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49 It takes a certain daring—or just plain audacity—to propose a cure for global warming. But that’s what Robert Kunzig and Wallace Broecker advocate in their book Fixing Climate: What Past Climate Changes Reveal about the Current Threat—and How to Counter It. They argue that the climate crisis can be solved in part by dotting the planet with an array of carbon-scrubbing towers. To come up with this bold plan, the two combined their considerable talents: Kunzig is a prizewinning science journalist, and Broecker, the Newberry Professor of Geology at Columbia University, has spent more than five decades studying climate change. One of the first scientists to sound the alarm on global warming, Broecker is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science. josie glausiusz a conversation with Robert Kunzig 50 ecotone Now senior environment editor at National Geographic, Kunzig has spent more than two and a half decades writing about science, archaeology, and the environment, honing his skills first at Scientific American and then at Discover magazine, where he spent fifteen years as a staff editor and then the next seven as a freelance contributing editor. He is the author of Mapping the Deep: The Extraordinary Story of Ocean Science, which won the 2001 Aventis Prize for Science Books, and has written about topics from the theory of relativity and the physics of black holes to the development of the fetal brain and the origins of agriculture, as well as the science of ice cream, airplanes, spiderwebs , ballet, Scotch tape, cheese, photographic film, perfume, and truffles. The logic of the pair’s proposal in Fixing Climate is simple. Carbon dioxide is a waste product of human activity, industrial and domestic. In this way it is no different from human sewage, a pollutant that was once dumped out of windows and into waterways, contaminating drinking supplies and leading to outbreaks of cholera and typhoid. City planners in nineteenth-century London, Paris, and Chicago built sewer systems to safely dispose of the waste, and in the same way, we can rid the atmosphere of carbon dioxide contamination by sucking it out and socking it away in rocks. In Fixing Climate, Broecker and Kunzig describe the technology necessary to do this and explain why solar energy and wind power alone cannot solve the problem. In July, Kunzig sat down with journalist Josie Glausiusz and discussed the rigors of battling climate change and the joys of science journalism. josie glausiusz: Many of us are increasingly filled with a sense that global warming is an intractable problem and that we should all 51 author a conversation with robert kunzig just learn to live with the consequences. But in your book Fixing Climate, you and Wallace Broecker seem optimistic that the problem can be put right. Where do you get your optimism? robert kunzig: I think people are born optimistic or not. Some days maybe I’m not so optimistic, but I have a gut feeling that we are a tremendously adaptable species and are not so stupid that we’re just going to let this all go to hell. When I read accounts by other writers insinuating that our civilization is doomed, I have a visceral disbelief. A civilization confronted with climate change is not a unique problem , but a civilization that is confronted with global climate change and is attempting to do something about it is unique. It’s a problem that will take a long time to solve. But I am optimistic, because I think these problems look huger when you’re standing on the edge of the slope, but once you start to head down a path things start to happen fast. Look at the change in mood in this country created by one election. I’ve always felt that the right leadership in the United States at the top could make an enormous difference, and I think we’re getting a chance now to see if that’s true. I could be wrong—maybe I’m a sap. I just think that it is a solvable problem and we’re capable of solving it. JG: Do you worry about global warming on...


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pp. 49-65
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