THE Republican Party has long resisted action on climate change, but now that much of the electorate wants something done, it needs to find a way out of the hole it has dug for itself.
A committee appointed by the National Research Council may just have handed the party a ladder.
In a two-volume report, the council is recommending that the federal government fund a research program into geoengineering as a response to a warming globe. The study could be a watershed moment because reports from the council, an arm of the National Academies that provides advice on science and technology, are often an impetus for new scientific research programs.
Sometimes known as “Plan B,” geoengineering covers a variety of technologies aimed at deliberate, large-scale intervention in the climate system to counter global warming.
Despairing at global foot-dragging, some climate scientists now believe that a turn to Plan B is inevitable. They see it as inscribed in the logic of the situation. The council’s study begins with the assertion that the “likelihood of eventually considering last-ditch efforts” to address climate destabilization grows every year.
The report is balanced in its assessment of the science. Yet by bringing geoengineering from the fringes of the climate debate into the mainstream, it legitimizes a dangerous approach.
Beneath the identifiable risks is not only a gut reaction to the hubris of it all — the idea that humans could set out to regulate the Earth system, perhaps in perpetuity — but also to what it says about where we are today. As the committee’s chairwoman, Marcia McNutt, told The Associated Press: The public should read this report “and say, ‘This is downright scary.’ And they should say, ‘If this is our Hail Mary, what a scary, scary place we are in.’ ”
Read more: The Risks of Climate Engineering
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