Reviews | How to better save the planet

Marcia Björnerud
Appleton, Wisconsin.
The author is professor of geosciences at Lawrence University.

For the publisher:

David Keith rightly calls for more research and public debate on solar geoengineering. But it trivializes important issues of global governance that should be addressed in depth before any real-world intervention is undertaken.

The injection of sulfur into the atmosphere, a pollutant and a precursor to acid rain, could set back half a century of efforts to improve air quality. It would also endanger the stratospheric ozone layer, a fragile but essential resource that can now only be healed through a decades-long global effort. As Dr Keith acknowledges, issues of global social justice are embedded in any meaningful discussion.

But which institution should decide what are the tolerable environmental damage, or the priorities of the world’s poor? For a rogue state or private actor, however well-meaning, implementing solar radiation management proposals could cement these results literally for the entire planet.

The upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow is the forum in which these proposals should be presented and debated before changing the planet in ways that could have unintended and irreversible consequences.

David Wirth
Newton, Mass.
The writer, a professor at Boston College Law School, worked in the State Department’s legal counsel’s office, negotiating international environmental agreements on acid rain and ozone depletion.

For the publisher:

David Keith makes a pretty compelling case for using solar geoengineering to mitigate the warming of our world. But aside from the potential unintended climatic and ecological consequences of seeding the stratosphere with sulfuric acid droplets, I can’t help but wonder how such a project would fare given the current political climate. What sort of conspiracy theories could we expect to precipitate in our daily discourse?

Michelle shafrir
Santa Rosa, California

For the publisher:

We are just beginning to experience some of the disasters that have been predicted for years by climate scientists, and we may have reached a point where no recovery is possible without technological intervention. Just the release of huge amounts of melting permafrost methane could accelerate global warming well beyond current forecasts. As pessimistic as the current reports are, we may soon see them as far too optimistic.

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