1816: The year with no summer - David Biello
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Scientists have been talking about geoengineering for about as long as they’ve been talking about climate change. Many scientists and activists alike describe geoengineering as a devil’s bargain. Some climate scientists believe that geoengineering is necessary, if not inevitable if we are to stay below the 1.5 C degrees of warming established by the Paris Climate Agreement. Especially if world leaders are unable to reach emissions reductions through decarbonization and investment in natural carbon sinks, the effects of climate change might make future generations desperate enough to attempt large-scale interventions. Head here to explore what geoengineering is, whether it’s an actual option, and what happens if it goes wrong. In her book, Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating, how we've remade nature, often with good intentions and always with unintended consequences.
A Taboo Topic and Missed Opportunities
For some, even discussing, much less researching geoengineering is taboo. And yet, some argue that avoiding the topic altogether limits our options for solutions, decreases our preparedness if we do indeed resort to geoengineering, and is even, at times, a question of justice: because climate change most affects the poor and most vulnerable, geoengineering has the potential to most benefit these same populations. Still, the geoengineering studies that demonstrate limited downsides are highly idealized and nowhere near certain enough to merit policy decisions. Erica Thomson studies climate models and, in an interview with David Roberts, makes the point that if emissions reductions continue to be the sole focus of climate change policy and research, geoengineering will be seen politically as more and more legitimate, as the immediate effects of global warming are felt more and more acutely, especially by richer countries.
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