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WSJ: It's Time to Cool the Planet


In which I admit that I have become a reluctant geoengineering advocate.

To their credit, the Wall Street Journal editors I worked with gave me absolutely no push-back about including numerous strident calls for carbon emissions elimination alongside geoengineering.

To be clear, geoengineering won’t solve global warming. It’s not a “techno-fix.” It would be enormously risky and almost certainly lead to troubling unforeseen consequences. And without a doubt, the deployment of geoengineering would lead to international tension. Who decides what the ideal temperature would be? Russia? India? The U.S.? Who’s to blame if Country A’s geoengineering efforts cause a drought in Country B?

Also let’s be clear about one other thing: We will still have to radically reduce carbon emissions, and do so quickly. We will still have to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and adopt substantially more sustainable agricultural methods. We will still have to deal with the effects of ecosystems damaged by carbon overload.

But what geoengineering can do is slow the increase in temperatures, delay potentially catastrophic “tipping point” events—such as a disastrous melting of the Arctic permafrost—and give us time to make the changes to our economies and our societies necessary to end the climate disaster.

Geoengineering, in other words, is simply a temporary “stay of execution.” We will still have to work for a pardon.

That said, I have no desire to wade into the fever swamps that the comments section for this piece will shortly become.


"That said, I have no desire to wade into the fever swamps that the comments section for this piece will shortly become."

Sure, but it is nice to have (you and) environmentalism back in the mainstream dialog. With the economic realities and everyone clamoring for attention from the new administration, it is nice to get our cause some media attention.

Wow, you're right. The comments section is already ridiculous. The first few just insult you ad hominum, and then there's people claiming global warming isn't happening and that the WSJ just published the piece to get advertising revenue.

Rock on. Blow their little teeny minds.

Superb overview of the pros and cons, Jamais! I'm really glad it's you introducing the subject to a mainstream reading audience so they can receive an intelligent and nuanced explanation of what our options might be.

The comments at the WSJ are hilarious. If I only had a cent for every time I've encountered "I'll cancel my subscription"..

They should be thankful - isn't one of the purposes of a newspaper to get you thinking about the stuff you read? And what better way to get your mind racing than reading something which is not pre-selected to finely tune in to the general pro-x, against y babbling of all previous one million articles before it.

Actually, your "Post a Comment" rules say it admirably, you "don't have time to hand-hold people unwilling to face reality."

So... The End.

Being willing to face global warming takes a lot of courage, and some people shout loudly when they're scared.

The WSJ piece was very interesting, as usual.

You know, it might be an interesting thing to do if there's the right venue to address issues of how frightening this is, explicitly. I remember you doing that in 2007 @IFTF, and being very impressed with the effect on the room. You won't suddenly get world alignment but you might make it easier for a few people.

For all the comments about global warming being impossible because it's cold outside their windows, the most insipid (read, vast majority) of commenters wouldn't know a "subtle, long-term risk" if it bit them in the butt.

The hubris of geoengineering scares the living daylights out of me. These are complex f*cking systems, right?! But I'm glad you put a stake in the ground that goes beyond that sentiment. Well done.

Post a comment

All comments go through moderation, so if it doesn't show up immediately, I'm not available to click the "okiedoke" button. Comments telling me that global warming isn't real, that evolution isn't real, that I really need to follow [insert religion here], that the world is flat, or similar bits of inanity are more likely to be deleted than approved. Yes, it's unfair. Deal. It's my blog, I make the rules, and I really don't have time to hand-hold people unwilling to face reality.


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