Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.

Climate Change Is Worse Than We Thought

New research indicates that drastic approaches to the problem are too risky.

The challenge of climate change and its warrior activists have asked many things of us — changing to energy-efficient lightbulbs, biking to work, flying less, turning off the lights more often, and more — but even with the most severe treatment for the global threat, a new report from the Proceedings from the National Acadmey of Sciences of the United States of America says that repairing the damage will prove extremely difficult and non-cost-effective.

Severe treatment would mean injecting "sulphur dioxode particles equivalent to a major volcanic eruption, such as that of Mt Pinatubo, every 18 months to reduce temperatures and delay ice-cap melt and sea-level rises," The Ecologist reports. Other options include installing mirrors in space and afforestation. All of the above fall under the category of "geoengineering."

Geoengineering approaches are risky and raise several questions about what effects they will have on the planet, leading many scientists and policy-makers to shy away from their use. But without taking those risks, we are forced to innovate with the approaches we do know are safe. They may be more mundane, but at least there's no "injections" involved.

[Image Via Nasa Images]

Add New Comment


  • Rio VonWulf

    These are supposed to be brilliant? Dog brained I'd say. How about water pipelines to the drought and deserts from the poles! Hmmm much needed water to make the deserts bloom and have more land that is producing food!

  • Linda Kelley

    Geoengineering, i.e. intentionally trying to manipulate the climate, oceans, other natural phenomena of global proportions, when we have incomplete and inadequate understanding of how these natural systems work and there is no "take 2" and no undo button? What are we thinking! ...or not!!

  • Tim Gavan

    I won't try to argue that we can now, or will ever be able to, comprehend exactly how our environment functions, but we shouldn't forget that we are organisms within this ecosystem– unintentionally geoengineering every time we drive, eat, or even breathe. In realizing this, it is only responsible to want to have a more symbiotic relationship with the place we live, rather than one where we take and give nothing back. The invention of the automobile, the plane, and the oil rig are all examples of how we've dramatically altered the Earth in our plight for advancement. I don't think that we should berate scientists for egotism because they want to influence the world in a positive way when it is far more arrogant to assume that nature will continue to provide for us forever regardless of our actions– or possibly worse, our inactions.

  • Guest

    Geoengineering is such a risky approach. We're somewhat egotistical as a race to assume that we're the only ones that can fix problems. Nobody predicted mini organisms would all of a sudden be discovered eating the oil spilled in the gulf. Who's to say planetary evolution isn't capable of balancing itself, and who's to say that doesn't mean many humans are going to have to suffer in the process? Alastair has a point - we should be concerned about getting food, water, and shelter to everyone who will need it for the changes that we can predict instead of trying to redirect the changes that our planet is undergoing. It seems well beyond our capabilities to just stop this planet or mother nature from doing what it does best - keep going.

    Disclaimer: We still have a responsibility to curb our greenhouse gas addiction, and the radical "global warming is a joke" crowd is still wrong. We just need a plan B, because the "golden plan" of us endlessly consuming limited resources and polluting the planet is a non-reality, and we need to prepare for the unknown effects that we've caused.

  • Alastair Morton

    My understanding of this article means that this headline is a bit off the mark. It's not worse than we thought, it's just that geoengineering looks like it'll be less effective than people might have thought.

    In addition, the article doesn't seem to talk about 'repairing the damage' - it's about mitigating the effects of climate change. The 'damage' has been increasing GHG concentrations, deforestation and land use change. Not all the geoengineering examples studied here will do anything for these.

    Thanks for publicising the article, but I worry this is a bit sensationalist!

  • Orrin

    How about following a card from the evolutionist playbook and adapting to the change that is happening in our planet? Rather than building cities near coasts how about moving to higher ground areas? Good stewardship and is still near the top of the priority list given the resources we have left. Shelling out trillions for unproven science doesn't sound responsible to me.

  • wordtrey

    Are you implying that moving the population to "high ground," even if done over decades, wouldn't itself cost trillions of dollars? I think most scientist, accountants, statisticians, and reasonable people, would agree that working to lessen the cost of an problem as it develops is generally much less expensive, and more predicable, than waiting until the problem has fully manifested itself to react. Your approach fails on so many fronts it boggles the mind.