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Geoengineering: Smart Science or Hail Mary?

(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

In a recent report, a committee appointed by the National Research Council issued a recommendation that the federal government fund research on geoengineering as a means to address global warming. Geongineering, sometimes known as “Plan B,” encompasses technologies that seek to counteract climate change. During a session at Techonomy in 2012, Harvard physicist David Keith said, “If you want to actually reduce the risks to many of the people who will suffer real climate impacts in the next decades, including some of the poorest people in the world, this is essentially the only thing you could do.” But firing sulfate particles into the atmosphere to ward off solar radiation sounds not only risky, but also so improbable as to verge on science fiction. Even the committee’s chairwoman, Marcia McNutt, told the Associated Press that public reaction to the report should be: “If this is a Hail Mary, what a scary, scary place we are in.” The report also emphasizes that geongineering should not be considered a substitute for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. An article in The New York Times reports that groups that have tried to discredit the science behind the human causes of global warming have anachronistically expressed enthusiasm for geongineering.

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