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A Case for Climate Engineering

David Keith

Publication Year: 2013

Climate engineering -- which could slow the pace of global warming by injecting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere -- has emerged in recent years as an extremely controversial technology. And for good reason: it carries unknown risks and it may undermine commitments to conserving energy. Some critics also view it as an immoral human breach of the natural world. The latter objection, David Keith argues in <I>A Scientist's Case for Climate Engineering</I>, is groundless; we have been using technology to alter our environment for years. But he agrees that there are large issues at stake. A leading scientist long concerned about climate change, Keith offers no naïve proposal for an easy fix to what is perhaps the most challenging question of our time; climate engineering is no silver bullet. But he argues that after decades during which very little progress has been made in reducing carbon emissions we must put this technology on the table and consider it responsibly. That doesn't mean we will deploy it, and it doesn't mean that we can abandon efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But we must understand fully what research needs to be done and how the technology might be designed and used. This book provides a clear and accessible overview of what the costs and risks might be, and how climate engineering might fit into a larger program for managing climate change.

Published by: The MIT Press

Series: Boston Review Books


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xxiv

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1 Engineering the World’s Sunshine

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pp. 1-20

How might geoengineering work? Suppose the goal was to cut the rate of global warming in half starting in 2020 by putting sulfuric acid into the stratosphere. If combined with serious efforts to cut emissions, this is—in my opinion—a plausible scenario...

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2 Climate Risk

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pp. 21-42

James Hansen, the world’s most visible climate-scientist turned activist, has said that we must stop development of the Canadian tar sands, a growing source of energy-intensive oil production, or else, “It’s game over for the planet.”8 I share...

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3 Science

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pp. 43-74

Science cannot resolve political or ethical questions about solar geoengineering, but neither can you develop sound judgment without a firm grasp on a few central facts. Sound judgment requires facts and ethics. Don’t trust my ethical judgment on...

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4 Technology and Design

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pp. 75-120

Arguments for research on geoengineering often appeal to the ethic of scientific freedom. Discussion about its risks and efficacy are similarly couched in language that assumes that research will uncover the risks and efficacy as if they were facts of...

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5 Ethics and Politics

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pp. 121-158

I was expecting fireworks in the wood-paneled confines of a Cambridge University hall as I helped introduce Jim Lovelock and Lowell Wood during the opening reception for a geoengineering meeting in 2004. In the late 1960s Lovelock proposed the Gaia ...

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6 Prospect

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pp. 159-176

The seat pods in business class face inwards, away from the windows. Looking up from my work, I twist in my seat struggling to open the blind. Light floods in, washing out my neighbor’s movie. Like spilling the “free” wine, it is a social blunder to let sunlight ...


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pp. 177-182


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pp. 183-196

About the Author

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p. 197-197

About the Series, Other Works in the Series

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p. 198-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780262317788
E-ISBN-10: 0262317788
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262019828

Page Count: 112
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Boston Review Books

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Climate change mitigation.
  • Global warming -- Prevention.
  • Environmental engineering.
  • Sulfuric acid -- Environmental aspects.
  • Environmental geotechnology.
  • Environmental policy.
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