Considering it is probably a necessity at this point, but it’s absolutely the wrong way to go about solving the problem. There’s a huge risk of getting something wrong, and it doesn’t help that every time I picture it, I end up thinking about Highlander II. The science may have been out, but the point is that any kind of atmospheric engineering is likely to have unintended side effects. We’re talking about fucking with the climactic system here. This is a system so iterative and complex that it is used as the prime example of the ridiculousness of complex iterative systems.
It’s a thing so complex that it proves hard to even convince everyone that the obvious is happening.
If we end up resorting to one of the grand engineering solutions, we end up directly affecting the shape of our weather systems, at the very least, and there’s no way of predicting reliably that it is going to rain next week in Durham, let alone what impact such a huge shift could have.
We talk about butterflies causing hurricanes and then decide it might be a good idea to build hurricanes (metaphor). What will happen to the butterfly?
But it would be naive to not consider these possibilities.
I’ve lost faith in a society wide shift in attitudes to the world, but it’s still what I’m hoping for. Right now, I’m cynical and underslept, and I suspect the only way we’re going to affect the change we need is when we hit a hard limit of the environment. We run out of oil. We start to actually drown. We create a flesh eating sentient nanocloud that destroys every living entity on earth in the time it take Santa to deliver his presents.
The problem with waiting for the hard limit, is that we’re probably going to kill a lot of people on the way. We’re already losing about 15 million people a year to basic poverty. If I remember the numbers right, it’s actually double that, but 15 million is the number we could dodge with currently available cheap technologies if we just put up the will to actually do it.
If the sea levels rise, it’ll be those who can’t afford flood defences or emergency migration that will die. The people we (as the rich part of the world, the 1%, if you like, but only if you’re remembering that that likely includes you) are already killing will be the first against the wall for our mistakes, greed, corruption and slow-witted selfishness.
And I’m aware of this and I’m still living a life of relative luxury. Whatever I say to myself about the world I want. I’m still relying on corrupted infrastructure to keep me warm at night and drown me in music and hollywood to keep me ‘sane’ (headburied)
And some of those hard limits are fast approaching, and we don’t know how violent it’s going to be to hit them hard.
We need to change.
Before change kills us.
Illustration by Chris