Stabilizing the world's climates means cutting carbon dioxide pollution. There's no way around it. But what if that's not enough? What if it's too difficult to accomplish in the time allotted or, worse, what if it's so late in the game that even cutting carbon emissions to zero, tomorrow, wouldn't do?
Enter solar geoengineering. The principle is simple: attempt to cool Earth by reflecting more sunlight back into space. The primary mechanism, shooting particles into the upper atmosphere, implies more pollution, not less. If that doesn't sound scary, it should. There are lots of risks, unknowns, and unknowables.
In Geoengineering: The Gamble, climate economist Gernot Wagner provides a balanced take on the possible benefits and all-too-real risks, especially the so-called "moral hazard" that researching or even just discussing (solar) geoengineering would undermine the push to cut carbon emissions in the first place. Despite those risks, he argues, solar geoengineering may only be a matter of time. Not if, but when.
As the founding executive director of Harvard's Solar Geoengineering Research Program, Wagner explores scenarios of a geoengineered future, offering an inside view of the research already underway and the actions the world must take to guide it in a productive direction.
Preface: Start here – But don’t start with geoengineering
Part I: Incentives
1. Not if, but when
2. What could possibly go wrong?
3. The drive to research
Part II: Scenarios
4. ‘Rational’ climate policy
5. A humanitarian cyclone crisis
6. Millions of geoengineers
Part III: Governance
7. Green moral hazards
8. Research governance
Epilogue: The inevitable gamble
Gernot Wagner teaches climate economics at NYU, co-authored Climate Shock, and writes Bloomberg’s Risky Climate column. He was the founding executive director of Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program and served as lead senior economist at Environmental Defense Fund. His writings appear frequently in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, TIME, among many others.
"An important read."
– The Sunday Times
"A stark warning."
– Bibi van der Zee, The Guardian
"For better and for worse, geoengineering will be part of the world's attempts to stave off climate catastrophe – let's hope we treat this technology with the same thoughtfulness in practice as Wagner has in this book."
– Ian Bremmer, President and Founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media
"This book is both a great way in to the issue for newcomers and a fun, informative read from which even those immersed in it will learn something new."
– Edward A. Parson, UCLA School of Law
"This is a useful book for broadening the much needed conversations about the emerging approach of solar geoengineering. It is written in an accessible style, asking and providing the views of the author to many key – and some really profound – questions about these techniques that could alter the climate."
– Janos Pasztor, Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G)
"Humanity is gambling on climate change. Gernot Wagner skillfully weaves everyday observations, game-theory, and politics into this clear, pithy introduction to carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation modification – cards that may soon be added to the gambling deck."
– Matthias Honegger, Perspectives Climate Research
"Wagner offers an accessible and to-the-point introduction to the potential – and peril – of solar geoengineering. He is unafraid to confront head-on the governance challenges of this gamble, one that humanity may have to take to prevent dangerous climate change."
– Jesse Reynolds, author of The Governance of Solar Geoengineering: Managing Climate Change in the Anthropocene