“Thoughtful, informative, and darkly entertaining. It’s the best treatment of this important (and scary) topic you can find.” —Elizabeth Kolbert
Right now, a group of scientists is working on ways to minimize the catastrophic impact of global warming. But they’re not designing hybrids or fuel cells or wind turbines. They’re trying to lower the temperature of the entire planet. And they’re doing it with huge contraptions that suck CO2 from the air, machines that brighten clouds and deflect sunlight away from the earth, even artificial volcanoes that spray heat-reflecting particles into the atmosphere.
This is the radical and controversial world of geoengineering, which only five years ago was considered to be “fringe.” But as Jeff Goodell points out, the economic crisis, combined with global political realities, is making these ideas look sane, even inspired.
Goodell himself started out as a skeptic, concerned about tinkering with the planet’s thermostat. We can’t even predict next week’s weather, so how are we going to change the temperature of whole regions? What if a wealthy entrepreneur shoots particles into the stratosphere on his own? Who gets blamed if something goes terribly wrong? And perhaps most disturbing, what about wars waged with climate control as the primary weapon? There are certainly risks, but Goodell believes the alternatives could be worse. In the end, he persuades us that geoengineering may just be our last best hope—a Plan B for the environment. His compelling tale of scientific hubris and technical daring is sure to jump-start the next big debate about the future of life on earth.
“Goodell explores with infectious curiosity and thoughtful narration this strange, promising, and untested suite of climate fixes.” —BusinessWeek
“A quick, enjoyable read through a complex, timely topic. And after you read it, you’ll never look at the sky or the ocean—or Earth, really—in quite the same way again.” —The Christian Science Monitor
Goodell (Big Coal) investigates the viability of geoengineering: ambitious, mostly unproven strategies to deliberately engineer the earth's climate to counteract global warming. Despite his promise to avoid the wacky ideas proposed by wannabe geoengineers, Goodell has trouble avoiding eccentric characters like Edward Teller's prot g , flamboyant Lowell Wood, nicknamed Dr. Evil, and such grandiose and questionable schemes as ocean fertilization, that raise the question: at what point does the urgent and heroic goal of fixing the planet become just another excuse to make a quick buck? Even a down-to-earth scientist like David Keith, whose machine extracts carbon dioxide from the air, estimates that an optimized system would still require thousands of these scrubbers, with costs around $150 per ton of CO2. In a genre dominated by doomsday scenarios, Goodell's treatment is refreshingly lighthearted, but two questions haunt him: what kind of person dreams of engineering the entire planet? And can we trust him? He warns, echnology has taken us farther away from nature, not drawn us closer to it, and his provocative account achieves a fine balance between the inventor's enthusiasm and the scientist's skepticism.