> June 2010 - Tim Stephens

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June 2010

There is every indication that climate change is getting away from us.

The recent shelving of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in Australia shows how even in an advanced democracy, where there is widespread concern about climate change, the political will to take even the most modest of steps can be found seriously (and dangerously) wanting.

As temperatures rise, and irreversible positive feedback processes (such as the melting of the Greenland ice cap) are set in motion, attention will shift to what engineering solutions might be deployed to turn the Earth's thermostat down a few notches to make the place comfortable for a thriving human civilisation once again.

In fact there are already schemes afoot to engineer the Earth's climate, such as by placing many thousands of tonnes of sulphur and sulphur compounds in the upper atmosphere, in much the same way as volcanic eruptions can do.

In an excellent new essay, that develops themes from his recent book Requiem for a Species, Clive Hamilton explores the strange politics of geoengineering:


Hamilton reveals the rather odd cast of characters working behind the scenes with financial support from Bill Gates and others on quite fantastical schemes, all based on the arrogant assumption that humankind's total domination of the global climate system is possible, let alone desirable.

The essay also makes clear the urgent need for an international legal framework to control potentially devastating experiments with the Earth's climate, an issue that is only just starting to attract attention in the literature (see, for instance, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1334625).