Bashing the climate engineers

In one of my Prototype columns (It Takes Deep Pockets to Fight Global Warming) last year I looked at some of the technological approaches that could stave off global warming. One of these was the parasol effect, the idea of shooting particles into the atmosphere to bounce sunlight back into space. In favor of this idea are that it could help us regulate the temperature of the earth while we try to scale up production of energy that doesn’t come from fossil fuel.
Later on I was going through a copy of the Wilson Quarterly that I’d buried under a stack of other magazines. The cover story was “The Climate Engineers.” In it, James R. Fleming looks at the history of climate engineering and gnashes his teeth and rents his robes. Much of that history comes from looking at ways to use the weather as a tool of war, and many of those who’ve tried have been charlatans.

He also shreds the notion that it will work. And he takes this jab at those engineers who continue to back it:

If there is one lesson from the long history of efforts to modify the weather and climate, it is that neither commonsense criticism nor flops deter geoengineers.

I found one blog post that assaulted Fleming, on Ansible

Gregory Benford on James Fleming, as quoted in A239: ‘The Wilson Quarterly piece was yellow dog journalism at its finest.’ From his letter to TWQ: ‘James Fleming’s fantasy about the NASA workshop we both attended is rife with errors. He also violates his pledge to not quote participants without their permission. When Fleming says of me, “He, like his fellow geoengineers, was largely silent on the possible unintended consequences of his plan.” I simply point to the Workshop Final Report, which documents much thought on just this. […] Fleming routinely conflates early rainmaking and meteorology with trying to offset global warming by reflecting sunlight. His talk at the workshop similarly erred, and he was much criticized for this. […] I found Fleming’s irresponsible reporting deplorable.’

Fleming’s piece, nonetheless, is worth a read, even months after it was published.

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