Geoengineering — the notion that we might blunt some of the effects of climate change by, for example, creating an artificial volcano to shade earth’s surface and cool the planet — is picking up steam among rich people. And not just Montgomery Burns! Philanthropists too!

The latest to join the fray are Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and “tar-sands magnate Murray Edwards,” reports the Guardian. Just goes to show you what strange bedfellows geoengineering makes.

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A small group of leading climate scientists, financially supported by billionaires including Bill Gates, are lobbying governments and international bodies to back experiments into manipulating the climate on a global scale to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The motivation for doing these experiments is straightforward: There’s already good evidence that geoengineering works (from models and natural experiments like volcanic eruptions), and it could be done fairly easily, but we’d better mess around with it a little so that we understand its negative consequences. Because the last thing we want is for it to be 2050, with the world’s leaders feeling like their backs are against the wall, and somebody decides to unilaterally start geoengineering the planet without knowing the potential consequences. Which are myriad.

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