A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the move to change the name of global warming to something like "pollution death" in an attempt to make it sound scarier. Now some scientists are suggesting changing the name of geoengineering to something less scary.
The concern is that the word geoengineering is frightening and confusing, and also gives the wrong impression about what exactly what us planetary geoengineers are considering doing. The problem, some say, is that the term "geo" refers to the earth rather than just to climate, and the word engineering conjures up images of an engineer designing a bridge or a man operating a train---something that is much simpler than the complex global climate system. Professor Raymond Pierrehumbert recently wrote:
“Engineering is something you do to a system you understand very well, where you can try out new techniques thoroughly at a small scale before staking peoples’ lives on them.....Hacking the climate is different—we have only one planet to live on, and can’t afford any big mistakes.”
Personally, I like the term geoengineering----most geoengineering ideas involve modifying or augmenting some natural earth process in the ocean, land, biosphere or atmosphere, and so clearly involve the earth. Other geoengineering concepts involve storing CO2 in some natural repository in the Earth. For instance, my own CO2 Antarctic Pumpdown geoengineering proposal would store the CO2 in the cryosphere. The term "geo" therefore perfectly fits the actual nature of geoengineering. And as far as the term engineering----one definition of engineering is the scientific manipulation of large systems. Its exactly right.
Still, if we are going to stop using the term "geoengineering" lets be smart about the term we replace it with. Some scientists who want the term "geoengineering" to be abandoned have suggesting replacing it with “climate intervention.” However the term "climate intervention" is even more misleading, in my opinion. "Climate Intervention" sounds like our good friend Mr. Climate has had too much to drink again and is falling down the stairs so we are going to do a "climate intervention" and put Mr. Climate in a cab and take him to a detox clinic.
If we are going to replace geoengineering with something less scary, then we can find a phrase that's better than "climate intervention". We want a term that describes the process of manipulating Earth's climate in a way that sounds harmless and helpful and friendly and inviting. We want a term that nobody can say they are against. And I've thought of the perfect term----lets replace geoengineering with the term "climate improvement."
How could anyone be against climate improvement*?
*pssst---just don't tell anyone that it actually means "geoengineering".