Geoengineering is in the wind more and more these days, particularly the use of sun-blocking aerosols as a cheap, temporary counterweight to greenhouse-gas-driven global warming.

In pondering the plausibility or desirability of such a tool, it might be useful to start with a thought experiment:

  1. Suppose humans are not heating the climate and oceans through the buildup of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. (This is only a thought experiment.)
  2. Presume our capacity to understand Earth systems and devise sophisticated technologies continues to build. (Keep in mind this isn’t a given if budget priorities don’t shift.)
  3. Consider the cost, in lives and money, exacted by today’s climatic extremes, let alone those worsened by warming. Many such costs can be reduced by developing suitable crops and water systems or building resilient communities. But not all. Then, on a very long time scale, consider the prospect of an inevitable new ice age.

Sifting these notions, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that there will almost certainly come a moment when humans will start designing our climate and not simply perpetually adapt to its vagaries.


Source: Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times