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.