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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Geo-engineering, anyone?, 10 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (Hardcover)
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This is a sequel to the best-seller of a few years ago. That book, 'Freakonomics', got people talking because it exploded the myth of the 'super-fly' drug dealer as depicted on TV and demonstrated that this 'career' had a corporate structure identical with legal businesses, the main difference being that the benefits and pay were lousy (the headline fact: most dealers still live with their mothers) and the occupational safety record.

The rest of the book was as interesting, depicting human self-interest behaviour that contradicted conventional thinking.

This book is mostly as revelatory. We discover that the bottom has not fallen out of the world's oldest profession - it's actually the middle - and that estate agents may be close to complete extinction.

One thing that appears not to be close to extinction is the human race. The five-star rating of this book is because of the discussion about Global Warming. This is ideal Superfreakonomics territory as it has to do with statistics and how perceptions are not the same as what the facts actually show. For example the worlds worst greenhouse gas turns out to be water droplets, not carbon dioxide. And this leads on to why people are talking about this new book.

Just as man may have contributed to the warming of the planet (note the 'may'), it is possible that man may be able to cool the planet, and for what is in global terms, small change.

The key term is 'geo-engineering'. We remake the planet to suit ourselves.

For all this the book becomes not a good book, but a great book. Once again there is hope. We are once again the masters of nature, not completely at its mercy. This book has attracted criticism from environmentalists, but their rhetoric has more to do with an earth-worshipping irrationality than the fact that as rational conscious beings, mankind can design a way out of this problem instead of committing ourselves and future generations to a form of quasi-virtuous self-denial and sacrifice which would be globally unenforceable as developing economies demand more cheap energy and get it from the burning of fossil fuels.

If you not only believe, but know, that technology will always provide the solutions, then this is the book for you. Out there, people are trying to fix climate problems instead of letting rain (or heat) stop play.

Man, not Mother Earth, is on top again.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Nov 2009 08:40:41 GMT
Max says:
The criticisms of the chapter on global warming are in some cases made by fervent environmentalists who would reject geoengineering at all costs. But in other cases, such as my review elsewhere on this page, the criticisms are motivated instead by the despair that Superfreakonomics will generate exactly such ill-informed reviews and reactions as this one.

I entirely agree that if we could geoengineer the planet as the Stev(ph)ens suggest, this would be a triumph for mankind and a cause for worldwide celebration. But the authors' arguments in favour of this are poorly researched and shot through with holes. This doesn't mean that geoengineering is impossible, or that we shouldn't attempt it. It does mean that reviews like this one, which uncritically accept the arguments in Superfreakonomics and use them as a basis for arguing that we no longer need worry about temperature rises because "man is on top again", completely miss the point.

And its by instilling in such uncritical readers (such as this reviewer) the sense that we no longer need to bother grappling with the challenges of increasing demands for energy with decreasing capacity of the planet to absorb the emissions associated with that energy that the authors do a disservice to their fellow humans on a grand scale.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Feb 2010 11:57:33 GMT
Max,

My joy at this book was that there had been proposed a technological solution to the so-called problem of 'global warming'.

Prior to this the only course seemed to be some form of self scourging, by winding down our technological civilisation.

Hence my cheerleading.

We are already seeing the whole global warming theory appearing to be based on fraud by climate experts who have been waiting for 2000 years to return to the status they had when they were Pharoahs.

It's nice to see the Physicists getting into the fray.
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