the Geoengineering debate

51wp+k9do6LRose Cairns at the Berlin Review of Books:

Given that geoengineering represents an attempt to address the symptoms of a problem (climate change) without any effort to address the causes of that problem (unsustainable development patterns), and therefore does not require any of the more fundamental shifts that climate campaigners have long called for, it is unsurprising that these ideas have found enthusiastic advocates among certain free market ideologues. Indeed, Hamilton argues that ‘geoengineering is an essentially conservative technology’ (p. 120), appealing to those to whom any infringement of economic freedoms is anathema. Perhaps the most interesting chapter of this book is Hamilton’s exploration of the personal and institutional linkages that constitute the core of this contested field, outlining the involvement of such right-wing think-tanks as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Institute and the Hoover Institution, as well as influential entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. While the limited number of players has been widely commented upon – the term ‘geoclique’ introduced by Eli Kintisch in 2010 to describe this small group of highly influential individuals, has been widely cited – Hamilton draws attention to the potential importance not just of individuals, but of ways of thinking, and institutional cultures. For example, he highlights the fact that a surprising number of prominent geoengineering researchers and advocates have, at some time, worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Influential in nuclear weapons research during the cold war, it has developed a particular intellectual culture, characterised by the belief that ‘understanding and exercising control of the technologies was sufficient to render them safe, as if mastery in the technical sphere carried over in to the political sphere’ (p. 123). These ideas, Hamilton maintains, are already showing signs of being formative in the emerging debates around geoengineering.

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