The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Geoengineering again

A really excellent article on geoengineering appears on Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth in which In It reader RM Reiss has already commented briefly but cleverly. Revkin also points to related NYTimes articles by Cornelia Dean and William Broad.

I've been hard on journalists in general and Revkin in particular of late, so let me take this opportunity to emphasize that not all journalism is off base and the NYTimes in particular is usually very helpful, at least in this regard. (I think their architecture criticism verges on criminally insane, for instance, but that's another matter...)

Dean quotes David Keith of the University of Calgary:
One way or another, Dr. Keith said, in 200 years the earth will be “an artifact,” a product of human design.
I don't know if I agree with that. The world will never be an artifact, but we are already well into the anthropocene where we are by far the dominant surface process. Or as I've said recently, we've already taken the wheel, so we'd damned well better learn to drive.

The YouTube video featured on the Dot Earth article concludes something like "ultimately it comes down to the wisdom of our politicians. I'd best not say anything more about that." But something else Keith says really bears thinking about:

And who should decide what action should be taken or when?

“I have no idea,” Dr. Keith replied. But just as international organizations were formed to regulate the use of radio frequencies, organize air traffic control, track space debris and deal with other problems, it might be possible to create an international organization to deal with these questions, he said.

“We are backing our way into global governance, very slowly,” he said.

That won't go over big in Texas either... But the world is less like a frontier and more like a boat every day. I've never heard of a boat with two hundred captains.

3 comments:

AK said...

"Or as I've said recently, we've already taken the wheel, so we'd damned well better learn to drive."

Not only said, but been quoted.

Anonymous said...

Oh,

sometimes geo-engineering reminds me sth like this: Our planet is a car. The car is having a speed of 150 mph and is speeding-up. Now, two hundred meters ahead, there is a abyss. Now, the technocrat's, or if you want, geo-enginners are shouting - we learn the car to fly!

Alexander Ac

bigcitylib said...

You might be interested in Kurt House's work on "electrochemical weathering". It counts, I think, as a geoengineering project but is quite a bit less hopeless than most of the other ones under consideration.

http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2007/11/less-dorky-geo-engineering-project.html#links