Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: climate, climate change, geoengineering, global warming
You cannot go against nature
Because if you do
Go against nature
That’s part of nature too
–Love and Rockets
I’ve always been bothered by the distinction most people make between things that are “natural” and things that are supposedly “artificial”. The distinction has always struck me as – well – artificial.
For example one guy at work chastised another guy at work for taking “artificial”, “synthetic” fish oil pills. “I only take natural fish oil”, he said with all the smarm and self-satisfaction of a 4 year old who just made a big poopy. He was actually proud of this! And then he literally said to the other guy that the other guy was “going to die”. I wanted to pull my hair out. Did he have an argument, or any facts at all, for why his “natural” oil was better than the synthetic kind? No.
A common example occurs in global warming debates. The CO2 produced by human activity is declared “artificial” and so, the idea of regulating/restricting CO2 output becomes not any kind of artificial restriction, but just putting things back in their “natural” form. The implicit idea is that there’s a certain CO2 concentration which is “natural” (and therefore optimal?) and that humans have put things out of supposed “balance” by (apparently) causing that concentration to go higher than it would be in the absence of humans. Along these lines, the pragmatic reasons to potentially care about CO2 – because it might increase global warming, which might be bad for us – get all mixed up and intertwined with a kind of quasi-religious moralism about human activity that makes rational debate nearly impossible.
And that annoys me.
But yesterday I saw an example in the opposite direction. This article makes a big deal about President Obama looking at “climate engineering”, “climate tinkering”, characterizing it as an “extreme option”. And numerous right-wing bloggers have reacted by painting this as extreme if not scary. (Adler at Volokh: “Is Geoengineering on the Table?”)
I’ll just repeat what I said over there: Of course “geoengineering” is “on the table”. That’s what the whole conversation has always been about!
What is “Let’s consciously control/reduce how much CO2 output we create with the goal of making the future climate such-and-such”, if not geoengineering? This topic has always been about geoengineering. Geoengineering has always been “on the table”. What do you think Al Gore has been talking about all this time?
The only thing perhaps ‘new’, or at least different, in that news story are the methods being proposed to enable the geoengineering. Al Gore only has one method in mind (controlling CO2 output). I guess this method doesn’t have the flavor of ‘engineering’ because it would involve mostly taxes and social controls and so is generally more lo-tech than, say, putting reflective nanoparticles in the atmosphere, or space-bound mirrors, or whatever. But it’s still geoengineering! Al Gore has a desired future climate path, he thinks he knows how to get there, and he wants the power to tinker with that input to create the output that (he thinks) will result! Engineering.
Now, personally, I’m glad to see other methods suggested and thrown out there. Having more methods is better than having fewer. (For one thing, we may find a cheaper and more effective method than the one Al Gore favors – which would certainly be… interesting.) But let’s knock off this idea that there’s some huge difference between the sort of geoengineering cited in that article, and the sort of geoengineering already favored by every Soccer Mom and college kid in the country, i.e., Al Gore’s. There isn’t.
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