Carl Sagan, the Climate Crisis, and Planetary Engineering

As part of the 14th GeoMIP workshop, we invite the Cornell community to join us for an exciting public seminar by Oliver Morton.

Carl Sagan and Jim Pollack wrote together in 1993: “Clearly more work is needed, but comparatively inexpensive and environmentally prudent methods of mitigating greenhouse warming on Earth may be within reach in the next few decades.” Sagan always thought about planetary climates as things which could be engineered, with papers on terraforming Mars and Venus in the 1960s and 1970s; it is a way of thinking which can be traced back to that of Arrhenius and the other early comparative planetologists of the late 19th/early 20th century. Applying it in a straightforward way to the Earth is problematic in ways Sagan may well not have appreciated. But what he wrote with Pollack thirty years ago was arguably true then and seems definitely true now. What are we to make of the possibility?

Oliver Morton is a British science writer and editor. He has written for many publications, including The American Scholar, Discover, The Economist, The Independent, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, National Geographic, Nature, The New Yorker, Newsweek International, Prospect, and Wired.

Co-sponsored by Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Quadrature Climate Foundation.

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