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Book Reviews: Geoengineering

Reviews by Alexandra Witze

1:39pm, May 21, 2010
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Hack the Planet: Science's Best Hope - or Worst Nightmare - for Averting Climate Catastrophe
Eli Kintisch

How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate
Jeff Goodell
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Two new books serve as guides to the latest tactic against climate change: geoengineering, the act of deliberately manipulating Earth’s climate to cool it down.

Kintisch, a reporter for the journal Science, dubs geoengineering “planet­hacking.” It’s an apt description for sci-fi–sounding fixes, such as spewing sulfur particles into the atmos­phere or building carbon dioxide–sucking machines.

Geoengineering has gained scientific traction in the past few years, and Kintisch’s on-the-scene reporting illuminates tense discussions happening as a result, many behind closed doors. In one example of his reporter’s-notebook approach, he takes readers inside the recent Bush administration, where officials debated the wisdom of implementing global climate manipulation.

Goodell, a Rolling Stone contributor, takes a more narrative and historical approach, speaking with players such as Lowell Wood, a weapons scientist and geoengineering proponent who sprinkles e-mails about planetary doom with emoticons. Goodell’s background as a journalistic observer of technological change positions him well to probe social challenges raised by geoengineering.

Both books send a clear message: In the fight against climate change, planet­hacking may be a necessary, if frightening, option.

Kintisch: Wiley, 2010, 288 p., $25.95; Goodell: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, 272 p., $26.

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