Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The fix

Oliver Morton has a first rate overview of geoengineering in Prospect. A clearer and more sensible piece is hard to imagine. An excerpt:
Shortly after Paul Crutzen’s 2006 article, Tom Wigley...looked at ways of combining emissions reduction and sunlight reduction. Wigley suggested that sulphates might be squirted into the stratosphere in the near term as a way to slow the rate of warming and buy time for the massive and costly industrial shift to alternative energy. Wigley’s “buying time” approach has not enjoyed much enthusiasm from other researchers, who fear that it will reduce the sense of urgency needed to drive emissions elimination. The Royal Society report spoke for many in treating geoengineering techniques only as an insurance policy. But this is also inconsistent. Rejecting the Wigley scenario reflects a view that political decision-making cannot summon the nuanced, self-disciplined approach needed to geoengineer a little without losing your commitment to reducing emissions a lot. The “Plan B” scenario rests on a political process with characteristics just as unlikely: it requires schemes to be researched in depth but to stay unused until (but only until) some unspecified assessment commanding international political assent deems disaster imminent but not unavoidable. Good luck with that.
About two years ago I spent about six months trying to persuade New Scientist to let me write a feature on this topic. They didn't agree, and in any case I doubt I could have written anything as good as this.


Oliver said...

How very kind; thank you.
FWIW New Scientist did run a feature, by Catherine Brahic, last February

Caspar Henderson said...

Brahic's piece is good. For a long time in the previous year the editors had rejected my proposal as a lowly freelancer.