Let there be plight

If we can’t get our act together in time to avoid disastrous effects of climate change, some scientists and environmentalists who once considered geoengineering taboo are now giving it a serious look, at least as a last resort.

Geoengineering is a method of manipulating the planet on a large scale to counteract the effects of climate change. It may take the form of cloud seeding, which the Desert Research Institute in Reno and others have researched, and includes things like genetically engineered crops and fertilizing the oceans with iron.

At GreenBiz.com, writer Marc Gunther mentions that the National Academy of Sciences and the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund have held recent workshops on geoengineering. Also, the books SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner and Whole Earth Discipline by environmentalist Stewart Brand say geoengineering should be taken seriously.

However, most environmentalists would prefer climate change be addressed through curbed emissions, rather than tinkering with natural systems without knowing potential ricochet effects. Gunther writes about one hypothetical scenario: Aerosols injected into the atmosphere to cool the Earth slow the rise in sea levels in one country, yet reduce the amount of rain in a neighboring country struggling to feed its people.