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Hack the Planet: Science's Best Hope - or Worst Nightmare - for Averting Climate Catastrophe Hardcover – Apr 1 2010
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New York Times
"Hack the Planet is a superbly written and reported chronicle of a remarkable story. In just a few years 'geoengineering' fixes to climate change--simulating volcanoes, CO2-sucking, cloud-brightening--have gone from crackpot to considered ideas. Eli Kintisch's book is boundlessly smarter and more deeply researched on this topic than Superfreakonomics. Expect to hear much more in coming years from the planet-hackers--and from Kintisch."
—Eric Roston, author of The Carbon Age: How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Greatest Threat
"As climate change goes unmitigated and continues to worsen, it seems we can no longer avoid a public debate on the prospect of planetary geoengineering--doing something probably bad to the planet to avert something even worse. It will be an Earth-changing discussion, and no one should feel competent to participate without having first read Eli Kintisch’s Hack the Planet, an indispensable introduction to the topic. The scientific ideas he explains and characters he depicts are compelling and occasionally riveting."
—Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science and Unscientific America
"Anyone who considers themselves scientifically literate had better get versed in the new discipline of geo-engineering--or planethacking, as Eli Kintisch calls it in this nuanced and useful new account. This discussion is not going to go away anytime soon!"
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making A Life on a Tough New Planet
"Loathe or love it, geoengineering has come in from the fringe. Is rewiring the atmosphere the riskiest weapon against global climate change or the only realistic one--or both? It's hard to imagine a more thorough and accessible guide to the science, and the stakes, than Eli Kintisch has provided."
—Jonathan Rauch, senior writer, National Journal and contributing editor, The Atlantic
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The author covers several different types of geophysical engineering in the book. The first is the idea to recreate, by artificial means, the effects of volcanoes. It has been known for some time that after a volcano erupts, the planet is cooled for a period of time afterward. This is due to the lofting of compounds high into the atmosphere. So, the scientists studying this propose to send large amounts of sulpher dioxide into the stratosphere where it is believed it will turn to sulphric acid droplets which will reflect sunlight back into space. With solar radiation reflected, the earth should cool. There are numerous problems with this concept which are laid out in the book.
The next idea is to "fertilize " patches of the ocean with iron oxide to cause algae to bloom. As algae are plants, they will suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and hence lower the amounts of green house gases present It is also hoped that the algae will either die or be eaten and sink to the bottom of the ocean, tying up the carbon forever.. Although some small experiments have been attempted using this process, the end results are unknown.
The third idea is carbon sequestration inside the earth itself. There are several ways to accomplish this goal. The carbon dioxide could be captured at the emissions point of power plants and be used to help propel oil from slow or low producing wells. In fact, this is already being done to aid the oil industry in extraction of oil, but the amount needed to actually affect the atmosphere would be greater than the amount of empty of nearly empty well that are present around the world. Then there is the concept of removing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and directly injecting it into the ground, which again, cause innumerable problems.
The author examines each proposed solution and picks them apart for technical reasons and wades into the argument of whether we should be conducting experiments in this area or if that is just too risky. Also, the issue of whether to make any of this public is discussed…the fear being that if humans know there is a "fix" available, they will continue to spew carbon dioxide into the air with little concern for reducing emissions.
The book is well written and though provoking…certainly a must read for those who are concerned about our planet's future.
Although I was suprised to find no mention of HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) which is striving for openness but still appears to have an unnerving patina of weather change and earthquake triggering potential--in my uninformed view. I'd love the author's informed opinion on HAARP.
What the author does provide in this book is a totally superb overview with multiple drill-downs of what is now called "geoengineering." Geo-systems are not in this book, and that is the greatest flaw with any contemplation of geo-engineering--you cannot engineer what you cannot understand.
The arrogance of those proposing "methods" to "hack" the Earth is truly outstanding, an arrogance I am glad to see that the author does not share. Among the long list of ideas:
Aerosols into the upper atmosphere
Aluminum mesh into the upper atmosphere
Ash in the upper atmosphere
Bury Co2 deep in the ground or under the seabed
Carbons into carbides into cement
Chemicals in the upper atmosphere
Dust rings in the upper atmosphere
Grow lots of algae in the ocean
Suck Co2 out of the air
Trillions of reflective disks floating in the upper atmosphere
All of the above are a right of center counter-attack to the left of center climate change carbon fraud that received a major setback when years of emails were released just prior to the Copenhagen conference. For a good time search for ClimateGate.
With any of the above, there is at least a 1 in 300 change of altering the climate toward extremes.
The four scenarios that scare people--and that the right of center scientists do not think will be addressed by carbon reducing strategies-- include:
Catastrophic methane release
Collapsing ice sheets
Slowing of ocean conveyor belt
An enormous amount of ignorance is ably documented by the author, who certainly gives all those concerned their due in terms of brilliance, dedication, good intentions, and creative ideas. The models are "not even close" at the same time that the linkages are not understood. "Flawed data" and "bad analysis" are the norm. No real sense of levers and amplifiers among all those contemplating "hacks" on the earth.
I learn the word "homodisciplinary" and I love it--that alone is worth the price of the book because that one books slams down at least 80% of not 90% of all of the so-called "experts" that know everything about nothing and nothing about everything else.
I am stunned to see that the carbon fraud scheme by Maurice Strong and his trusty talking puppet Al Gore is said to be a one trillion dollar market--this certainly makes sub-prime mortgages look good in comparison.
The most promising offerings appear to be carbon into carbides into cement; algae in oceans, and cloud seeking. HOWEVER, as this book makes clear in both the text and the fine print, geoengineering is climate change fraud on steroids, a 9 billion pound gorilla with no idea of its potential for catastrophe.
I am pointed toward a number of excellent books by this author, including Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, and Geoengineering Are Necessary; James Loveluck's The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning; and Bjorn Lomborg's Global Crises, Global Solutions: Costs and Benefits.
The author does a fine job of showing how tinkering leads to disaster, with case studies on the Aral Sea, Lake Victorial, the gall fly helping deer mice multiply as disease carriers, and dung beetles doing good.
A fine quote: "We just do not know the side effects" [of anything we might do].
In discussing the algae in the Arctic the author provides an excellent sense of the complex over-lapping and often contradictory and certainly debilitating jurisdictions and obstacles associated with multiple governments and within governments, between multiple agencies as well as many alert civil society elements.
The author wins his fifth star at the very end, when I realize that his balanced objectivety throughout has been concealing an erudite sarcasm about "Hack the Planet." He ends with a short brilliant discourse on "the problem of the dual and deceptive nature of control," and a quote with respect to how we are playing God and actually have no clue.
Although there is nothing in this book about ecological economics, true cost, scarcity and toxins and so on, this is a book by a journalist and I found it most satisfying; future books by this author will capture my attention.
Here are seven other books (Amazon limits us to ten, you can find the other 1600+ at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, see especially 00 Remixed Review Lists (69) halfway down the middle column).
In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations
Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway
Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam
The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime
Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
The Future of Life
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
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