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Adjusting the Thermostat
Can We Engineer Our Way Out of Climate Change?

Big problems sometimes necessitate unconventional solutions, which is why many scientists are convinced geoengineering may be civilization’s best bet in combatting climate change. As the Economist reports, researchers are close to field trials of technologies aimed at spraying seawater into low-lying clouds in an attempt to make them whiter, and surface temperatures on our planet therefore cooler:

[Armand Neukermans, a retired Silicon Valley engineer], Thomas Ackerman and Robert Wood, the latter two both scientists who study clouds at the University of Washington, have with colleagues put together a proposal for field tests to see if such sprayers really work, if their effects can be controlled and measured, and what happens to clouds treated in this way. They are now investigating how to get such a programme financed.

Financing is evidently a problem for this kind of research, as plenty of reservations remain about the nascent technology. Greens scoff at the hubris of this potential solution, thinking the deliberate controlling of our climate beyond humanity’s ken (though they’ll be the first to note that we are already affecting our climate in very big ways). There are plenty of real concerns about what could happen in a worst-case scenario; indeed, this is a rich vein which science-fiction writers have already mined.

There are also some real geopolitical concerns, as the Economist writes:

[Detractors] find the idea of some–possibly many—countries having the power to change the climate for the whole planet a geopolitical nightmare.

These are all valid points of contention, but they don’t lead to the conclusion that geoengineering is a worthless strategy. Take the time to read both pieces in this week’s Economist. They provide a good overview of a potential solution that hasn’t yet appeared on most people’s radar, but might be more and more important if the dangers of climate change are as bad as Malthusians claim.

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  • Rick Johnson

    The Economist has long stopped being a rag worth reading. Its denialism on climate science justs provides more evidence.

    • S.C. Schwarz

      Yes, be careful not to read anyone you disagree with. God forbid you might learn something!

      • stanbrown

        We can all disagree as to our opinions about proper govt action. Facts, however, aren’t so malleable. When someone insists on reporting known falsehoods, it isn’t worth reading any more. This is why most Americans now ignore Obama. The lies became too numerous and too egregious.

        This why Americans are ignoring the “hands up, don’t shoot” protests, the ‘rape culture on campus nuts, and the war on women crazies.

    • Corlyss

      Well, in all honesty, they are quite schizoid about some things, including the junk science of “climate change” formerly known as AGW. Their American Lexington and the European reporters all seem to be on board with the hysterics. But their European Charlemagne often attacks the economic consequences of the EU’s self-destructive energy policies, as if he/she can’t outright denounce the foolishness of the Economist editorial board in swallowing that crap hook-line-and-sinker.
      IMO the Economist remains the best, most balanced, most market-friendly, and most comprehensive news weekly. Still, I know it’s a European view.

      • Andrew Allison

        Come now. What used to be a great newsweekly has, whilst retaining some semblance of objectivity regarding the mess that is Europe, devolved into a mouthpiece for climate pseudo-science and the American left. Where, for example, it the commentary on the results of the recent election and their implications?

  • muckdog

    Didn’t these people see “Snowpiercer?”

  • S.C. Schwarz

    Regrettablely there is no constituency for this type of solution, at least in the west. The Greens don’t want the problem solved, they want to use climate change as a lever to repeal the Industrial Revolution. The left does not want this type of solution, they want to use climate change as a lever to repeal capitalism. And the right doesn’t want to admit there is a problem, lest they inadvertently agree with the left about something.

    Maybe China will do it at some point. They still seem rational over there.

    • Curious Mayhem

      The left and the greens want to repeal modern science, which tells us a lot of things that conflict with their various pet political theories, and also places real limits on our ability to know, predict, and control things that cannot be subject to cotrolled laboratory experiments. Those are objective facts.

      Objective facts don’t cut it with the Boomers, a generation addicted to wish fulfillment and substitute religions as vehicles for self-righteousness and feeling good about themselves. The mental tics of a generation are what make, all across the West, so much present politics so hopeless. They have also deeply corrupted the science associated with “climate change” — the amount of ignorance being generated, undoing what was known even a generation ago about climate — is astounding.

    • stanbrown

      China is rational enough to know BS when they see it. Which is why they have made it perfectly clear they have no intention of doing anything about global warming.

  • Andrew Allison

    Let me see if I have this right: the Greens, who wish to engineer climate change by drastically reducing CO2 emissions, are opposed to engineering climate change? They are right about one thing, namely the hubris of expecting to be able to engineer the climate. The sorry state of “climate engineering science” is well-illustrated by the statement in the Economist article referenced that one proposal for doing so would involve injecting into the stratosphere about 2% of the sulfur emitted each hour by a trans-Atlantic jet. Trans-Atlantic jets, like all long-distance aircraft, spend most of their flight time in the stratosphere . . . .

  • Corlyss

    “Can We Engineer Our Way Out of Climate Change?”
    It isn’t necessary. All we have to do is stop believing the foolish destructive lies of those to whom prosperity is an evil disguise for white privilege.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Salt water sprayed into clouds. Wow. What could possibly be wrong with that?

  • popculturez13

    Check out for more information

  • rheddles

    Mark Twain said Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. What would he think of the hubris of man who thinks he can do something about it?

    Earthquakes are bad for people and fluffy bunnies. When will we use our geoengineering powers to halt the movement of the plates?

  • Curious Mayhem

    Geoengineering is a truly awful idea, all to prevent a non-crisis, and a symptom of the crazy level that climate hysterics has reached. It’s not a new idea, but a bad nightmare that keeps coming back.

    It’s hard to decide what’s the worst thing about this movement. Is it
    the hubris of would-be geoengineers in the face of how much we don’t
    know about the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans? Is it their apparent failure to
    have learned anything from the experience of weather forecasters in the last 50 years in wrestling with chaos and the long-term unpredictable nature of the weather?

    Certainly, the ideas being proposed range from fringe to completely
    daft. The usual goal, modifying the flow of light into and heat out of
    the Earth’s atmosphere, is not the problem. The atmosphere’s heat flow is not too complicated, considered in a general way, although its
    detailed evolution is impossible to predict. The real problem is the
    unknown effects that geoengineering schemes would have on the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans. This chemistry is far more complex and unfathomable than the heat flow.

    this point, the only geoengineering proposal that should even be
    entertained is augmenting what’s already mitigating carbon dioxide
    levels: planting trees, or perhaps small experiments with enhancing oceanic absorption of CO2. Even
    restricting ourselves to already-known mechanisms involves some risks.
    To the argument that we can stop geoengineering if it begins to go
    amiss, consider entropy, irreversibility (the Second Law), and the large qualitative changes the Earth’s climate occasionally undergoes (like the Ice Ages). It’s like starting to roll down a hill, with no way of getting back to your starting point. Bifurcation happens.

    Geoengineering – on the scales being debated now – is crackpot lunacy.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    How many times does it need to be said? “Global Warming” is the greatest hoax in history, it is complete BS. The evidence is clear, for 18 years temperatures have not risen, despite all the computer model predictions. And the scientific method is also clear, if your hypothesis isn’t predictive it is Wrong!

    • Loader2000

      If you take an oscillating sine wave (a pattern approximately
      followed by many cyclical natural processes) and tip it upward such that you
      have an overall upward trend, you get periods of dramatically increasing
      temperatures followed by periods of flatness (no increase or decrease). Consequently, the fact that we are in a flat
      period means absolutely NOTHING, and by that I mean nothing either way. It doesn’t prove or disprove AGW. All it proves is that the models they were
      using to predict temperature change were incorrect. It doesn’t prove or disprove AGW and we probably
      won’t really know for sure one way or the other for another 20 or 30 years.

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