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Climate change

Trust the boffins to save the planet

Wildfires on the Greek island of Evia. Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images

You don’t have to look far to see the direst consequences of climate change, says Clément Lacombe in L’Obs. But science’s Doctor Frankensteins are excited by floods, forest fires and heat domes. In Dubai, scorched by 50C heat, they’re using drones to diffuse salt crystals into the clouds and create artificial rain. Harvard’s “high priest of solar geoengineering”, David Keith, wants to inject a fine mist of sulphur dioxide particles into the atmosphere to reflect 1% of the sun’s rays, a “would-be veil” to envelop the Earth. He says it would cost a piddling £10bn a year.

Can you blame these demiurges for piping up? In its alarmist new report, the IPCC says geoengineering must be looked at seriously to save life on earth. Our collective failure to reverse the curve of CO2 emissions has revived boffins’ “old Promethean dreams” of reshaping the world through technology. What’s more, the pandemic has reminded us of all science can do for humanity. Eighteen months ago, messenger RNA vaccines were still science fiction. Meddling with the heavens is fraught with risk: if we start “seeding” the clouds, who knows what damage we might wreak? But it’s not all baloney. So much the better if technological advances such as carbon capture and storage contribute to the long march towards net zero. “And so much the better if the craziest projects do not pass through the doors of the labs.”

Why it matters The target of limiting global warming to 1.5C could be breached within two decades, so attitudes to geoengineering need “rethinking”, says the FT. Campaigners worry about safety and unintended consequences, and say the prospect of a technological fix won’t push us to address emissions. But to stave off “hell on earth”, the world “cannot afford to rule out anything”.