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Tagged with geoengineering


Instead of hacking the planet, should we hack our babies?

S. Matthew Liao, a philosopher and bioethicist, has some incredible ideas about how to deal with climate change. Instead of resorting to geoengineering, he suggests, why not consider engineering humans to cause less damage to the planet? Ross Andersen interviewed Liao, and one of the most fascinating ideas that they discussed is the possibility of selecting embryos that will grow into "smaller, less resource-intensive children." Here's Liao's argument:

It's been suggested that, given the seriousness of climate change, we ought to adopt something like China's one child policy. There was a group of doctors in Britain who recently advocated a two-child maximum. But at the end of the day those are crude prescriptions---what we really care about is some kind of fixed allocation of greenhouse gas emissions per family. If that's the case, given certain fixed allocations of greenhouse gas emissions, human engineering could give families the choice between two medium sized children, or three small sized children. From our perspective that would be more liberty enhancing than a policy that says "you can only have one or two children." A family might want a really good basketball player, and so they could use human engineering to have one really large child.

That starts sounding a little too dystopian a little too fast for my taste. But geoengineering ideas -- spraying the sky with chemicals that turn it white and reflect more heat back into space, for instance -- can fit just as easily into the creepy sci-fi "the robots are taking over" genre. Here are some of Liao's other ideas:

Read more: Living


Critical List: China’s emissions outstrip America’s; Bill Gates hearts geoengineering

By 2015, China will emit 50 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than the United States does.

The Texas drought has forced some towns to ship in their water by truck.

Bill Gates is underwriting geoengineering lobbying efforts.

Read more: Uncategorized


Critical List: Sumatran elephants critically endangered; Al Gore goes on a cruise

Sumatran elephants are critically endangered.

Watch out for the solar flare that's supposed to hit Earth today! It's the strongest since 2005.

President Obama might pump increased domestic oil and gas production in his State of the Union.


Don’t believe the hype about the ‘molecule that could solve climate change’

Some chemists came up with a really clever way to observe the intermediate stage of an atmospheric chemical reaction, and then some PR flack got a hold of it and suddenly science has invented a brand-new molecule that will solve all our climate change woes! As usual, things that seem too good to be true probably are.


Sucking carbon out of the air: Probably not an option

With all this talk of the impossibility of averting catastrophic levels of future climate change, it's tempting to daydream of using technology to clean up the bed we just shat. Economists, especially, love this kind of thinking -- if we just hoard enough precious gold today, maybe we can transmute it into a livable planet tomorow! Yay for wearing ties! But these fantasies are probably bullshit, says ClimateWire and Scientific American. Especially the one in which we attach a giant vacuum to the atmosphere, SpaceBalls style, and suck all the carbon out. That one’s gone from suck to blow. The …


Critical List: Brazil notices oil drilling has consequences; bikes made out of wood

Brazil discovers that oil drilling is not good for the environment. Also, Congress is kicking renewable energy to the curb the way a mean person would a really cute puppy. Like these. Oh, wait, don't buy those, they came from puppy mills. People collectively put their fingers in their ears and go LA LA LA so as not to think about climate change. The Loch Ness monster wants to participate in the London Olympics. Geoengineering is cool and all, but it would be much cheaper to just not put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to begin with than to try …


Mongolia plans to combat warming with giant ice cube

Scientists in Ulan Bator, Mongolia are planning to save energy in summer by cryogenically preserving winter. They want to encourage extremely thick ice to form on the local river, thus storing up cold temperatures that can later be used to cool the city. The scientists are artificially creating "naleds," which are slabs of ice up to 22 feet thick. Naleds occur naturally in northern areas, but the plan is to induce them in Ulan Bator's Tuul river. Because these ice layers are so thick, they'll last all the way into summer. At that point, the melting naleds will reduce temperatures …


Scientists are about to test a scheme to cool the Earth

If the world is getting hotter because it's absorbing too much sunlight, why not put up a sunshade? That's the question Montgomery Burns has often asked, and one that scientists in the UK will begin to answer this October when they will use a weather balloon to loft a hose a little more than half a mile into the sky. They'll then pump water up the hose into the atmosphere. If that sounds simplistic to you, maybe you just don’t understand science. The idea is that this is the prototype version of a system that could someday loft 11 million …


Conservative pundits grapple with 'anti-science' charge, flail

Ever since Rick Perry expressed skepticism about both evolution and climate change, conservative pundits have rushed to defend Perry and the GOP from the charge that they are "anti-science." Their efforts aren't doing them any favors. The latest is from Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, who seems to entirely miss the force of the accusation. It's true that Perry "hasn’t criticized the scientific method, or sent the Texas Rangers to chase out from the state anyone in a white lab coat." But no one thinks Perry is opposed to science as such. The point, as Jon Chait says, is …


Is planet-cooling balloon full of hot air?

Cross-posted from The Guardian. It sounds audacious or sci-fi: a tethered balloon the size of Wembley stadium suspended 12 miles above Earth, linked to the ground by a giant garden hose, pumping hundreds of tons of minute chemical particles a day into the thin stratospheric air to reflect sunlight and cool the planet. But a team of British academics will next month formally announce the first step towards creating an artificial volcano by going ahead with the world's first major "geoengineering" field test in the next few months. The ultimate aim is to mimic the cooling effect that volcanoes have …