Is There a Hail Mary in Your Future?


Guardian columnist Moira Donegan poses an important question, "what if it's too late to save our planet without geoengineering?"

What if? Donegan may be right. We may have allowed the man-made damage to our environment to reach a point where we do indeed need to resort to geoengineering.

Sure, just as every country experiences the climate emergency differently according to their unique vulnerabilities, the most commonly discussed geoengineering options may work for some but cause nightmares for others. Still, if we go into our bag of climate change options and that's the last one left we may have no choice but to take it.

Geoengineering isn't much of a long-term solution. It's a response to an otherwise unsurvivable emergency. There is no magic wand answer to this terrible predicament.

A more helpful and long-ranging response is to accept that our species must live in harmony with the environment, our one and only biosphere. We live on a finite planet. Earth can support a finite number of humans. It can support a finite level of consumption. It can cleanse a finite volume of our waste and pollution. Today, each of those three is not just running in the red, it's off the dial. 

If we are going to continue inhabiting this planet we'll have to walk our way back on population, on consumption and on waste to bring humanity's footprint safely within the planet's carrying capacity. There's little point in being aboard a lifeboat that's so overloaded the water is at the gunwales. Sooner or later, you're going to drown.

During the Holocene it was estimated that the world was able to support a maximum human population of about 3-billion.  That was around the mid-1970s.  Since then we've soared to nearly 8 billion. While we were growing in raw numbers we were also engineering improvements in longevity and consumption. It's estimated that our degraded environment today can support perhaps 2 billion, no more.

There is a way to fix these existential threats but that doesn't mean we'll take it. We're reluctant to talk about it. Imagine a game of musical chairs where they remove six chairs leaving just two. That's not very appealing. We're in no mood for doing without.


  1. In our profit motivated world I can see geoengineering becoming quite fashionable.
    Most would rather say; I'm making a killing at geoengineering than others saying, I sucked up and did without to save the planet.


    1. Geoengineering could have unexpected consequences, TB, as what benefits one region may greatly harm another. There are some who express fear that China, beset by just about every climate impact in one area or another, could act unilaterally.


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