Nasa recently announced that last June was the 14th consecutive month of record breaking heat. Congrats team. Many scientists are saying that they have been caught off guard by the rapid and consistent rise in temperature that we have experienced in the last couple of years.
Of course, politicians are still failing to act. The cost-benefit asymmetry created by climate change, where the costs are immediate and calculable and the benefits are distant and abstract, is strongly at odds with our three-year election cycle. The Paris Agreement is starting to look weaker and weaker and it probably won’t survive if Donald Trump is elected this November (he was recently asked about human induced climate change and while his response wasn’t one of total denial, he did emphasise that abating emissions was an expense that US businesses should not suffer).
From where I’m standing it seems likely that humanity will totally fail to address climate change. So what then?
One radical solution has been floating around a lot lately. Geo-engineering.
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About 75,000 years ago there was a massive volcanic eruption at Mt. Toba. So much soot and ash was released into the atmosphere that global temperatures declined over the next thousand years. Soot effectively reduces the amount of sunlight that falls on the surface of the earth. Humanity could recreate this by pumping soot or aerosols into the atmosphere. By doing this we could potentially obviate the increase in temperature caused by climate change.
Naturally, this is pretty controversial. Our atmosphere is an incredibly chaotic system. Accurately predicting the consequences of geoengineering on this scale is effectively impossible. Some geneticists link the eruption of Mt. Toba to a population bottleneck, that may have reduced the number of humans on earth to as few as 10,000.
Personally, I think it’d be great if we could avoid the situation where geo-engineering becomes necessary. Apart from the risks, there’s something viscerally repulsive about humanity fucking with our atmosphere in order to fix problems created by too much fucking with our atmosphere.
But if are going to fix climate change without resorting to such measures things are going to have to change and we are going to have to start acting very soon.