My recent ideas on Climate Change have been challenged from two different directions. A Superfreakonomics chapter championing geo-engineering and Realclimates attack of it.
Geo-engineering as a "Fix" or even a quick-fix didn't particularly appeal to me in the past because it comes up against the same Geopolitical issues of responsibility and duty that reductions of carbon has.
However, I have had a great respect for freakonomics in teasing out facts and relationships that are counterintuitive, because they demonstrate something new, interesting and almost always useful knowledge.
What I really liked about the chapter was that Levitt & Dubner definitely showed the nuanced nature of their convictions, because they steered away from cliched views and had plenty of solid scientific foundation to their arguments.
Although western societies do not have a tradition of scientific weather-making, the RMP (of China) have that tradition. For instance in the Beijing games they used rockets to prevent storms from interrupting events. It is not much of a stretch to imagine that they will be the first to try some of these geo-engineering feats - perhaps under the guise of something else.
Levitt and Dubner, I believe use the axiom that modifying behaviour will not work. For this they are hammered.
I actually believe the near impenetrable issues with global agreements to reduce GHG's are equivalent to the near impenetrable issues of agreements to use (or agreements not to scupper unilateral efforts) to use geo-engineering.
In a big way changing behaviour is a type of Geo-engineering. Realclimate authors use the axiom that it is better to try to reverse back to a recent known state than to move quickly to a totally new regime that optimises, say average temperature.
I think the point is probably moot, as for both behavioural geo-engineering and the standard sort, way more "metering" of all relevant GHG's is a prerequisite for internalising the externality of warming, whether the overall rise in temperature or whatever is found to be insignificant or not. All engineering is reliant on absolutely rock-solid repeatable scientific foundation. "metering" as well as actual weather/climate numerically predictive science is a prerequisite for humans' incentive programs to help humanity. The science is decades away from that. Both Realclimate and superfreakonomics is in some way guessing and perhaps betting on what the future helpful programs will be.
As for which "side" I am taking in this case : I am siding somewhat with Superfreakonomics because at least it has something new to say and not as Cliched as the Realclimates riposte.
As far as the Economist is concerned, it seems to have sided with RealClimate.