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How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climateby Jeff Goodell
Synopses & Reviews
When Jeff Goodell first encountered the term geoengineering, he had a vague sense that it involved outlandish schemes to counteract global warming. As a journalist, he was deeply skeptical. But he was also intrigued. The planet was in trouble. Could geoengineers help? Climate change may well be the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. Temperatures in some regions of the world could increase by as much as fifteen degrees by the end of the century, causing rising sea levels and severe droughts. But change could also happen much more suddenly. What if we had a real climate emergency, the ecological equivalent of the subprime mortgage meltdown — how could we cool the planet in a hurry? As Goodell shows in this bracing book, even if we could muster the political will for it, cutting greenhouse gas emissions alone may not be enough to reduce the risk of climate catastrophe. This has led some scientists to pursue extreme solutions: huge contraptions that would suck CO2 from the air, machines that would brighten clouds and deflect sunlight away from the earth, even artificial volcanoes that would spray heat-reflecting particles into the atmosphere.
In How to Cool the Planet, Goodell explores the scientific, political, financial, and moral aspects of geoengineering. How are we to change the temperature of whole regions if we can't even predict next week's weather? What if a wealthy entrepreneur shots particles into the stratosphere on his own? What about wars waged with climate control as the primary weapon? What happens to our relationship with nature when, as Goodell puts it, we all find ourselves living in a giant terrarium? And our options are dwindling. Maybe, Goodell suggests, we need to start taking geoengineering seriously. Maybe it's Plan B for the planet. And if it is, we need to know enough to get it right. Thoroughly reported and convincingly argued, How to Cool the Planet is a compelling tale of scientific hubris and technical daring. But it is also a thoughtful, even-handed look at a deeply complex and controversial issue. It's a book that will surely jump-start the next big debate about the future of life on earth.
"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 protg, 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, '[T]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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"After his thorough analysis of the science-fiction-worthy catastrophes geoengineering could engender, Goodell concludes that we must take geoengineering seriously. Hopefully his incisive and entertaining overview will help shape the debate." (Starred Review) Booklist
"This thought-provoking introduction to the complex ethical and technical issues related to using geoengineering to resolve our climate crisis is recommended for general and academic readers concerned about global warming." Library Journal
"Goodell's book is a quick, enjoyable read through a complex, timely topic.... You'll never look at the sky or the ocean — or Earth, really — in quite the same way again." Christian Science Monitor
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.
A look into the world of geoengineering and the group of taboo-breaking scientists at its forefront who believe, in the face of global warming, that the time has come for human beings to take control of the earth's climate.
Climate discussions often focus on potential impacts over a long period of time—several decades, a century even. But change could also happen much more suddenly. What if we had a real climate emergency—how could we cool the planet in a hurry? This question has led a group of scientists to pursue extreme solutions: huge contraptions that would 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. How to Cool the Planet, Jeff Goodell explores the scientific, political, and moral aspects of geoengineering. How are we going to change the temperature of whole regions if we can’t even predict next week’s weather? What about wars waged with climate control as the primary weapon? There are certainly risks, but Goodell persuades us that geoengineering may be our last best hope, a Plan B for the environment. And if it is, we need to know enough to get it right.
About the Author
Jeff Goodell is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Our Story: 77 Hours That Tested Our Friendship and Our Faith. Goodell's memoir, Sunnyvale: The Rise and Fall of a Silicon Valley Family, was a New York Times Notable Book. His most recent book, Big Coal, is the basis of a feature documentary, Dirty Business.
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