Summary of What is Geoengineering – and Why Should You Care?

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What is Geoengineering – and Why Should You Care? summary
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Humanity’s unbridled burning of fossil fuels for the last century and a half has caused the Earth to warm to a dangerous degree. Geoengineering provides technological ways to actively cool the planet, buying humans some time as they switch to alternate fuel sources to curb carbon emissions. But geoengineering is risky and controversial, because actions taken by a few – with or without permission, oversight, or regulation – could impact everyone on the globe. Read this to learn more about what these technologies entail and how they might work.

About the Author

James Temple is the senior editor for energy at MIT Technology Review.



People may have to take active measures to cool the planet while also cutting carbon emissions.

Even if everyone on Earth stopped burning fossil fuels right now – which is obviously not going to happen – humans have already set in motion enough warming to effect catastrophic climate change. Cutting carbon emissions is essential, but might not be sufficient. Geoengineering provides a way to actively cool the Earth, buying humanity a bit more time to get their collective act together and shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources. 

Geoengineering can be classified into two different approaches. The first aims to suck carbon out of the atmosphere so the atmosphere will act less like the roof of a greenhouse and trap less heat. The second aims to reflect sunlight away from the planet to allow it to cool.

Most scientists think the first will be necessary to avoid a dangerous level of warming...

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