A Modest Proposal for Hacking the Planet

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Are our worst-case scenario predictions about global warming overly optimistic? A new report published in the journal Oceanography argues that world leaders have underestimated the catastrophic consequences of climate change, and we may soon have to turn to dramatic options for reversing the warming trend.

In “A Very Inconvenient Truth,” lead author Charles H. Greene, a professor of Earth and atmospheric science at Cornell University, argues that the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report, released in 2007, is too rosy.

Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped tomorrow and levels stabilized at today’s concentration, says Greene, global temperatures would still increase 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, which is “significantly above the level which scientists and policy makers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change.”

“Of course, greenhouse gas emissions will not stop tomorrow, so the actual temperature increase will likely be significantly larger, resulting in potentially catastrophic impacts to society unless other steps are taken to reduce the Earth’s temperature,” he says.

Greene’s proposed solution to this epic problem is geoengineering–a highly controversial subject. See the Mother Jones piece “Climate Hacking 101″ and dispatches from a recent conference on the topic for more. But as predictions about the planet’s fate grow more dire, we can expect more modest proposals to radically alter the earth’s atmosphere like this. The authors are probably spot on, however, in their conclusions about why we should even be thinking about this in the first place: “investing in geoengineering research now will enable policymakers to make informed decisions based on science rather than uninformed decisions made out of desperation.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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