Saturday, October 24, 2009

Levitt Hits Back

Steven Levitt hits back at his critics in this new post in the NY Times. The post is a bit revisionist I think as to what exactly is in the chapter in Superfreakonomics. The tone of that chapter is clearly that carbon taxes or cap and trade won't work (for unclear reasons) and, therefore, we need geoengineering. This post places geoengineering as a method for quickly cooling the Earth (which I agree could be a useful tool in our toolbox). And I found myself mostly being able to agree with what he wrote until we come to:

"But that is not the question that Al Gore and the climate scientists are trying to answer. The sorts of questions they tend to ask are “What is the ‘right’ amount of carbon to emit?” or “Is it moral for this generation to put carbon into the air when future generations will pay the price?” or “What are the responsibilities of humankind to the planet?”"

That may be true to some degree but the main question most of us are asking is "What is the best long-term solution to the global warming problem?" Geoengineering can only be a short term fix. It reduces the sunlight that plants need for growth and does nothing to address ocean acidification (I'm a bit skeptical that the latter is as bad as most people make out but it certainly isn't a good thing). But if the ice sheets melt too fast while we try to get carbon emissions down, geoengineering may well be an appropriate response...

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