My Syndicated Column on Geoengineering

By Chris Mooney | August 31, 2010 9:18 am

geoengineeringRecently, for Blue Ridge Press, I did a commentary piece about geoengineering, which I understand has now appeared in smaller papers all across the country, including this one, the Philly Tribune.

The folks at Blue Ridge are very happy about how widely this column has circulated, especially given this line from the piece:

Unfortunately, you’ve probably never heard of “geoengineering.” Less than 1 percent of Americans currently know what it is, according to a recent poll by the Yale Project on Climate Change.

Perhaps I changed that the tiniest bit with the column (though I can hardly say even 1 percent of Americans read it).

In any event, the point of the piece is to highlight the difference between the lack of public awareness about geoengineering and the ferment among scientists:

The utter lack of public awareness sharply contrasts with what’s happening in the expert arena, where talk of geoengineering the planet has become common. Top scientific organizations like the British Royal Society and the American Meteorological Society have suggested that scientists should at least study the possibility of interfering with the climate system, while Russian scientists have begun small-scale geoengineering field trials.

That’s right — this thing you’ve never heard of could soon be on a fast track to happening.

As far as raising awareness, I told readers that if they wanted more info, go read the twin books by Eli Kintisch and Jeff Goodell–which really deserve a much broader audience.

The time may yet come when they get it.

Comments (6)

  1. What a stupid waste of time and engineering.
    You actually believe that Mother Nature’s Stefan-Boltzmann Law (SBL) is going to let you , puny man, change the climate balance on Earth.
    For those unaware of the SBL it says that if you add more warming, the extra energy will radiate out faster to return to the original equilibrium dictated by the amount of energy coming in. If you cool the Earth the SBL will slow down the radiation of energy until it returns back to the equilibrium where it started. Since geoengineering requires for example stopping sunlight from coming in, then it can have a trivial temporary impact. However since most of the energy coming into the Earth comes from gravity (eg moon causes tidal energy etc) and the gain and return of gravitational potential energy as the Earth gets closer & further away from the sun & planets, then anything man can do will be trivial until he magically controls gravity. see “Gravity causes Climate Change” at http://www.scribd.com for further explanation.
    This is one column I will NOT be reading.

  2. Reason

    “This is one column I will NOT be reading.” -John Dodds

    Clearly you didn’t.

  3. “The alternative (to geoengineering) is the acceptance of a massive natural cull of humanity and a return to an Earth that freely regulates itself but in the hot state.” –Dr James Lovelock, August 2008

    “The Greens’ resistance to geo-engineering sits very uncomfortably with its message that the planet is screwed and we’re all going to die. It suggests that Environmentalism has less to do with saving the planet than it does with reining in human aspirations. It suggests that they don’t actually believe their own press releases, and that they know the situation is not as dire as they would like the rest of us to think it is. And that Environmentalists are cutting off their noses to spite their faces – “we’ll save the planet our way or not at all.” It suggests that Environmentalists regard science and engineering as the cause of problems, and not the solution.” –Climate Resistance, 24 March 2008

  4. The dynamics underling the following intuitive prediction are too complicated and lengthy to explain here. I only have posted this as the basis of the first posting. Do you really think that faced with starvation mankind will not engage in geoengineering? Especially when there is a very cheap and simple way to immediately cool down the Earth: just add a little (more) sun dimming aerosol to the air.

    “Few seem to realise that the present IPCC models predict almost unanimously that by 2040 the average summer in Europe will be as hot as the summer of 2003 when over 30,000 died from heat. By then we may cool ourselves with air conditioning and learn to live in a climate no worse than that of Baghdad now. But without extensive irrigation the plants will die and both farming and natural ecosystems will be replaced by scrub and desert. What will there be to eat? The same dire changes will affect the rest of the world and I can envisage Americans migrating into Canada and the Chinese into Siberia but there may be little food for any of them.” –Dr James Lovelock’s lecture to the Royal Society, 29 Oct. ’07

  5. It’s great to see you jumping into this debate. Climate change is an all hands on deck type situation, and there aren’t enough of us covering it beyond the “stenography” role.

  6. TTT

    Brad Arnold: it is not particularly misanthropic to point out that nearly all proposed geoengineering solutions are stupid impossible magic-wanding fantasies. You cannot “engineer” a stratospheric sulfur tower or a new cloud layer, even less so with any serious hope that it will solve this problem without causing even worse ones in its wake.

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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 Salon.com 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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