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Environment

The Sad, Unfortunate Argument for Geoengineering Research

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My latest Science Progress column just went online--I look at the issue of geoengineering, and reluctantly conclude that given our current predicament, the case for at least studying possible options makes a lot of sense. Research isn't the same as implementation, but it could give us a fallback. It could give us choices. To wit:

Sure, research might make ultimate meddling more likely. But then, isn't the climate situation forcing our hand anyway? What if a rogue government, or a crazy billionaire, decides to unilaterally execute one of these geoengineering proposals regardless of what the rest of the world thinks? In that case we will need to know as much as possible about the consequences, if only to know how best to convince would-be geoengineers to hold back, or barring that, to prepare for what they unleash. I sincerely hope the day never comes when we have massive protests in the streets aimed at preventing a geoengineering project that has finally gotten the go-ahead from our government or from many governments. But having heard the scientists talk, I now fear, just as they do, that that day may come. It's a possible future. And whenever we're talking about grappling with the future, more knowledge is definitely going to be better than less; and more options are better than fewer. So as much as I hate to say this, I don't see how you reach any other conclusion than that of the scientists in Cambridge: geoengineering research should go forward, with proper restrictions and safeguards, perhaps outlined by ethicists or by the National Academy of Sciences. And it should receive government funding. It's a sad, sad day.

The full piece is here.

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