While Australian industry, environmentalists and politicians sit around arguing the pros and cons of the Kyoto agreement, renowned UK scientist James Lovelock is way ahead of them – he’s arguing that the world has “already passed the point of no return for climate change.” In his “profoundly pessimistic new assessment” published in The Independent (UK) today, Lovelock argues that, “civilisation as we know it is now unlikely to survive.”

Feeling panicky yet? Lovelock continues: “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.” He even suggests publishing “a guidebook for global warming survivors,” aimed at the humans who would still be struggling to exist after a total societal collapse. And forget Kyoto – the Professor suggests that efforts to counter global warming can’t succeed, and that it’s already too late.

Thirty years ago, Lovelock worked out that the Earth possessed a “planetary-scale control system” which kept the environment “fit for life.” He dubbed it Gaia, and the theory eventually became widely accepted by scientists. Which is why his new argument is so alarming to many – Lovelock isn’t a crackpot scientist, he has cred.

Lovelock argues that Gaia, or the Earth System as most other scientists prefer to call it, contains “myriad feedback mechanisms” which in the past have acted together to keep the Earth much cooler than it otherwise would be. Now, however, they’ll “come together to amplify the warming being caused by human activities such as transport and industry through huge emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.” And the results of damaging the living planet’s “ancient regulatory system” are likely to “accelerate uncontrollably.”

The scientist terms this phenomenon “The Revenge of Gaia,” which is also the title of his new book, to be published by Penguin next month.

If you’re prone to nightmares, don’t read any further, otherwise click here for Lovelock’s apocalyptic prediction in his own words.