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Geoengineering to Have Its Day in the Sun

Most readers of this blog are probably aware of the tit-for-tat between us and some critics of our global-warming chapter in SuperFreakonomics. In the larger scheme of things the dispute is practically meaningless, at best a very distant second to the actual climate issues on the table.
To that end, the best news I’ve heard recently is that Congress will next week hold its first-ever hearing on geoengineering solutions to global warming. I’m grateful to Ken Caldeira for alerting us to this hearing; he will be among the climate scientists to testify.
While there is a lot of room for a lot of legitimate debate about many aspects of global warming, let us say one thing here: we believe that anyone who reads our chapter without an agenda wouldn’t even find it particularly controversial. They will see that we routinely address the concerns that critics accuse us of ignoring (the problem of ocean acidification, e.g., — touched upon in the previous chapter — and the “excuse to pollute” that geoengineering solutions might afford), and that we neither “misrepresent” climate scientists nor flub the facts.
The attacks have been noisy, as is now the backlash. In recent days, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and even Jon Stewart have jumped in to defend what we wrote. USA Today also published our op-ed on the topic.
It seems the global-warming rhetoric is cooling. The Union of Concerned Scientists, for instance, seems to no longer think that we are quite so daft. Levitt and I recently spent a day in Washington talking about the book. During an interview on the Diane Rehm Show (with Terry Smith filling in), we spoke with Dr. Peter Frumhoff, the U.C.S.’s director of Science and Policy. It was a productive and civil discussion. Later in the evening, we had a talk/book signing at the Washington Post Conference Center. During the Q&A session, Aaron Huertas, a press secretary for the U.C.S., took the microphone. (The Union of UnConcerned Scientists, predictably, were a no-show.) Huertas said he liked what he heard about global warming during our lecture and interviews and that he looked forward to keeping the dialogue going. The next morning, Huertas posted a similar comment on the Journal editorial, while again calling for further discussion.
We’d love the discussion to continue! That’s the point of our chapter: to show that the current proposed path for dealing with global warming is inadequate, and to explore better solutions. I know that congressional hearings are often better known for drama than for science, but here’s hoping that the upcoming geoengineering discussions will throw some bright light on this topic.