Clive Hamilton: geoengineering/new skies


Playing God with the Planet: Clive Hamilton & Peter Singer on ethics/politics of geoengineering

Geoengineering + State of the World 2014

41QLWubvX+L._AA160_Mike Hulme’s new book against geoengineering is going to come out soon and it has already been reviewed in Nature.

I’ve linked to debates between Mike and David Keith before on geoengineering and am looking forward to reading the sustained argument he no doubt makes in this book.

This is especially the case since about a year ago I worked on my first take on the governance aspects of geoengineering with respect to how we imagine our place among other earth systems in the Anthropocene.

9781610915410That work is set to come out tomorrow as a chapter co-authored with Peter Brown in the annual State of the World report published by Island Press.

International law and the mis-anthropocene: responding to geoengineering

Here is a recent talk by Karen Scott, that draws on this recent article (pdf) and which focuses on some of the normative challenges geoengineering poses for the anthropocene.

The geoengineering debate: Keith vs. Hulme

Yesterday’s debate on geoengineering at Oxford between Dr. Keith (Harvard) and Dr. Hulme (King’s College London) was very interesting. Some of the questions at the end veer off topic (although sometimes in revealing ways).

20 problems with geoengineering, 1 problem with that thing…Nature

I have a few posts on geoengineering lately (Hamilton’s new book, Earthmasters, an upcoming workshop, and on competing views). I thought I would add this recent essay to the mix on 20 reasons geoengineering may be a bad idea [PDF]. An interesting aspect of the essay is an inserted text box on the ethics of geoengineering.

This normative dimension was of interest to me because I’m finalizing my latest book chapter this week on the topic of ethics, governance and geoengineering in the Anthropocene. It will be out next year and I’ll have more details then.

Approaching geoengineering from within the Anthropocene requires considering the broader view of the world that legitimated (I would argued that required is more accurate) a wealthy minority of humans taking such a disproportionate and large share of the earth’s life support systems. It also requires confronting the idea of Nature held in that troublesome view. On this, Ursula Heise has a new essay on that thing formerly known as Nature. You can read it here.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

Encounters with the Thing Formerly Known as Nature

Ursula Heise

September 9, 2013 — We used to call it nature: forests, lakes, foxes, butterflies, mosquitoes, dandelions. Soils and oceans. Seasonal cycles. Also floods and heat waves and the occasional hurricane. But no more: as Bill McKibben, the environmental writer and activist founder of, put it back in 1989, climate change implies the end of nature. Nature, McKibben argued, meant a realm separate from human agency, at least for the modern American society of the last two centuries. Anthropogenic climate change, by transforming even places where no human has yet set foot, even atmospheric processes and ocean depths, leaves no particle of the planet untouched and therefore puts it all under the sway of human action. Nature as we used to know it, as the other of human society, is no more.

The idea that true nature is only what has not been touched by humans has since come under serious attack as a distinctively American environmentalist bias. It has little traction in developing countries, where environmentalism often means local communities defending their own uses of nature, or in Europe, where untouched nature has been a scarce commodity for centuries. But the idea that humankind now faces a new and fundamentally changed natural world took shape in 2000, when the atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen and the ecologist Eugene Stoermer proposed the notion of the “Anthropocene,” a new geological era distinct from the Holocene. Humans’ impact on the planet is now so pervasive that it will be visible even in the Earth’s geological strata, Crutzen and Stoermer suggested, and this justifies thinking of our time as a new and different planetary age.” READ MORE HERE

Geoengineering: workshop and some recent posts

I’ve posted a bit about geoengineering before (here) and have mentioned Clive Hamilton’s new book Earthmasters here. Clive had an interesting post on his website recently about how geoengineering requires conceptualizing the earth as a whole and what Heidegger may have to say about that.

In response, Tim Morton tweeted that this geoengineering is “A desperate attempt to stop earth from jutting through world.”

And this got me thinking about how geoengineering is not a Plan B just in case global climate negotiations fail. Rather, geoengineering is more of Plan A – a way to keep us from challenging the basic ways of living that have led us to the (perceived) need for geoenginnering itself. As Tim points out, it keeps our understanding of the “world” safe by continuing to subdue the earth.

If you are interested, there is an upcoming workshop on geoengineering that will be streamed live on October 17th. Details below:





  • Johns Hopkins Washington, DC Center
  • 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW
  • Room 204


  • Lee Lane, Visiting Scholar, Hudson Institute
  • Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute, Washington, DC
  • Simon Nicholson, Assistant Professor of International Relations, School of International Service, American University

About the Roundtable

Up until recently, climate change geoengineering, defined by the UK’s Royal Society as “the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change,” was viewed as outside the mainstream, or as Professor David Victor has put it less charitably, “a freak show in otherwise serious discussions of climate science and policy.” However, the feckless response of the global community to climate change ensures that temperatures are likely to rise to levels during this century that could have potentially catastrophic implications for human institutions and ecosystems. This had led to increasingly serious consideration of the potential role of geoengineering as a potential means to avert a “climate emergency,” such as rapid melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, or as a stopgap measure to buy time for effective emissions mitigation responses. This roundtable will examine the ethical, legal and political issues associated with climate change geoengineering research and development and potential deployment.

Dr. Wil Burns, Associate Director
Master of Science, Energy Policy & Climate Program
Johns Hopkins University

Climate engineering – two views

I’d like to contrast two views of geo-engineering – of trying to secure a technical fix that would solve, or at least stem, significant climate change. Several ways of doing this are proposed, such as sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and burying it deep underground in empty aquifers. Or pumping up sulphates into the high atmosphere where they will reflect sunlight back to space – similar to when a volcano erupts.

View one:

A few months back I mentioned Clive Hamilton’s new book, Earthmasters. . Clive recently wrote this piece in the New York Times and gave this interview at Democracy Now.

View two:

Back in May I had a chance to hear David Keith speak. He is a climate scientist at Harvard and has a new book coming out with MIT Press that makes the case for climate engineering. In his view, the science is sound – so we know what will happen when we do certain things like put sulphates up in the atmosphere. But the solutions are imperfect, so we might not know all that happens. But that just means it is not a silver bullet. It is one part of our arsenal that cannot be avoided in public policy. Here is a talk Keith gave:

I bring up these two views because an article was recently published in Science that suggests sulphates are not as well understood as previously thought. Here is a lay summary of the article.