Hacking Climate Change

Can we hack our way toward solutions for climate change? While governments dither, Congress negates and the world warms, how about deploying private finance, atmospheric chemistry and every kind of ingenuity to tackle the problem that’s too big to solve?

Political and economic change has been slow in coming for lots of reasons. ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and Shell alone spend tens of millions of dollars per year lobbying to protect oil and gas concerns and to question the climate consensus.  The fault may lie, as Naomi Klein claims in her big new book, with a capitalist economy that favors short-term, non-disruptive fixes and that runs on fossil fuels.  But it may also lie in our brains: we might be hardwired to ignore complicated, slow-moving, author-less threats — and to choose problems like ISIS instead.

But there’s change in the wind. More than 300,000 people marched down 6th Avenue in New York to encourage world leaders to do something. Everyone from the Rockefellers to the World Council of Churches are divesting from fossil fuels (though Harvard President Drew Faust has declined). If we’re coming to realize that climate change is the ultimate big-tent issue, what kind of solutions should we be proposing? What’s the agenda of the new environmental movement?

We’re staying positive and summoning all hands on deck: scientists and engineers, activists and capitalists, pastors and atheists. What will it take to tackle carbon?

Guest List
Jeremy Grantham
investor, co-founder of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo, and the philanthropist behind the Grantham Foundation For the Protection of the Environment.
David Keith
Harvard physicist researching possibilities for solar geoengineering and author of A Case for Climate Engineering from Boston Review Books.
Chloe Maxmin
a senior at Harvard College, co-founder of Divest Harvard, and founder of First Here, Then Everywhere.
Reading List
"As The Planet Warms, So Does the Climate Movement"
Todd Gitlin
In TomDispatch, the sociologist looks at the September march as the start of a genuine, self-recognizing global movement — pretty cool, by our measure:
If what follows sounds circular, so be it: there is a social movement when some critical mass of people feel that it exists and act as if they belong to it.  They begin to sense a shared culture, with its own heroes, villains, symbols, slogans, and chants. Their moods rise and fall with its fate. They take pleasure in each others’ company. They look forward to each rendezvous. And people on every side -- the friendly, the indifferent, as well as the hostile -- all take note of it as well and feel something about it; they take sides; they factor it into their calculations; they strive to bolster or obstruct or channel it. It moves into their mental space.  
"The Race Of Our Lives" (investor letter)
Jeremy Grantham
Grantham's April 2013 letter speaks of the climate and scarcity problem (pdf):
It would be a blessing in disguise for the developed world and the U.S. in particular if China announced a 25-year program of alternative energy (enough of these paltry five-year plans!) that embodied a Manhattan project level of commitment. Within just a handful of years of watching them execute this program, we would calculate the competitive consequences and would be forced defensively to emulate them.  
Hacking the climate: The search for solutions to the world’s greatest challenge
John Harte, "The Grist"
A few local success stories: for example, British Columbia is taxing carbon, and driving innovation all the while; repainting Bay Area roofs a lighter color has diminished smog and lowered temperatures; and spreading compost on American grassland is insulating against drought.
Geoengineering: Testing the Waters
Naomi Klein, "The New York Times"
There's a reasonable wariness of geoengineering in many quarters of the green movement: from old-school environmentalists troubled about the death of ‘the wild’ and a sense of restraint regarding nature, to this, Naomi Klein's critique from the global left:
"But with rogue geoengineers on the loose, it is a good time to pause and ask, collectively, whether we want to go down the geoengineering road. Because the truth is that geoengineering is itself a rogue proposition. By definition, technologies that tamper with ocean and atmospheric chemistry affect everyone. Yet it is impossible to get anything like unanimous consent for these interventions. Nor could any such consent possibly be informed since we don’t — and can’t — know the full risks involved until these planet-altering technologies are actually deployed."

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