Climate Scientists Muscle Into The Gardening Business


Check out my husband Jeff Goodell’s interview with climate scientist David Keith, who feels that geoengineering–or human tinkering with the climate–may well be the only way to offset global warming.

Keith says, "I don’t think that civilization is at stake with global warming. But I think that loss of the natural world we care about is at stake."

Of course, I get chills just thinking about those brutes at the Army Corps of Engineers going to work on our atmosphere, sucking out CO2 or aping volcanoes by shooting small particles into the sky.  But we don’t seem to very successful at minimizing climate change by cutting our carbon consumption, do we?  Who here has quit driving?

Keith’s conclusion: "I think we’ll end up being in the gardening business with this planet."

I’m fine with allowing technocrats to garden the planet, as long as every decision-maker involved is forced first to attend a year-long gardening boot camp where he or she will fork manure and develop a healthy respect for the cycles of nature and the interconnectedness of all life on earth.

Oh, yeah, my second condition is that nobody makes a move without Michael Pollan’s signing off on it.  It was Pollan, prescient man, who argued in his 1992 book Second Nature that the untouched wilderness is finished, and the proper relationship of man to nature is now gardener to garden.


  1. I don’t drive, but I do heat my apartment. I have no good feelings about fiddling with our atmosphere – that’s not something I would want scientists experimenting with. Eeeee. Any unintended consequences could be worse than heating. (Not that global warming isn’t Really Bad, Potentially Fatal, but it’s not like we have a back-up planet in case we mess this one up.)

  2. Well, humans have been doing such a good job of managing the planet so far … We might as well go whole hog!

    (Sorry, it’s Friday afternoon, so I have no energy left for controlling outbursts of sarcasm!)

  3. I disagree with David Keith’s assesment that global warming isn’t a threat to civilization. The threat of war and starvation as climate change causes massive dislocations of whole populations competing for basic resources like food and water could cull human populations drastically. That will change civilization as we know it now. The species Homo sapiens is likely to persist, but in such limited numbers, geoengineering may become an undoable, moot point.

  4. I’m late to comment b/c I’ve been reading and then re-reading JG’s interview with DK, each time trying to fully understand it. Keith’s key message (below) leaves me wondering whether we can ever know what to do, when to do it, and whether it will work. Does it all really come down to luck? Sobering thought, especially coming from a scientist.

    “The central argument has to do with the uncertainty that has persisted for decades and still does about just how bad the climate problem is. [eg] how much the climate will warm if we, say, double the amount of CO2 in the air. And the answer is that’s still uncertain by factors of two or three, which is just gigantic. So if we are very lucky, it might be that we could double or triple the amount of CO2 in the air and have relatively small climate change, some of which might be beneficial. On the flip side, if we’re unlucky, we might see 5 or 6 degrees [Celsius] globally — and you can double that if you’re in the middle of a mid-latitude continent — which is just stunning. That’s as big as the change between the glacial and the interglacial state and that would certainly, over a few hundred years, melt big sections of the ice caps. It’s really quite horrific stuff. And we don’t know which of those two it is, and we’re not going to know in time.”

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