Cross-posted from Geoff Brumfiel on The Great Beyond
Yesterday the Royal Society, Britain’s premier scientific body, delivered its official view on geoengineering. Scientists analyzed a dozen different approaches and weighed their pros and cons. Then, being scientists, they plotted their results in a bizarre phase space that nobody could understand. Many a reporter, myself included, were scratching our heads when co-author Ken Caldeira popped this little gem up onto the screen:
(Note: error bars are purely symbolic. Huh?)
Now I want to be fair, the Royal Society report is actually very well written and it contains a lot of good information about the geoengineering proposals out there. But it’s a nuanced take on a complex issue. So it’s not surprising that you saw a range of headlines. The most
inaccurate enthusiastic one by far, came from those lovely folks at the Register:
The Financial Times landed on the other end of the spectrum:
And in between came everybody else:
Study says ‘geoengineering’ to flight climate likely, but risky (USA Today)
Royal Society warns climate engineering ‘could cause disaster’ (the Times)
Investment in geo-engineering needed immediately, says Royal Society (the Guardian)
These headlines make the report look like a Kurosawa film, but most of the actual stories are pretty accurate in my opinion. The bottom line is that the Royal Society felt that the only sure way to save the planet is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But in the event of a global climate emergency, we should at least know the consequences of geoengineering.
You can read our coverage here.
Update: The Register headline was referring to an article in Physics World that came out the same day.
Update: I’ve included the updated diagram off the Royal Society website.