5 grams of protein) or a smaller serving of protein-rich soy. Three ounces of calcium-set firm tofu will give you 14.5 grams of protein and nearly 700 milligrams of calcium.

Less is more” may also apply to the type of iron that abounds in red meat. By eating less of it and more of the nonheme iron found in beans and other plant foods, men and postmenopausal women may actually lower their risk for heart disease, diabetes and perhaps even cancer and dementia.

All things considered, with beans the bottom line is not what you lose when you eat them instead of meat. It's what you gain.

For example, you won't find any fibre in food that comes from an animal. But beans are brimming with it, especially the soluble kind that reduces cardiovascular risk factors, like LDL cholesterol, and discourages blood sugar from rising into diabetic territory.

It's much the same for magnesium, an essential mineral commonly in short supply among omnivores (there's barely any in animal flesh). It abounds in beans.

When it comes to fat, beans, with the exception of peanuts and soybeans, have very little of it – and zero cholesterol. Although authorities have grown increasingly skeptical that dietary cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, a recent meta-analysis suggests it may indeed clog the arteries of people with diabetes.

What little fat beans typically have is good fat: mostly essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (we need these, like vitamins) and heart-friendly monounsaturated fatty acids. In contrast, while animal fats have some good fatty acids too, they abound in potentially artery-clogging saturated fatty acids. Beans have little.

With nutritional differences like these, it's not surprising that diets with less meat and more beans – including vegetarian and vegan diets – appear to be conducive to better health, including less cardiovascular disease (hypertension, clogged arteries, heart attacks, strokes), type 2 diabetes and even prostate and breast cancer, in the case of soybeans.

So, eat more Lentil Pilaf and less Beef Stroganoff, and you're probably doing your body good. But what about the planet? Yes. That, too.

From Planet Beef to Planet Bean

The key to understanding why plant-based protein staples like beans are inherently much better for the planet – by conserving natural resources, limiting pollution and preventing disruptive climate change – than animal-based protein is efficiency.

With the rare exception of animals fed entirely on unirrigated pasture or food waste, for every pound of corn, soy or other cultivated crops that farmers feed to animals, at best only a few ounces end up as meat, eggs or cheese (milk is an exception because it's mostly water). Most of what they feed to livestock is burned off by the animals' muscles and metabolism or becomes bones and other animal parts of little or no value to humans. Beef cattle, for example, even though they typically spend their first 12 to 18 months eating grass, almost always spend their last few months packed into feedlots. There, they are “finished” (fattened) so intensively with pulse- and grain-based feed that by the time their existence has been reduced to chuck steak and Papa Burgers, the equivalent of over 30 pounds of cooked grains and beans has been squandered to produce one pound of boneless beef. (This is based on industry statistics of 6 dry-weight pounds of feed needed to produce one pound of live weight steer, yielding 40 percent meat. As a rule, feed conversion ratios are based on dry weight in, live weight out.)

Even the most Machiavellian industrial techniques to turn feed into food can't compete with beans. Today's “broiler” (meat) chickens have been genetically selected for their ability to grow very fat, very fast. With the help of antibiotic-laced feed (which also stimulates weight gain), they plump up so rapidly that some die on the job. Broilers are normally sent to slaughter at the tender age of six weeks, but these workplace casualties, with their unnaturally top-heavy bodies barely supported on their naturally spindly legs, drop dead (usually of heart failure) even before their premature date with destiny.

Despite growing up in a densely crowded barn with little room for wasting “inputs” (feed) on exercise, it still takes the equivalent of four or five pounds of cooked grains and beans to produce one pound of whole chicken. Throw away the feathers, bones and other inedible parts, and the efficiency is even less.

Chicken meat may be high in protein, but considerably more plant protein goes in than comes out.

Layer hens” are cut from a different genetic cloth. Their purpose is to convert feed into eggs, not meat. Crammed together in wire cages so confining they can barely stretch a wing, let alone peck around a barnyard, they have even less opportunity to waste precious feed on selfish exercise. About every 30 hours they lay a new egg – almost twice as many as Old MacDonald's hens. Still, they convert plant protein to animal protein about as inefficiently as broiler chickens do.

Modern dairy cows have been bred to lactate so profusely that they are “spent” as milk producers and sent to slaughter by the age of four or five. Typically confined most of the time to narrow stalls, they give their all to make milk for people they will never know, not their own calves. Even so, dairy cows only convert about 10 percent of the dry weight of their feed (which includes hay) into the dry weight of their milk.

And so it goes for all species of livestock. The upshot? Every time we eat a serving of meat, milk or eggs, we're consuming all the resources and pollution that went into producing many more servings of legumes and grains. Our environmental footprint is that much bigger – even before we start measuring the cow farts.

It's Not a Gas

It's fitting that The Year of the Bean follows the year when the world's leaders finally got serious about keeping global warming since preindustrial times under 2 degrees Celsius and preferably under 1.5.

We're already nudging up against 1 degree, and most of that has happened in just the past 40 years. From here on in, we're playing chicken with catastrophic climate change.

Pressure to feed a hungry world inefficiently and unsustainably with meat instead of wheat is driving the conversion of rainforests into soybean plantations – not for hippies, but for livestock. A slashed and burned forest is a carbon sink reduced to a chimney.

Far worse for the climate is all the flatulence and excrement produced by over 50 billion cows, chickens, pigs and other animals raised and killed for meat, milk and eggs every year.

In ruminants (cows, goats, sheep), this flatulence is rife with methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas that heats our climate about 100 times more strongly than carbon dioxide (CO2) over the 12 and-a-half years it takes for most of it to break down into CO2 and water.

Methane also outgasses from the poop of all farmed animals, as does an even more potent greenhouse gas: nitrous oxide (N2O).

Perhaps you're wondering, “but what about all the methane we ‘emit’ when we eat beans instead of beef? It turns out it's a fart in the bucket. Research suggests our meagre, bean-induced methane emissions increase the carbon footprint of producing, transporting and cooking those beans by less than one percent.

That's a tiny fraction of an already very slight footprint that varies from about 1 kilogram of CO2e per kilogram of lentils to 2 kg CO2e per kg of dried beans, according to a review of the literature by the Environmental Working Group. (The “e” in CO2e stands for “equivalent,” because it includes the footprint of methane and all the other associated greenhouse gas emissions, standardized by convention to a 100-year timescale. It's worth mentioning that this long timescale underestimates the immediate impact of livestock emissions and the opportunity to rapidly mitigate global warming by moving back from meat to beans.)

As you might expect, the carbon footprint of beef is much larger: 27 kg per kg. Lamb is a gargantuan 39.

In apparent contrast, at just 1.9, milk's carbon footprint looks like a deal. But with 90 percent water, the protein yield of milk (33 grams per kg) is a fraction of beans' (about 90 grams per kg; 180 g/kg for soybeans). We get a clearer picture with the carbon footprint of cheese: 13.5. Though cheese has slightly more protein than soy, its carbon footprint is over six times bigger.

The carbon footprints of other animal products are smaller than ruminant meat and cheese, from pork (12.1), farmed salmon (11.9) and turkey (10.9) on down to chicken (6.9), canned tuna (6.1), eggs (4.8) and yogurt (2.2).

Things only start to look better when we come to wild fish and seafood. These obviously aren't weighed down by the carbon footprint of feed crops. Nor do they belch methane. But fishers still use diesel to chase them. One study suggests fish easily caught in bulk, close to shore, might have a carbon footprint that's either comparable to (skipjack tuna, mackerel, scallops, North American salmon) or even better (sardines) than beans. But other species, like sole, shrimp and lobster, have already outweighed beans' carbon footprint by the time the boats return to shore.

Carbon footprints aside, wild fish and seafood are fraught with worries about overfishing and even extinction. You can never overfarm beans.

With a little help from more beans and less beef, we can save ourselves from catastrophic climate change. But we still have to contend with another existential threat.

Since 1950, humanity has tripled its population from 2.5 billion to 7.3. By 2050, the UN estimates we'll be pushing 10 billion and topping 11 by 2100.

We're already having trouble keeping nearly one billion of ourselves fed, and it doesn't help that we keep feeding so much of our limited agricultural yield to livestock (or converting it to biofuels, which is controversial at best as a would-be green energy strategy). By cutting out the animals we have selfishly conscripted as middlemen, we could feed four billion more people, according to the beef and bean counters at the University of Minnesota. Just cutting down would accomplish wonders.

We need to start moving in that direction. After all, it's The Year of the Bean. So let's get soaking.

Syd Baumel is an editor with The Aquarian. He blogs about food politics and the environment at and

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Global warming ‘pause’ — warmest 17 years on record, by far

Originally published in The Aquarian, Spring 2015.

The Warmest Year(s) on Record
2014 may not be the warmest year on record, statistically. But the past 17 years – the so-called pause in global warming – are without a doubt the warmest period. And it's all down to the carbon. 

The colour of warming: NASA's video builds to a sunburst heat climax during the “pause years” of 1998–2014.

It’s official. 2014 was the warmest year on record for the surface of our great big, blue marble. Well, nominally it was the warmest. Statistically, not so much. 

That's the gist of a debate that has broken out – mostly in the nerdy reaches of the blogosphere – about the latest bellwether signal that global warming has no intention of taking a hike – of stopping or “pausing” – unless we press pause ourselves.

Early this year, all five of the major climate research groups and agencies that keep tabs on the planet's temps on land and sea, as well as the World Meteorological Organization, concurred that the average temperature anomaly (the deviation, up or down, from a reference baseline period) for 2014 was higher than any they had ever recorded. Only one, the UK's Met Office, declared 2014 a dead heat with 2010.

In contrast, both of the research groups that analyze the satellite record reported that 2014 was warm, but not record warm. For one group, the anomaly was third highest; for the other, a tepid 6th.

What every report had in common was that the slight difference between the top three warmest years – or the top six for the outlier satellite group – was smaller than the margin of error of roughly 5 to 10 hundredths of a degree.

In the United States, for example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) global temperature anomaly for 2014 of +0.69 degrees C. (using the entire 20th century as their baseline) was just 4 hundredths of a degree higher than their previous record: a tie between 2010 and 2005. And those years had beaten the blowout record set in 1998 (thanks to the hottest El Niño ever recorded) by just 2 hundredths of a degree.

When the margin of error for measuring things with 95% accuracy is larger than the difference between those things, statistically they're considered to be no different – “tied.” So, statistically, no climate scientist could or would declare any of the last few warmest years to be the warmest. Still, 2014 was the best candidate. Such was the fine print in most every report, and even in some of the news stories. 

At a press briefing this January, NASA and NOAA spelled out the odds that each of the closest contenders might truly be the warmest year on record. 2014 “won,” albeit with less than 50 percent confidence. 

With so many temperature records being set in recent years, it should come as no shock that all but one of the 15 warmest years on record (going back as far as 1850, but likely for thousands of years) have occurred during our fledgling century (beginning with 2001), according to most, if not all, of the temperature-keepers. The only exception was 1998 – the year of that killer El Niño.

The Warmest “Pause” 

You may have noticed that politicians and pundits who like to preface particularly perverse or head-in-the-sand declarations about climate change with “Now I’m not a scientist, but…” are very fond of the meme that there has been no warming for umpteen years – typically since 1998 or late 1997.  

Ironically, there is scientific method to their cherry-picking cleverness. 

If you look at a graph depicting global temperature – like the wavy red line in the one at the end of this piece – you'll notice that while the trend is clearly up, the path is a very erratic one. At times the underlying trend looks more like a staircase – flat tread, vertical riser – than a smooth slope. There's a reason for this: forces other than increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (natural forces mostly, like El Niño and his chilly sister La Niña, major volcanic eruptions and continuous variations in solar intensity) are constantly buffetting the planet's temperature up and down. Over the medium term – since 1900, for example – they've done little more than cancel each other out, leaving the long-term trend of anthropogenic warming undisturbed. But while they're bashing it out in the short term, there are inevitable periods when they distort the warming trend so badly it looks like the planet is about to boil over or, conversely, slide into the next Ice Age (see for example 1945–1978).

A good example was the 1990s. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in the summer of 1991, the sunlight-dimming ash it spewed into the atmosphere took a whopping 0.5 degree bite out of the planet's temperature over the next couple years. A waning solar cycle added to the chill. Only a moderate EL Niño and the continuing rise in greenhouse gas concentrations countered the cooling. But toward the end of the 90s, nature did a flip-flop. That record El Niño of 1997 and 1998 transferred perhaps half as much heat from the Pacific to the atmosphere as Pinatubo had shut out in 1992 and 1993. The result was a truly apocalyptic (and statistically significant) warming trend from early 1992 thru late 1998 of approximately 7.5 degrees per century (using the land and ocean-based temperature records) or 10 degrees per century (using the satellite-based records).

Late in 1998, had you graphed the warming trend since mid-1992 you could have sounded the (false) alarm that the planet is warming at a rate of over 10 degrees C. per century, even using the satellite record (above) of outspoken anthropogenic climate change doubters John Christy and Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH).

A clever climate change “alarmist” could have waved that cherry-picked factoid in the face of the doubting Thomases – perhaps created a cool infographic, had that been an option – and blinded them with pseudoscience. But it's the climate change deniers and obfuscators who have been playing that card lately, based on the same misleading effect. Their no-warming disinfographics typically start with the peak El Niño year of 1998, which dwarfed all previous heat records (no statistical uncertainty there). Their disinfographics end at the present date, which has been opportune for their purposes since the late 2000s when solar intensity and the El Niño/La Niña cycle began simultaneously trending cool. Their final cherry-picking flourish is to seek out whichever temperature record shows the least warming. Lately, the RSS satellite record has delivered the goods. 

But one thing even cherry-pickers can't find is anything close to a statistically significant cooling trend – not even with RSS. Statistically flat is as good as it gets. That's because (according to all but RSS) the warming trend has continued at a pace of about 0.6 to 1 degree per century since 1997/98. But because the trend is still inching its way back to statistical significance (95 percent or higher probability the trend is real, not random), it's scientifically acceptable to say “there has been no warming.” (You can verify these trends yourself at 

But there’s more than one scientific way to answer the question “are we still warming?” 

After taking office in 2011, Florida governor Rick “I'm not a scientist” Scott prohibited the state's actual scientists and other civil servants from using the terms “global warming” and “climate change” in any of their communications.
A few issues back, I discussed how during the apparent “pause” or warming “hiatus” since 1998, heat has been accumulating, if anything, at an accelerating pace in other parts of the climate system: the oceans, which soak up over 90 percent of it, and the melting glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice. 

Still, if we insist on using the planet’s surface temperature as our only gauge for global warming, another tack is to do what the World Meteorological Organization does: compare the average annual surface temperature of consecutive time periods. The WMO does this every decade. Last time, it reported “the decadal rate of [temperature] increase between 1991–2000 and 2001–2010 was unprecedented.” The WMO's average global temperature figures popped from 14.26 degrees C. in the 1990s to 14.47 in the 2000s. If a seemingly pausey decade like the 2000s can raise the planet's temperature one fifth of a degree, the world could easily be on course (if we don't slow our emissions) for another degree of warming by the time Justin Bieber cashes his first pension cheque. We wouldn't want an enfeebled old Biebs to bear the brunt of our reckless emissions.

We can use the WMO's method to compare the “pause period” to the identical-length period that preceded it. Data from NOAA gives us an average annual temperature anomaly for 1998 thru 2014 (17 years) of +0.58 degrees C. It comes with a margin of error of just 0.03 degrees, meaning there is a 95% probability the anomaly is somewhere between +0.55 degrees and +0.61 degrees. In contrast, for 1981–1997 (17 years) the average anomaly is just +0.295 degrees, with a margin of error of 0.05 degrees. So the plateaulike heat wave of the pause years has been over a quarter of a degree warmer than the steep heat rise of the 17 years that preceded it. Not only is this a nominally substantive temperature difference, it's an extremely significant one. Even applying very conservative statistical methods, the odds are in the hundreds of millions to one that the 17-year “pause” has been warmer than the 17-year period that preceded it. And that makes it the warmest 17-year period since we began measuring global temperature over 150 years ago – and probably the warmest in thousands of years, based on proxy temperature records using tree rings, ice cores and other clues. 

(More precisely, with a mean temperature anomaly 0.285 degrees higher than the previous 17-year period [0.58 minus 0.295], the implicit warming rate during “the pause” has been 0.168 degrees per decade, or nearly 2 degrees per century.)

Not that evidence like this will deter the no-warming-since-record-hot-year crowd. They have a fallback position: it may still be warming, but it’s not us and never was. CO2 isn’t the enemy; it's a plant food, don't ya know? ( CO2 is a plant food, of course. It's also an agent of ecocide. In the oceans, carbonic acid derived from our excessive CO2 emissions is killing off coral reefs and shellfish, with potentially disastrous consequences.) Some, like the Alberta oil industry-based “Friends of Science,” insist the sun is doing most of whatever warming they’re willing to acknowledge. Others, like U.S. Senate Pseudoscience Czar James Inhofe, put it down to a natural cycle or the planet's spontaneous emergence from the Little Ice Age.

But climate scientists have identified no such natural explanations. What they have determined is that the only necessary and sufficient cause for modern global warming is humanity's escalating greenhouse gas emissions. This has been especially evident since those emissions began breaking bad in the 1950s, only to have their heating potential unleashed in the late 70s when cooling air pollutants, like soot and sulphur dioxide, that spew, like CO2, from smokestacks and tailpipes were capped by clean air laws. (Not that the sun has been an idle bystander. Climate scientists reckon a small increase in solar intensity did contribute slightly to the warming trend of the first half of the last century.) 

There’s a simple, infographic way to put this question of causality to a gut-check, the kind that might sway even a Bill O'Reilly or a Stephen Colbert (in character). The world’s longest directly measured record of atmospheric CO2 began in 1958 at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The graph below shows what it looks like (it's the squiggly green line – squiggles are the seasons) plotted against NASA's surface temperature record (the wavy red line – it would end at a higher peak, but the data it's based on at stops halfway through 2014), and the sunspot record which mirrors the cyclic fluctuations and longer-term trends in solar energy that floods our planet, albeit with less and less of it bouncing back into outer space thanks to the growing blanket of greenhouse gases that trap its heat down here (it's the wavy blue line). 

Take a look. 

You Belieber the judge.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Waking the Frog Before We Boil

Waking the Frog: Solutions for Our Climate Change Paralysis

By Tom Rand
ECW Press, 2014 
245 pages, $29.95

You've probably heard the story before.

A frog leaps into a pot of water that happens to be sitting 
on a stove. Being coldblooded, he lazes away, oblivious as the temperature creeps up from cold, to warm, to hot. 

Only as the water nears the boiling point does he register danger. But by then his muscles have been paralyzed by the heat.

The water boils. The frog dies in agony. End of story.

That's the gruesome metaphor that frames Canadian climate activist Tom Rand's analysis of the pot we're stewing in as a civilization thanks to climate disruption – the result of anthropogenic (we did it) global warming – and the froglike fallibilities of human psychology, our destructively “free” markets and our ineffectual political systems.

Rand chooses the expression “climate disruption” in favour of the familiar “climate change” hoping it will bypass the frog's powerful denial mechanism. “The term,” he explains, “helps circumvent the nonsense that this warming is part of a natural cycle and emphasizes our contribution to the coming changes and the speed at which they are approaching.”

Rand brings a versatile skill-set to a subject usually tackled by more specialized writers (climate scientists, environmentalists, science writers).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Heat is On (still) — and here's how scientists know it is

The following short essay was published this May in the Summer issue of The Aquarian. I've revised and adapted it for this blog, with many more hyperlinks and graphics. 

A Cold Winter in a (Still) Warming World

When you look at the big picture, there's been no “pause” in global warming

By Syd Baumel

It was Winnipeg's coldest winter since 1898. Throughout most of North America, the deep freeze broke records, made headlines and (inevitably) provided fodder for global warming doubters, deniers and disinformers.

So where did the global warming go this winter? Answer: nowhere.

While we were freezing like it's 1898, across the Atlantic Europe was enjoying one of its warmest winters on record. Witness those not-so-wintry Olympics in Sochi.

Even here in North America, it was an unusually warm winter out west – the warmest on record in California where the heat was so parching that by April the state was fully engulfed by drought. Up the road a piece, Alaska basked in its eighth warmest winter ever.

But, as the proverb goes, when a whole bunch of blind men examine an elephant, a tusk, a trunk and a big floppy ear at a time, it can lead to a comically distorted picture of the whole.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

CFACT + Lovelock = Climate Confusion

The Denialsphere has a new meme:

And as usual, it would be charitable to call it a half-truth.

It took me less than five minutes to find that out.

Yes, the irrepressibly outspoken originator of the Gaia theory of our planet, James Lovelock, did say what CFACT (the “Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow,” as Stephen Colbert might have named it) triumphantly says he did. Without even fact-checking, I'm willing to believe another climate change obfuscation outfit on that one, because at least the Global Warming Policy Foundation is responsible enough to publish the 94-year-old scientist cum natural philosopher's words in partial context – a context that includes other tidbits you won't see in any disinfographic from CFACT.

Lovelock's quote is loosely taken from a BBC Newsnight interview broadcast on April 2, just a few days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its massive Working Group II report on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.

Early in the interview, Lovelock opted to illustrate his point that we're not as smart as we think we are, and that we're cruising for a bruising with extinction, by opining:
Take this climate matter everybody is thinking about. They all talk, they pass laws, they do things, as if they knew what was happening. I don’t think any of them really know what’s happening. They're just guessing it. And a whole group of them meet together and encourage each other’s guesses. 
(I'm using my own transcript now that I've watched the interview myself. It corrects some errors in the transcript by the GWPF and adds a few more lines of context.)

So there it is. The get, the ripe cherry to be picked, the quote to be mined, tweaked and decontextualized by CFACT, Friends of Science, Watts Up With That? and all the other climate confusionists dedicated to pulling the wool over the people's eyes in the guise of enlightening them, ensuring the fossil fuel companies will live to profit another day and keeping the bogeymen of “Big Government” and global governance away.

And here's the context.