The New Yorker Asks "Is There a Technological Solution to Global Warming?"

|

Carbon diet or die, say Greens

The illustrious The New Yorker has an article, The Climate Fixers, in the current issue looking at the pros and cons of various proposals to geoengineer the climate as a way to prevent catastrophic global warming (should that become an issue). Basically the article considers techniques to lower the Earth's temperature by reflecting sunlight or by capturing and storing excess atmospheric carbon dioxide.

As the article points out many ideological environmentalists oppose exploring geoengineering as a possible way to adjust the Earth's thermostat because they fear that the public will refuse to go on a carbon energy diet if they think there's a cheap technofix to man-made global warming.

As Rutgers University environmental scientist Alan Robock has observed [PDF]:

"If humans perceive an easy technological fix to global warming that allows for 'business as usual,' gathering the national (particularly in the United States and China) and international will to change consumption patterns and energy infrastructure will be even more difficult."

In any case, the critical point of the article is:

Over the past three years, a series of increasingly urgent reports—from the Royal Society, in the U.K., the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center, and the Government Accountability Office, among other places—have practically begged decision-makers to begin planning for a world in which geoengineering might be their only recourse. As one recent study from the Wilson International Center for Scholars concluded, "At the very least, we need to learn what approaches to avoid even if desperate."

Indeed. If one believes there might be an emergency, one might also reasonably think that working on an emergency back-up plan is a good idea, right? 

As nice as it is for the venerable The New Yorker to get around to covering this topic, Reason has been on the geoengineering beat for nearly 15 years. For example, see Gregory Benford's, Climate Controls, from our November 1997 issue. If you haven't kept up with Reason's geoengineering coverage, here, here, and here, you might want to consider reading The New Yorker's article to catch up. 

Hat tip Pamela Friedman.

NEXT: Are Liberals Still Mad at Donald Verrilli for the Health Care Arguments?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Technological solutions are anthropogenic and therefore evil. You can’t fight fire with fire people!

    1. Technological solutions are anthropogenic and therefore evil. You can’t fight fire people with fire people!

      FTFY

      1. Can you fight people with Soylent Green, though?

        1. “I’m swimming in my own soylent waste. It’s a good thing.”

      2. You can fight firepeople with firepeople.

    2. dude, did you see the chemtrails up in there?

  2. These guys are no different that the vile shitbags that wanted birth control outlawed because it would reduce the incentives for people to get married.

    1. Or the shitbags that wanted anesthesia usage in child-birth outlawed because it thwarted god’s punishment of women for Eve’s crime.

      1. Do you have a link to that? And no, the Westboro Baptist Church doesn’t count.

        1. It was in the mid 19th century. I lack th etime or the will to look it up right now.

          1. That is a bit far back to be relevant isn’t it?

            1. Not really; it’s a disgusting mindset that seems to appear in every age.

            2. The Constitution is older than that. Is it irrelevant?

              1. yes, yes it is.

                1. (sadly)

        2. Saw this quite late, John, but wanted to give you a link.

  3. Great. We’re not sure of the exact drivers and feedback, but we’re gonna get in there and try to “fix” what we’re “breaking”. What could possibly go wrong?

    I also like how reducing carbon output by draconian amounts isn’t geoengineering, its social engineering!

  4. Watching the vicious unraveling of the global warming cult has been more satisfying than I anticipated. I am pleased by this.

    1. I agree – as long as they don’t manage to start the next Ice Age before they are thoroughly discredited.

      1. That’s pretty much a given…starting the next ice age, that is.

        1. Can we hold off on starting a new Ice Age until I die? I really don’t like snow.

          1. I’m with you on that.

            A warming planet with more arable land and longer growing seasons? NOOOOOOOooooooooo!!!!

      2. They’re done, dude. Fucking toast. All you see now is the retreat actions, as they attempt to cover their asses and pretend nothing ever happened. In a few years, no one will have ever been concerned about global warming, just climate change, and not even that worried about that. I mean, do you know of anyone who was ever worried about global famine or the new Ice Age? I mean, of course, anyone who admits it?

        1. I work with a girl who still thinks Rachel Carson is a hero. I haven’t found the right opening to break the near-genocidal news.

        2. I work with a girl who still thinks Rachel Carson is a hero. I haven’t found the right opening to break the near-genocidal news.

          1. how about the PSA’s asking for $10 to buy mosquito nets to stop malaria? Maybe your girl can worship Carson for having brought back a bad disease; not many folks can make that claim.

          2. Work with any sub-Saharan Africans? They could break it to her.

        3. The unraveling has not yet reached a point where I feel able to appreciate it to its full potential. It seems to be happening too quietly.

        4. Sort of, but they are sneaking in through backdoors with their mother Gaia cult Agenda 21, which they now subtly refer to as sustainability. Hundreds of cities and counties in the US are signed on to that lunacy. People are starting to catch on to that also, but there is going to be one hell of an effort to undo it.

          Here in Murland, Carrol county just north of me, threw the sustainability cult out and then the corruptocrats in Annapolis immediately jumped in and enacted Sustain Maryland to make sure all the counties here bow to mother Gaia and her eco-nazi minions.

          1. Wow, is that what it’s like when tapeworm cysts form in the brain?

    2. Watching the vicious unraveling of the global warming cult has been more satisfying than I anticipated. I am pleased by this.

      It is rather satisfying, is it not? [lights another cigar with $100 bill]

    3. Watching the vicious unraveling of the global warming cult has been more satisfying than I anticipated. I am pleased by this.

      2010 was the hottest year El Nino year on record, and the hottest year on record overall.

      2011 was the hottest La Nina year on record, and 11th or so overall.

      The 00s were hotter than the 90s, which were hotter than the 80s, which were hotter than the 70s.

      Something is unraveling, but it’s in your head. Hie thee to a psychiatrist, pronto.

      1. So, when did weather on this planet start again? And when did we start recording it? And how is any subtle changes in temperature over this miniscule period of recorded history indicative of some dramatic climate shift?
        Also, cite or STFU.

  5. The greenies are always insisting that it’s too late (or is about to be too late) to prevent catastrophic global warming. If they also oppose man-made solutions I can only conclude that their issue isn’t global warming at all, it’s technology.

    1. It economic control they want. Scratch a Greenie and you’ll find a Red. Watermelons.

    2. Wasn’t the gulf stream supposed to reverse its flow by now, and doom Europe to an icy future?

      I’ve looked periodically, but has anyone ever seen a web site that has cataloged the endless stream of woe from the Apocolyptics and the results of their latest predictions? It would be hilarious to see the epic fail of their efforts, if someone did.

      1. has anyone ever seen a web site that has cataloged the endless stream of woe from the Apocolyptics and the results of their latest predictions?

        Here’s a good website that does that.

        1. Anthony Watts is my go-to guy.

          1. SF’d

            1. Anthony Watts is more a ga ga than a go-to guy.

        2. I’ve seen that one before and linked it many times here, but I was wondering about express predictions of cataclysm and the accompanying soundtrack of the Crickets of Failure.

    3. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

      If you consider how the leading lights of the climate change movement came into it, they looked around, saw industrialization and said what are all the different ways can this evil nasty industry fuck things up.

      Not necessarily a bad exercise, mind you, but only if one does the science skeptically and carefully.

      Instead, these people were credulous, spewing out stupid things like New York being under water by 2010, Himalayan glaciers disappearing by 2035, 40 million climate refugees by 2010, etc.

      The travails of Steve McIntyre, who merely wished to reproduce the mathematical analysis of some of the most influential papers and found people saying shit like “why should I share my data with it when all you are trying to do is find something wrong with it” and accusing him hysterically of being funded by big oil are a great example of hos badly science has gone awry in the area of climate studies.

      As a guy who has done some heavy work with computer models in college (I did most of the development work on a model of chemical reactions occuring in the vicinity of lightning bolts) and in the steel industry (when our models fucked up, the mill wrecks could be very impressive with tons of steel crumpling heavy hydraulic systems like tissue paper), and who made it through Dr Boyd’s brutal lab class (he made students cry – literally), I am utterly aghast at all the warning signs I see of shoddy computer modeling, bad scientific & statistical analysis.

      1. “I am utterly aghast at all the warning signs I see of shoddy computer modeling, bad scientific & statistical analysis.”

        This has always been my problem with it. While the theory has been worth investigating since Arrhenius, and it is admittedly a hard fucking problem, the pro-warming camp has gone about it in the least rigorous way possible since about forever.

      2. What always amazed me was how these guys were for the most part meteorologists. Yet, they refuse to let professional code writers or statisticians review their models.

      3. Instead, these people were credulous, spewing out stupid things like New York being under water by 2010

        Actually, New York was under water by 2008, but they got the TARP bailout.

      4. Consensus, tarran. CONSENSUS.

  6. I think industrial ovens qualify as a technical solution.

  7. Geoengineering seems to be a pretty stupid idea. Since it is very clear scientists don’t understand climate very well, they are very unlikely to understand the second order effects of such a project. There would be very real risks of doing more harm than good.

    And this gathering the national (particularly in the United States and China) and international will to change consumption patterns and energy infrastructure will be even more difficult. is what this is about.

    AGW has always been about controlling consumption and ending liberal democratic capitalism. That an otherwise reasonable person like Bailey seems unable to see through such nonsense is disappointing to say the least.

    1. Geoengineering seems to be a pretty stupid idea.

      Science to the rescu… oh, guess not.

      Since it is very clear scientists don’t understand climate very well, they are very unlikely to understand the second order effects of such a project.

      Why start caring about that now? If you don’t start sciencing up the climate now you’ll have no need to come up with even greater sciency solutions to the science problems you created. Seriously John, have you been living under a rock?

    2. There would be very real risks of doing more harm than good.

      I think the risk of that is pretty high. The thing that keeps running through my mind is: what if it’s natural for the earth to get warmer? The fact that it might inconvenience human beings doesn’t make it wrong per se. It would be arrogant in the extreme to assume that the climate is always meant to be exactly what we want it to be.

      Monkey-wrenching the earth’s natural processes could be far more catastrophic than owning an SUV ever could be.

  8. Ron why are you posting articles about Dino farts and sci-fi methods to cool the planet when this is happening?

    http://climateaudit.org/2012/0…..awed-data/

    The evidence that today’s temperatures are the warmest in a 1000 years has just been completely demolished and you give air plane aerosols and 100 million year old poop.

    1. he shouldn’t be posting articles about Dino farts, when the real threat is dino space aliens. Then again, that paper got retracted.

      http://blog.chembark.com/2012/…..d-by-jacs/

      1. better link:

        http://blog.chembark.com/2012/…..acs-oh-my/

  9. If humans perceive an easy technological fix to global warming that allows for ‘business as usual,’ gathering the national (particularly in the United States and China) and international will to change consumption patterns and energy infrastructure will be even more difficult.

    ——

    I have a feeling this guy is going to be waiting a long time. The great liberal hope BHO doesn’t even care about this issue enough to dedicate one sentence to it in his most recent SOTU. And the idea of China _ever_ going along with a cap-and-trade scheme is laughable.

  10. Some fun anagrams for “anthropogenic”:

    Groin Cenotaph
    Teaching Porno
    Procaine Thong
    Porch Negation
    Torching a Peon
    Renting a Pooch
    Porno Ace Night
    Ocean Rip Thong
    Hip Goon Recant

    Perhaps the most appropriate for AGW:
    Ignorant Epoch

    1. I don’t know. Torching a peon seems to be their solution to everything.

      1. That one is especially poingnant.

        1. Hip Goon Recant will be apropos if any of the Warmies admit they were wrong.

          1. That would give me a Groin Cenotaph.

  11. Assuming you accept the AGW, there is always the possibility that we might someday find a suitable energy source that didn’t produce CO2.

    But that would be right out because it would do away with the Greenies excuse for controlling the economy.

    Until they manufactured some other excuse, that is.

    1. Nuclear fission?

      1. But fission is teh evil because any fission reactor is like an atomic bomb, ya know.

        1. any fission reactor is like an atomic bomb

          They’re both awesome? (read: awe inspiring)

      2. Bah, you’re just trying to turn everyone into radioactive mutants aren’t you? Or do you just want the entire world to explode?

        1. Some men just want to watch the world burn, but glowing is a nice second choice.

        2. I don’t want to set the world on fire
          I just want to start a flame in your heart.

  12. Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, environmental protection is seen as little more than an impediment to economic expansion.
    http://www.themarknews.com/articles/8490

    1. Hey Mary! Still obsessed with H&R?

    2. Weird how the over the past 100 years air quality, water quality and natural habitats have been improving.

      I mean if “environmental protection is little more then an impediment” and the environment is improving one wonders why we need environmental protection at all.

    3. Nando|5.7.12 @ 4:32PM|#
      “Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, environmental protection is seen as little more than an impediment to economic expansion.”

      Yep, since that twenty years was spent not seeing the predicted catastrophies.
      So people are beginning to deal with the reality rather than a religion.

  13. “I am not a welfare queen,” says Melissa Bruninga-Matteau.

    That’s how she feels compelled to start a conversation about how she, a white woman with a Ph.D. in medieval history and an adjunct professor, came to rely on food stamps and Medicaid.
    http://chronicle.com/article/F…..-to/131795

    1. Maybe she should have gotten a degree in something that could get her a full paying job and done her medieval history as a hobby like the rest of us.

      1. If the Fed continues to run the economy into the ground, a degree in medieval history may help one know how to survive.

        1. Yeah, I love the emberverse saga by Stirling.

    2. I laughed derisively at everyone in that article.

  14. Yes! The technological solution is to move to Mars once we terraform it. Then, we let the Earth recover and move back when the temperature stabilizes. Give me some money and I’ll spit out a proposal.

    Granted, it’ll be heavily cribbed from Kim Stanley Robinson and Edgar Rice Burroughs, but it’ll be a proposal.

    1. Mars has no magnetic field. Terraforming it is impossible.

  15. Gregory. Fucking. Benford.

    That is all, except that I hope he lives long enough to see that what he laid out in 1997 and has likely faced enormous ridicule for since is precisely how we’ll eventually solve whatever problem there actually is. I hope I live long enough.

    Oh, and my sister had him for a class at UCI and thought he was just the most amazing professor ever.

  16. I am a kind of geoengineer. I would explain my expert opinion, but then I would have to send someone a bill for consulting.

    Also, there might not actually be any such thing as a geoengineer because the word does not exist in Firefox.

    1. I am a kind of geoengineer.

      Me, too, on the nanoscale of my garden.

    2. Me too. I hold them in.

  17. The framing of this issue as CO2-restriction “or” geoengineering is misguided. CO2-restriction is, itself, a method of geoengineering. It may be low(er)-tech, and make use more of politics than of chemistry, etc., but that doesn’t mean it’s not geoengineering (=trying to consciously engineer the future climate path of the planet from what it will be under a do-nothing scenario).

    To people who believe AGW exists must be remedied, the question is not ‘whether’ to use geoengineering, but which method to use. CO2 restriction is one method, but a priori it needs to share equal footing with these other proposals, i.e. all geoengineering proposals need to be evaluated by the same benchmarks. CO2-restrictors don’t seem to like this idea, presumably because it makes it far less obvious why theirs is the best (only) method…

  18. Has anyone noticed how “austerity” is not the answer for global debt, but always is the answer for global warming?

    1. I just did. That is brilliant. I will drop “carbon austerity” on a few of my hipster friends this week and see if they asplode in dissonance.

    2. Ding! Ding!! Ding!!!

      We have a thread winner here.

      +1000 internets to you, good sir.

  19. I eagerly anticipate the Ronald Bailey column that takes on the vast majority of commenters here who deny the problem exists in the first place. Why are liberals who may want more government action to solve this problem the principal villains when, apparently, your own camp is overwhelmingly a bunch of science denying idiots?

    1. when you get your phd in chemistry, too, then you can call me a ‘science denying idiot’.

      1. It’s funny how liberals and environmentalists in general are (in my experience) the first group to deny the existence of thermodynamics.

    2. Why are liberals who may want more government action to solve this problem the principal villains when

      Perhaps the same reason the conservatives who want more government action to solve terrorism are the principal villains.

      By the way, this “more government action” thing… you must be mightily disappointed in the Obama administration.

    3. Why are liberals who may want more government action to solve this problem the principal villains

      Some questions just answer themselves.

    4. T o n y|5.7.12 @ 5:25PM|#
      “I eagerly anticipate the Ronald Bailey column…”

      Shithead, just once post something that isn’t an outright lie or some logical inanity.

    5. joe and MNG used to do this so much better, being real people who actually believed what they were saying helped a lot.

  20. Why are liberals who may want more government action to solve this problem

    We don’t believe the actions proposed are to solve this problem, but rather, what is desired by the watermelons is to implement a sort of eco-socialism.

  21. supercritical CO2. watch it find a use in like everything, making it a valuable commercial resource.

  22. Holy shit! I’M getting an ad that reads: “Support Sheriff Joe’s Efforts to Take our Country.” Um Im guessing hilarious typo but there is the possibility that he has just declared independence witg the Maricopa Declaration of Universal Authoritah.

    1. Or the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department has infiltrated Washington, D.C. and is about to stage a coup d’etat.

      1. I have a vision of the future of North America. Two warlords will fight for absolute control of the Continent, wrestling together in a passionate orgy of authority and state control.

        From the West, Sheriff Joe will ride from his desert stronghold, erecting walls and barriers to trade around ever widening swathes of the American Countryside.

        From the East Mayor Bloomberg will brood in his high tower, imagining the millions of people still not under his sway and all they ways they might be living unauthorizedly satisfying lives. His NYPD will penetrate continually deeper into the West.

        When the Posse and the PD collide, the world will finally know Armageddon as the authoritarian juggernauts collide, crushing everyone and everything good in their path.

  23. many ideological environmentalists oppose exploring geoengineering as a possible way to adjust the Earth’s thermostat because they fear that the public will refuse to go on a carbon energy diet if they think there’s a cheap technofix to man-made global warming.

    Why that is a problem is self-evident, apparently, since carbon usage is, by definition, evil, even if its supposed harms can be controlled. It’s the purest Luddite bullshit imaginable.

  24. Time to jump up and shout Who is your Daddy!

    http://www.Better-Privacy.tk

  25. “Is there a technological solution to global warming”?

    Yes. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors.

    http://energyfromthorium.com/

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.