The Climate Engineers
by James R. Fleming
The next big debate in the global warming arena is going to be about climate engineering. But efforts to manipulate the climate and weather have a long history of exaggerated claims and beliefs, and a dangerous tendency to become militarized. Even if they succeed, who will control the global thermostat?
Beyond the security checkpoint at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, a small group gathered in November for a conference on the innocuous topic of “managing solar radiation.” The real subject was much bigger: how to save the planet from the effects of global warming. There was little talk among the two dozen scientists and other specialists about carbon taxes, alternative energy sources, or the other usual remedies. Many of the scientists were impatient with such schemes. Some were simply contemptuous of calls for international cooperation and the policies and lifestyle changes needed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions; others had concluded that the world’s politicians and bureaucrats are not up to the job of agreeing on such reforms or that global warming will come more rapidly, and with more catastrophic consequences, than many models predict. Now, they believe, it is time to consider radical measures: a technological quick fix for global warming.
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James R. Fleming, a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center and holder of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Roger Revelle Fellowship in Global Environmental Stewardship, is a professor of science, technology, and society at Colby College, in Waterville, Maine. His books include Meteorology in America, 1800–1870 (1990), Historical Perspectives on Climate Change (1998), and The Callendar Effect: The Life and Work of Guy Stewart Callendar (2007).
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