(p. A13) Make no mistake—Mr. Myhrvold is concerned about climate change. . . .
He laments that policy makers largely scorn geoengineering—human interventions in the Earth’s natural systems to thwart or neutralize climate change.
. . .
Geoengineering is about “deliberately trying to reduce climate change.” Excess CO2 traps a little less than 1% of heat from the sun, “so if we could make the sun 1% dimmer, we could shut off climate change.” When Mount Pinatubo, a volcano in the Philippines, erupted in 1991, it lowered world-wide temperatures by 1 degree Celsius for about 18 months. Human-emitted particulate pollution has historically offset about 20% of human-emitted CO2. “Ironically,” he says, “the Clean Air Act made our air better but hurt climate change.”
The simplest solar-radiation management scheme, Mr. Myhrvold says, “is to emit particles in the stratosphere to mimic Mount Pinatubo. We invented a particularly elegant way to do this with balloons and a pipe to the sky.” By “we,” he means Intellectual Ventures, the company Mr. Myhrvold founded in 2000 after leaving Microsoft, where he spent 13 years and rose to the position of chief technology officer. Intellectual Ventures “creates, incubates and commercializes” new inventions.
“Marine cloud brightening” is another solar-related intervention. “The idea is to increase the number and size of low clouds that form over the oceans so that more incoming sunlight bounces back into space instead of heating the ocean.” Scientists have proposed a variety of ways to do this. One, which Mr. Myhrvold’s company has explored, is to outfit ships with equipment to spray seawater into the air as they traverse the ocean. “The salt particles can serve as nuclei for water vapor to condense into droplets, thus forming clouds.”
. . .
“Opponents worry that once you have geoengineering, people won’t make sacrifices to cut emissions. They want a sword of Damocles hanging over humanity as a means to force us to follow their ideology.”
Mr. Myhrvold uses an analogy he describes as “horrible in some ways.” When the AIDS epidemic hit, some people saw it as punishment from God. “Their attitude was, ‘This is what you get if you indulge in the practices we don’t approve of.’ ” In climate change, he says, this moralistic attitude takes the following form: “I don’t like aspects of our society, I don’t like technology, I don’t like capitalism, and this is nature’s retribution. And so we have to change the way we live.” Such beliefs “have become a very powerful disincentive, particularly for academic researchers.”
. . .
“You could imagine a world in which cardiology doesn’t exist because the medical profession said, ‘You fat bastards. You did it to yourselves. We’re not going to help you.’ ”
For the full interview, see:
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date February 17, 2023, and has the title “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; Emission Cuts Will Fail to Stop Climate Change. What to Do Then?”)