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Geoengineering: Worth a try?

Some climate experts are advocating geoengineering -- human manipulation of the world's weather -- as a solution to dangerous climate change. But there is disagreement about this potential course of action.

Read the story on geoengineering and let us know what you think.

By Jon DeNunzio  |  October 2, 2010; 5:00 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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We have trouble predicting the weather a few days out as evident from any DC area weather person, so how could they possibly predict outcomes 10, 50, 1,000 years out? They can't.

Posted by: WildBill1 | October 3, 2010 7:36 PM

If global change is caused by excess humanity and excess consumption of resources and excess waste, the problem isn't the capacity of the planet, but rather the excesses of humanity.

It's a lot easier to engineer an order population reduction, just ask the Chinese... and look how much their Two Persons One Child program has done for their country. Rocketed them out of the Bronze Age into the Internet Age.

The populations of Europe and North America are declining, on the voluntary choice of the well-educated citizens, with the only reason for any increase in North America being the extraordinary migration from Latin America.

We can save the planet, and ourselves, by a global outreach of education and universal implementation of A Woman's Right to Choose.

Posted by: thardman | October 3, 2010 8:50 PM

I find it amazing how many people here feel qualified to comment on a complex and highly specialised scientific/engineering field like this, I am a scientist working towards my doctorate and I do not feel qualified to comment, and yet almost 90% of people here have an felt that they should weigh in on whether we should do it or not, with a vast majority condemning geoengineering, and somehow I doubt that they were all if any geoengineers or climate scientist present,
and do you wonder why scientists have a hard time getting the public to listen to them?

Posted by: Ulasem | October 3, 2010 9:36 PM

I certainly do not feel qualified to speak to the science. I do feel qualified to speak to the political situation. One party is in denial that the problem actually exists. If that attitude continues and if a non-political option is available, we had better be prepared to use it. From what I hear, something could trigger a rapid downward spiral in climate quality, just as deflation can go into a rapid economic spiral. So I would say it is worth exploring whether or not there are non-political options. If there are not, then we had better do something about our politics -- and fast.

Posted by: LeeTaylorEMT | October 4, 2010 12:28 AM

ULASEM, your post is an exceedingly rare one of wisdom in our public discourse. It is truly scary how many ordinary Americans with no expertise in a topic feel like their superficial opinion on something complex like this should carry significant weight. As if they were voting on "Dancing With the Stars".

It is amazing especially how many people with little education in atmospheric and earth sciences can hear the statement "97% of publishing climatologists agree that we are causing this", and respond - with absolutely no hint of irony - "yeah, well, I'm not convinced". This is the kind of burden America, and the world, is laboring under. The idiotic sense that matters of science are subject to popular vote by people just because they prefer denial. As if the law of gravity could be repealed out of popular anger at having things falling down all the time.

And then we have utter scum like Senator Jim Demint of SC who cater to them and sustain their power by echoing their nonsensical denial. These people are the true traitors to the human race. Because they aren't just idiots, but knowing accomplices to humanity's downfall.

As for the specific question above, I refuse to answer because I am offended by the idea of putting questions like this to a poll. Responding encourages the media to further promote the idea that scientific and engineering questions are up for popular vote like on some "reality" (sic) TV show.

My answer would be somewhere between "I am unqualified to say" and "we need to try" (what alternative do we have now?), but ultimately I would defer to the collective decisions of the scientific and relevant engineering communities. That is the only sane answer.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 4, 2010 1:09 AM

How any human-engineered alteration would effect the longer term natural response to global warming, as in eventual cooling through the Earth's usual response to warming, is the big unknown. Sudden climate warming has previously presaged sudden cooling, even this effect is not understood, should we change the outcome of the weather in the far distant future too?

Posted by: icurhuman2 | October 4, 2010 2:13 AM

The preceding poster does not recognize the difference between weather (unpredictable more than about 10 days ahead) and climate, the average of weather, which is definitely predictable to the extent we know the inputs. This is why weathermen don't get it; they generally have a BS, but climate scientists generally have a PhD. The difference explains how "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
As to why the choice of "other," as I have written elsewhere, there may be no choice, but there's a dangerous downside that must be explored. A renegade nation could change the entire planet's climate if the technology is available. If we can stop ourselves from changing the climate by reducing or stopping emissions, this is far preferable as an alternative. If we can't or won't, we may have to use geoengineering techniques to preserve habitability.
An article in a recent Proceedings of the National Academy indicates that large swaths of the globe may become uninhabitable by humans if this goes on as usual. Humans can live outdoors only within a restricted temperature range. In such a case, the northern countries may be ovrwhelmed by climate migrants. I'm sure your readers can imagine bad scenarios as the most likely outcome.

Posted by: aubrecht | October 4, 2010 5:21 AM

One great danger is that the world will wait so long that geoengineering must be tried because other options have run out.

Another is that some will see it as a noble, heroic human endeavor along the lines of Faulkner's words "I believe that man will not merely endure. He will prevail.", but not take due note that they, their families, their communities might separately perish in the meantime whilst man on earth does not.

Posted by: benedictemusee | October 4, 2010 6:17 AM

This debate misses a critical point; reducing human created GHG emissions is geoengieering. Humans have been geoengineering and destroying natural habitat that supported dozens of civilizations for more than 10,000 years; with massive use of fossil fuels, industrial and subsistence agriculture and exponential population growth we have merely raised the stakes to global scale. Rather than delay substantive action to reduce GHG emissions while HOPING for technology breakthroughs that will magically solve or sidestep this problem, the United States needs to lead by example. It is relatively simple to retrofit society to be more energy efficient AND begin the process of converting to low carbon fuels for electric power production and motor vehicles. Reducing GHG emissions is not difficult with available technology and need not be expensive. The US of A has the ability (capital and technology) to significantly reduce GHG emissions without causing economic chaos or even disrupting our quality of life. Frankly Americans don't care how many angels dance on the head of this pin; they simply want to work and live in ways that make this problem go away. Climate is the result of extremely complex forces that science is only beginning to understand; given human inability to geoengineer sustainable civilizations over the past 10,000 years, there is no rational basis to think we can do so today on a global scale. We must focus on REAL solutions rather than pie-in-the-sky fiascos that will merely create more questions not to mention additional uncertanties and risks, if rashly implemented. We need to do what we know how to do and significantly reduce GHG emissions TODAY -- while we still have the capability to do so.

Posted by: DavidEBruderly | October 8, 2010 12:49 PM

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