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On geoengineering as an alternative to curbing carbon emissions

The reason we are faced with climate change in the first place is that particular human beings and corporations, in their pursuit of profit, were allowed to intervene into the complex system that is our planet’s climate in unprecedented ways (i.e., by expelling mass quantities of various gases into the atmosphere). Now, we are being told in some quarters that, because the damage to the profit-margins of particular human beings and corporations would be unacceptable if we limited or stopped the interventions that got us into our present situation, we should intervene into the complex weather system in an even more radical and unprecedented way.


October 19, 2009 - Posted by | economics


  1. I’m not sure if “were allowed to intervene in unprecedented ways” helpfully describes the “original” situation. It seems to me that the essence of the human, ecologically speaking, is that almost everything we do as a species is unprecedented ecologically. I think we are stuck with “an even more radical and unprecedented intervention.”

    Comment by Hill | October 19, 2009

  2. I’m pretty sure that the industrial revolution was more unprecedented than previous human interventions.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 19, 2009

  3. In terms of anthropogenic CO2, I think that’s true, but the development of agriculture itself has already had analogous effects that, had the industrial revolution not taken place, might similarly concern us. For better or worse, a lifeform with the capacity to imagine, will and then carry out the destruction of the entire ecosphere has emerged. Rene Girard had an article in First Things recently (that, in full disclosure, I didn’t read) in which he said something like “the human race contains within it the apocalypse.” I found this compelling in the sense that, perhaps the inevitable consequence of the evolution of self-conscious organisms is their own self-destruction. So that once an organism emerges that is capable of destroying an entire world, it’s just a matter of time before it happens. I’m rambling at this point and don’t intend to come across as disagreeing with you. This is just something that’s on my mind. I don’t think further tinkering is likely to help the situation with regard to anthropogenic CO2.

    Comment by Hill | October 19, 2009

  4. It seems like Zizek’s quote from the Iraqi information minister is appropriate here (mutatis mutandis): “They don’t control the climate, they don’t even control themselves!”

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 19, 2009

  5. But isn’t that the genius of geoengineering? It possesses just the right amount of quirkiness and contrarianism to solve all of our problems in a way that no straightforward solution could ever hope to!

    Comment by Bryan Klausmeyer | October 19, 2009

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