Climate Engineers: At It Again

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Climate Engineers: At It Again

Rebecca Rosen

Bold new plans to control the weather.

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clouds and a bright sun by mararie.

With policies to reign in greenhouse gas emissions stalled both nationally and internationally, some scientists are exploring alternative ways to cool the planet, such as shooting reflective aerosols into the stratosphere, fertilizing the oceans with iron filings to stimulate the growth of carbon-dioxide–hungry plankton, and other geoengineering interventions.

Accordingly, a wave of books and articles about the possibility of engineering the climate is landing on bookstores and newsstands. Two good starting points: Hack the Planet, by Science writer Eli Kintisch, and a recent ScienceNews cover story by Erika Engelhaupt.
 
The desire to control the weather is nothing new. In The Wilson Quarterly’s Spring ’07 issue, Colby College professor James R. Fleming took a long and skeptical look at geoengineering attempts dating back to the mid-19th century. Fleming’s colorful portraits of agriculturalists, military strategists, and computer geniuses trying their hand at controlling the sun and clouds reveal a cautionary tale of foolhardiness motivated, of course, by only the purest of intentions. Fleming’s book on the topic, Fixing the Sky, will be published next month.

Photo credit: mararie