FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: Geoengineering is No Free Lunch -- A Comment on SuperFreakonomics
Nate Silver talks with Dr. John Latham, an expert on geoengineering.
The new Superfreakonomics book has come under massive criticism for a chapter on global warming that misrepresents science, states that some scientists advocate the exact opposite of their beliefs, and proposes geoengineering as a quick-fix solution.
Firstly, Latham thinks geoengineering approaches are woefully underfunded -- the word he used to describe the current levels of funding was "derisory" -- just a few million dollars toward an approach which could potentially combat the multitrillion dollar problem of climate change. "All I can hope for in my lifetime is to see some real funding of the examination of the viability of geoengineering schemes," he told me.
Secondly, Latham was adamant that geoengineering programs are not looked at as a substitute to carbon reduction schemes but rather as a complement to them. He told me:
"The thing that has scared everyone I know working in geoengineering, and the thing that has caused a lot of very good scientists to say we shouldn't have it is the worry that if it was announced that geoengineering was to be thoroughly examined, there would be a temptation on behalf of the oil companies to say, “Oh well, they’re going to solve the problem, we can keep burning fossil fuels”. Which is the last thing anyone wants. But then to not examine it would be irresponsible. If we reach that tipping point, we want to be in the position to be able to help out."
Thirdly, the largest hurdles to geoengineering are arguably not scientific but political. Although geoengineering approaches would almost certainly succeed in reducing the earth's average temperature, the effects would not be uniform across the globe, nor would they precisely counterbalance the warming effects of CO2.