A fascinating article in straight.com (Vancouver’s urban weekly, which used to be called the Georgia Straight, which presumably confused both Georgians and Georgians) on geo-engineering, raises familiar questions about the path form research through the press office through the press to the public:
I got an email from Andy Parker, now a research fellow in the Kennedy School at Harvard University and previously a climate-change policy adviser for the Royal Society in the United Kingdom. You’ve been suckered by the publicity flacks at Reading University, he said (though in kinder words). They have spun the research findings for maximum shock value. In other words, read the damn thing before you write about it.
Well, actually, I did read it (it’s available online), but the conclusions are couched in the usual science-speak, with a resolute avoidance of anything that might look like interpretation for the general public. I didn’t look long enough at the key graph that undercuts the dire conclusions of the publicists, presumably because I had already been conditioned by them to see something else there.
Well, yeah. There’s a lot of that going around.
That said, I don’t really think sulphate releases are a good strategy. I think the much finer regulation possible with cloud droplet releases will prove vastly more useful as well as less scary.
But that aside, what surprised me was where the article went after that, going for some optimism from Avory Lovins that struck me as overoptimistic:
Since the Kyoto conference in 1997, most efforts to hedge climate risks have made four main errors: assuming solutions will be costly rather than (at least mainly) profitable; insisting they be motivated by concerns about climate rather than about security, profit, or economic development; assuming they require a global treaty; and assuming businesses can do little or nothing before carbon is priced.”
“As these errors are gradually realized, climate protection is changing course. It will be led more by countries and companies than by international treaties and organizations, more by the private sector and civil society than by governments, more by leading developing economies than by mature developed ones, and more by efficiency and clean energy’s economic fundamentals than by possible future carbon pricing.”
Well, the thing about wishful thinking is that it is perfectly okay to wish for it. I wish he were right. I wish Lomborg, and Nordhaus and Pielke Jr. were right. I even suspect that they might be right. But it’s amazingly irresponsible to bet on it.
Basically this is a reverse Inhofe. Inhofe, notoriously, doesn’t believe in “global warming” because doing so would be too expensive. These guys don’t believe international cooperation is necessary because international cooperation is difficult. It’s the same sort of magical reasoning. I hope all of them are right, but I don’t believe it for a second.