A CASE FOR CLIMATE ENGINEERING by David Keith

  • Written by  Harley Rustad
  • Published in Books
A CASE FOR CLIMATE ENGINEERING by David Keith
01 Mar
2014
Within the raging and highly politicised debate on the realities and seriousness of climate change lies the controversial proposal put forth by David Keith: that global warming could be curbed by injecting pollution into the atmosphere

In Keith’s case, this is good pollution: sulphate or sulphuric acid aerosols that could be dispersed in the stratosphere 20 kilometres above us and reflect the Sun’s warming rays – in roughly the same way as clouds – and counteract the warming effects of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Like many climate change debates in the past ten years, Keith begins with a bang: ‘This single technology could increase the productivity of ecosystems across the planet and stop global warming; it could increase crop yields, particularly those in the hottest and poorest parts of the world. It is hyperbolic but not inaccurate to call it a cheap tool that could green the world.’

This readable and engaging case – that we should be focusing on geoengineering as a potential, if temporary, fix to increased global temperatures – is brimming with caution rather than naivety. Fighting pollution-caused climate change with more pollution would be ‘quick-and-dirty’ and a ‘brutally ugly technical fix’, but a potential fix nonetheless. 

As we continue on in our warming world, spiralling ever deeper into the doldrums of climate arguments fuelled by self-interested parties, the case for geoengineering may slide from a morally contentious option to a necessary question, or, perhaps, as Keith remarks, just ‘an easy out’. But with few great strides being taken to address – let alone rationally discuss – climate change, Keith’s case for geoengineering should at least be on the table. 

‘With or without geoengineering,’ Keith concludes, ‘it’s the end of nature with a capital “N”, the romantic ideal of nature wholly separate from civilization.’

A CASE FOR CLIMATE ENGINEERING by David Keith, MIT Press, £10.95

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