How To Cool The Planet, by Jeff Goodell
  • Jeff's Homepage
  • Reviews
  • Interviews
  • Key notions:
    • "sustainable retreat" — James Lovelock's proposal
    • geoengineering: "the fevered dream of panicked politicians"
    • "For American scientists, life in the gulag ended November 4, 2008, with the election of President Barack Obama."
  • My Favorite Quotes
    • p. 3: "…[CO2] levels in the earth's atmosphere are rising to concentrations not seen in twenty million years, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, the earth's climate is warming even faster than scientists had predicted just a few years ago."
    • p. 7: "Everyone wants to be hopeful about the possibilities of the renewable energy revolution, but the truth is, getting off coal in the near future…is a monumentally difficult challenge. And if we can't get off coal, it doesn't matter if every SUV driver rides a skateboard to work and Al Gore takes over as chairman of ExxonMobil — we won't have a hope in hell of staving off dangerous climate change."
    • p. 8: "…the 2007 IPCC report is already woefully out-of-date. … Credible studies now indicate that temperatures in the United States could increase by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century…." More: "James Hansen…told me during a conversation in 2009…the seas could rise by as much as nine feet by the end of the century."
    • p. 11: "…thirty billion tons of CO2 that humans dump into the atmosphere every year…."
    • p. 13: "…in the aftermath of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit…it's increasingly hard to cling to the idea that we're going to solve this problem with cooperation and good intentions."
    • p. 14: "…geoengineering starts to look less like the fevered dream of mad scientists and more like the fevered dream of panicked politicians."
    • p. 15: Combining dire warnings about climate action's economic costs with exaggerated claims about geoengineering's potential is the new climate denialism."
    • p. 21: "The simple and obvious fact is that Western civilization as we know it is unsustainable." More: "…riding out the climate crisis uncushioned by geoengineering…could provide the shock we need to sober up."
    • p. 24: "My wife Michele, a passionate gardener who grows a good percentage of the vegetables our family eats [views] industrial farming [as] an unsustainable practice….Michele looks at suburban lawns and sees wasted space where gardens should grow. She sees a world that is in danger of forgetting the most basic survival skill — how to put a seed in the ground and make it grow…."
    • p. 83: "…when science becomes directly involved with politics, the concept of scientific truth becomes modified, warped, and totally abandoned."
    • p. 87: "…what is the earth for? Is it a launching pad for human beings, a playground for us to explore before moving on to some greater destiny? Or is it a sacred and fragile place, a miracle of life in a cold and dead universe?" More: "…before you can intelligently design something…the first question you have to ask is, what is its purpose?"
    • p. 89: "…Lovelock is now convinced that the planet is in deep trouble. 'Our future,' he has written, 'is like that of the passengers on a small pleasure boat sailing quietly above the Niagara Falls, not knowing that the engines are about to fail.'" More: "…it's too late to stop the climate changes that are already underway."
    • p. 90: "'…Gaia is pitiless, you know…. We've screwed her. And she will have her revenge.'" [Lovelock, quoted]
    • p. 91: "Lovelock…once listened to Mother Teresa tell a crowd at the University of Oxford 'to take care of the poor, the sick, and the hungry and leave God to take care of the earth.' Outraged, Lovelock stood up and said, 'I must disagree with the reverend lady. If we as people do not respect and take care of the earth, we can be sure that the earth, in the role of Gaia, will take care of us and, if necessary, eliminate us.'"
    • p. 99: "…Daisyworld….was to show how organisms evolving under rules of natural selection are part of a system that is self-regulating."
    • p. 102: "The resiliency of the system was gone. The forgiveness had been used up. 'The whole system,' Lovelock recalled thinking, 'is in failure mode.'" More: […a 2007 report, the IPCC estimated that by 2100, global warming due to rising greenhouse gas emissions would cause inland glaciers to melt and seas to expand, causing a maximum sea level rise of only twenty-three inches." Continuing onto the next page:
    • p. 103: "…some of the very same scientists who contributed to the 2007 IPCC report now believe that the sea could rise by three feet or more by the end of the century…. James Hansen takes it even further, arguing that the seas could rise by as much as nine feet." More: "Clouds are also problematic. In particular, satellite data has shown that cloud convection data in the tropics is misrepresented in most climate models…. Lovelock believes that the observational data in recent years makes it clear that climate models have been too conservative. 'There are plenty of scientists who know exactly how flawed these models are and how dire our situation has become,' Lovelock said. 'A number of them are willing to talk with me about it in private, but they are unwilling to discuss it in public. They are afraid that if they are accused of being alarmists, they'll lose their jobs."
    • p. 104: "'Nobody likes to think about how fragile civilization really is,' Lovelock told me over lunch one day. 'We really could lose it all.'" More: "To Lovelock, the whole idea of sustainable development is wrong-headed: 'We should be thinking about sustainable retreat.'"
    • p. 106: "Lovelock argued that…civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear…now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet."
    • p. 109: "For American scientists, life in the gulag ended November 4, 2008, with the election of President Barack Obama."
    • p. 111: "Caldeira…likes to compare emitting CO2 to mugging old ladies: 'It's wrong to mug little old ladies, and it's wrong to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,' he told me. 'The right target for mugging little old ladies and for carbon dioxide emissions is zero.'"
    • p. 139: John Martin: quoted to say (jokingly) "Give me half a tanker of iron, and I'll give you an ice age."
    • p. 168: Description of the Salter trimaran, with Flettner rotors
    • p. 183: "One of the key processes in creating clouds in the marine boundary layer - the scientific term for the humid, turbulent, two-kilometer-deep part of the atmosphere over the oceans — is convection."
    • p. 187: "…a report on geoengineering released by the British Royal Society in 2009…was a comprehensive attempt to consider the risks and benefits of a number of geoengineering options and to lay out a road map for further research."
    • p. 194: "What's happening to our climate is known…as a tragedy of the commons. Even when most of the farmers in a village agree not to overgraze their community pasture, one or two let their sheep out in the middle of the night, thinking they will gain an advantage over the others and make a little extra money. Before long, the pasture is ruined, the sheep starve, and all the farmers have to find new work as telemarketers." Bad social dynamics!
    • p. 197: "…{geoengineering scenarios} all involve solar radiation management technologies — mostly stratospheric aerosols. Right now, that is the only technology that might be deployed fast enough, and cheaply enough, to pose an immediate threat." (what about dumping iron?)
    • p. 210: "'Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response,' the New York Times reported in 2009."
    • p. 216: "…a YouTube clip of Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, the biggest and most ruthless coal company in Appalachia, speaking at a a pro-coal rally in West Virginia. Like many old-fashioned coal barons, Blankenship thinks the idea that human beings have anything to do with global warming is a myth propagated by tree-huggers and anticapitalists. A few minutes into his speech, he said 'Only God can change the earth's temperature, not Al Gore.'" (Al Gore bashing is the favorite technique of the deniers.)
    • p. 218: "…it is time to discard our romantic fantasies about Mother Nature and realize that she is not a benevolent force — she is, as Lee Silver, a molecular biologist at Princeton University, has put it, 'a nasty bitch' who is capable of wiping out billions of people without shedding a tear."
    • p. 220: "Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, argued that the greatest danger we face is not technological hubris, but human apathy: 'In the doomsday scenarios we are so often invited to contemplate, the ultimate tragedy is that a material world capable of being a manifestation in human hands of divine love is left to itself, as humanity is gradually choked, drowned or starved by its own stupidity.'" More: "Geoengineering may well turn out to be yet another tool of dominance, a newfangled way for human beings to screw things up even faster." More: "…the rising interest in geoengineering is driven less by mad scientists than by spineless politicians. The failure of the Copenhagen climate conference in December 2009 is the latest case in point."
    • p. 221: "The Financial Times called 'the emptiest deal one could imagine, short of a fistfight.' The Royal Society, Britain's most respected scientific body, said that the world was now 'one step closer to a humanitarian crisis.'" More: "…it is now time to prepare in a practical-minded way for life in a rapidly changing climate."
    • p. 222: "If we find ourselves in the middle of the climate equivalent of the subprime mortgage meltdown, there is no telling how soon we might start throwing dust up into the sky."
    • p. 223: "…messing with the earth's albedo is where most of the danger lies, politically and environmentally. Clearly, the best risk-reduction tool is knowledge."
    • p. 224: "…Big Oil and Big Coal could use the prospect of geoengineering as yet another way to divert our attention away from the need for deep cuts in greenhouse gas pollution."
    • p. 225: "…the conflict over geoengineering will become coarser and more politicized. It will be very easy for the media to crank up fears about crazy scientists, especially given the astounding levels of scientific illiteracy in America."
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License