Are technological fixes the only feasible option to address climate change?


“Some strategists still see a small window of opportunity to address climate change before the effects become damaging and costly. At least one economist, for example, says we can make a lot of progress if at least half the world agrees to put a price tag on the carbon we dump into the atmosphere.

“But some big thinkers also see a grim, potentially dangerous world ahead — one where nations, confronting a climate crisis, will instead reach for a risky technological fix,” writes NPR’s Richard Harris.

Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia, is raising that alarm. He has been in the United States talking about his recent book on the subject, Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering, and we sat down with him to learn why this longtime commentator on climate change has become increasingly concerned.

“Well, I think anyone who looks at the science, the severity of what we face, and takes a realistic view of the prospects of political action over the next decade or so … has to be glum,” Hamilton says.

He reaches back into intellectual history to lay out his argument, putting our current plight into the context of the Age of Reason — the Enlightenment.

“For 300 years or so we’ve imagined that we are rational creatures who gather evidence, assess it and change our behavior in order to assure our future,” Hamilton says. “Well, we’re not doing that.”

For one thing, humans have never had to face a challenge of this magnitude, Hamilton says, one that calls for both rapid action and the cooperation of many nations all around the world.

“But I think there are some deeper things going on,” he says, “deep within the human psyche [that have] to do with an unwillingness to face up to the severity of what the climate scientists are saying is … already unfolding [and] will unfold in over the next decades.”

There’s a huge gap between what needs to be done and what’s considered doable from an economic and political point of view.

Today’s Question: Are technological fixes the only feasible option to address climate change?