Pros and cons of human intervention with climate change

By Wan Lixin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, January 8, 2016
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Individual action

He moves on to explore the history, politics, and cutting-edge science of geoengineering.

For instance, he believes "large-scale direct-air capture of carbon dioxide would be a way of giving the Earth a climate other than the one it would expect". One of the main investors in a direct-air-capture company is Bill Gates.

"Climate geoengineering can be pursued in very different ways, but the aim is always to decouple the climate from humanity's cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide. It is to unshackle, if only to a very limited extent, the future from the past," Morton concludes.

Morton affords us a fascinating look at the perils and promise of geoengineering on a warming planet, hinting at the near-inexhaustible ability of physics to provide changes. But this vision should not stand in the way of our seeking more immediate solutions to climate change, which lie with ourselves as individuals.

Unfortunately, Morton seems to be skeptical of this approach.

"The rich world contains quite a few people who have found that they can lead happier lives with less stuff, and the same might be true of many more, if we could only see our way to making that choice," Morton writes.

Morton explains that he uses the pronoun "we" because "I accept that I may be among those who, because of the ingrained mindset of consumerism, are failing to follow a course of action which might make them happier".

This is disquieting. As Eric Beinhocker and Myles Allen observed on this page ("The net zero imperative in fighting climate change," December 16), while carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is technically capable of reducing emissions from coal and gas close to zero, "it remains very expensive, and efforts to develop the technology at scale have moved slowly."

Morton's futuristic vision is tantalizing, but it should be tempered with realism, and should not distract us individuals from acting on our conscience.

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