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Geoengineering: Will Attempts to “Play God” Lead to Ruin or Salvation?

The controversial new book SuperFreakonomics has stirred vociferous and vehement responses, with many accusing authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner of “getting it all wrong” in their chapter about global warming. In that chapter, Levitt and Dubner referenced the work of climatologist Ken Caldeira’s work studying the implications of geoengineering – large-scale, deliberate manipulation of Earth’s climate system – as a “solution” to the climate crisis that is poised to consume the 21st century. Many see geoengineering is a dangerous and hubristic path to take, exacerbating the damage already done in our attempts to manage and manipulate nature on a global scale.

Caldeira says he was misrepresented in SupurFreakonomics, but the respected climate scientist has not been as dismissive of geoengineering as most. Through his work climate modeling has shown that such schemes may actually help reduce the risk of unmanageable climate change.

The only plausible way in which we could start the earth cooling this century is to directly intervene in the climate system,” says Caldeira.

Caldeira advocates a calmer approach to the tendentious issue of geoengineering, describing as “folly” the failure to at least look at the possibilities of geoengineering. Taking a “measured look” at the “good, bad, and ugly” of geoengineering schemes is the subject of a recent panel discussion held at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

Caldeira is joined with Dr. David Whelan, chief scientist for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and Albert Lin, professor of law at the University of California at Davis, who specializes in environmental law and natural resources.

Moderated by Greg Dalton, the full discussion is available at The segments below focus on the idea of “playing God” with the environment positing the idea of geoengineering as “our only hope.”

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