How to Cool the Planet: Book summary and reviews of How to Cool the Planet by Jeff Goodell

How to Cool the Planet

Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate

By Jeff Goodell

How to Cool the Planet
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2010,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

When Jeff Goodell first encountered the term "geoengineering," he had a vague sense that it involved outlandish schemes to counteract global warming. As a journalist, he was deeply skeptical. But he was also intrigued. The planet was in trouble. Could geoengineers help?

Climate change may well be the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. Temperatures in some regions of the world could increase by as much as fifteen degrees by the end of the century, causing rising sea levels and severe droughts. But change could also happen much more suddenly. What if we had a real climate emergency, the ecological equivalent of the subprime mortgage meltdown — how could we cool the planet in a hurry?

As Goodell shows in this bracing book, even if we could muster the political will for it, cutting greenhouse gas emissions alone may not be enough to reduce the risk of climate catastrophe. This has led some scientists to pursue extreme solutions: huge contraptions that would suck CO2 from the air, machines that would brighten clouds and deflect sunlight away from the earth, even artificial volcanoes that would spray heat-reflecting particles into the atmosphere.

In How to Cool the Planet, Goodell explores the scientific, political, financial, and moral aspects of geoengineering. How are we to change the temperature of whole regions if we can't even predict next week's weather? What if a wealthy entrepreneur shoots particles into the stratosphere on his own? What about wars waged with climate control as the primary weapon? What happens to our relationship with nature when, as Goodell puts it, we all find ourselves living in a giant terrarium?

And our options are dwindling. Maybe, Goodell suggests, we need to start taking geoengineering seriously. Maybe it's Plan B for the planet. And if it is, we need to know enough to get it right.

Thoroughly reported and convincingly argued, How to Cool the Planet is a compelling tale of scientific hubris and technical daring. But it is also a thoughtful, even-handed look at a deeply complex and controversial issue. It's a book that will surely jump-start the next big debate about the future of life on earth.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In a genre dominated by doomsday scenarios, Goodell's treatment is refreshingly lighthearted...and his provocative account achieves a fine balance between the inventor's enthusiasm and the scientist's skepticism. " - Publishers Weekly

"This thought-provoking introduction to the complex ethical and technical issues related to using geoengineering to resolve our climate crisis is recommended for general and academic readers concerned about global warming." - Library Journal

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Author Information

Jeff Goodell Author Biography

Photo: 2005 Jonathan Barber

Jeff Goodell was born and raised in Silicon Valley, where his family had lived for four generations. He has worked as a blackjack dealer, a glazier, a janitor, a bartender at a topless club, an editor at a Russian literary journal, and a technical writer at Apple. He has a BA in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia University.

He began his career as a journalist covering crime and politics in New York City for 7 Days, a weekly magazine that won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 1990. Since 1996 he has been a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, where he has written about a wide variety of subjects, from hookers and politicians to climate scientists and internet billionaires. "Down and Out in Silicon Valley," a ...

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