Dear Entrepreneurs: There's No Money in Geoengineering

By Chris Mooney | May 24, 2010 7:29 am

On the left wing, there’s this strange notion that geoengineering is a new corporate obsession. Scientists interested in the topic are accused of being part of a “geoengineering lobby” that wants to mess with the planet for fun and profit.

Alas, there’s no evidence to support this idea. In fact, as recent Point of Inquiry guest Eli Kintisch reports over at CNN Money (clarification: the article is actually from Fortune, and CNN picked it up), government regulations so far have quashed those few attempts to profit off of geoengineering that have made it to the trial stage.

Kintisch’s piece is called “Climate Hacking and Geoengineering: A Good Way to Go Broke.” You can read it here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: geoengineering, Global Warming

Comments (6)

  1. William Furr

    You don’t profit off of geoengineering directly. You profit from it by using it to enable your company to carry on doing business-as-usual, emitting whatever the heck you feel like, without having to make any changes, confident that the geo-engineers will clean up your mess and keep the planet habitable.

    It means “sustainability” without having to give up consumerism.

  2. Albert Bakker

    Does your theory answer why as a corporation you would want to burn money on geoengineering, when you can hire professionals to deny the whole problem out of existence far cheaper with the same results for you? That seems to be the strategy of choice to date for some reason I’d think.

  3. Jon

    Geoengineering companies are getting funded (see Planktos and Climos). But some people think biochar is geoengineering and don’t like it, which is strange.

    I could see why libertarian types would like geoengineering–it certainly fits with the Luntz memo strategy of handwaving about Technology…

  4. Jon

    Ooops, the article you linked to *is* about Planktos and Climos, and it sounds like those projects aren’t getting funded now…

  5. Thank you for saying this. The truth is, the people who are researching geoengineering are doing it because absent geoengineering, they’re pretty sure we are toast. I can’t imagine an impulse more diametrically opposed to the short-term self interest that motivates the accumulation of capital.

  6. Marion Delgado


    Dead wrong.

    What we say:

    Geoengineering is advocated to promote delay. And it’s promoted mostly by right-wing market fundamentalists. On the face of it, it makes no sense. It’s like saying you should let your children play by the atomic pile because probably a combination of charcoal and blood replacement can make them live a few extra years after they get cancer and a little radiation sickness.

    And we’re right about that.

    CF. The Freakonomics frauds, Nathan Myrhvold, etc.

    This is the biggest – and frankly, the stupidest and most offensive – error I’ve seen you make, Chris. You’re misunderstanding our point completely, and that leads you to blithely ignore the reality we’re pointing to. It’s not the money to be made from geoengineering – that’s a red herring like the money people supposedly make doing research which is why they pretend there’s AGW. It’s the money already being made in fossil fuels, deforestation, etc. etc. and the amicus curiae element for all industry that wants to fight the very concept of regulation – their profits don’t have to match the externalities they cause, because they don’t PAY for the externalities. That’s not econ 101, it’s pre-econ.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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