A Modest Proposal for Hacking the Planet

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Are our worst-case scenario predictions about global warming overly optimistic? A new report published in the journal Oceanography argues that world leaders have underestimated the catastrophic consequences of climate change, and we may soon have to turn to dramatic options for reversing the warming trend.

In “A Very Inconvenient Truth,” lead author Charles H. Greene, a professor of Earth and atmospheric science at Cornell University, argues that the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report, released in 2007, is too rosy.

Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped tomorrow and levels stabilized at today’s concentration, says Greene, global temperatures would still increase 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, which is “significantly above the level which scientists and policy makers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change.”

“Of course, greenhouse gas emissions will not stop tomorrow, so the actual temperature increase will likely be significantly larger, resulting in potentially catastrophic impacts to society unless other steps are taken to reduce the Earth’s temperature,” he says.

Greene’s proposed solution to this epic problem is geoengineering–a highly controversial subject. See the Mother Jones piece “Climate Hacking 101″ and dispatches from a recent conference on the topic for more. But as predictions about the planet’s fate grow more dire, we can expect more modest proposals to radically alter the earth’s atmosphere like this. The authors are probably spot on, however, in their conclusions about why we should even be thinking about this in the first place: “investing in geoengineering research now will enable policymakers to make informed decisions based on science rather than uninformed decisions made out of desperation.”

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate