Intermission: Why Discuss Geoengineering?

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We’ll return to our discussion of specific plans to geoengineer the Earth in the next post, but, before we move on, I think I should explain why knowing something about geoengineering is important.

Let me begin by noting that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists (>97%) agree that human activities are causing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and, as a result, the average temperature of the Earth is rising. What some scientists and policymakers call “Plan A” for addressing global warming is simply to reduce the quantity of greenhouse gases that we emit. Unfortunately, Plan A is currently failing and shows little hope of succeeding in time to prevent a whole slew of ecological catastrophes.

For that reason, some scientists, engineers, and climate opportunists (more on this last group in a subsequent post) are coming up with schemes to engineer the planet in the hope of making the consequences of global warming less severe. They call their combined efforts “Plan B.”

At first glance, Plan B seems to be an optimistic, can-do, American-style approach that would allow us to keep living our consumerist lifestyles without having to worry about the environmental consequences. But most of the ideas that have been advanced—if not wackadoodle on their face—are rife with potentially calamitous side effects.

We all need to know what’s at stake. If we don’t put Plan A into effect by reducing our greenhouse-gas emissions, desperation could—and probably will—drive us (or the Russians or the Chinese or somebody) to employ some form of Plan B.

So please take a moment to think about whether we should help put Plan A into effect by reducing our excessive consumption or sit back complacently, allow the Earth to be geoengineered for us, and suffer the consequences down the road.

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