Geoengineering is cool!

It's always surprising how the same folks who for years doubted climate change models and hyped the fear of economic collapse from reducing greenhouse gas emissions are very quick in accepting that geoengineering to cool the planet will be cheap, easy, and fun!
One geoengineering possibility involves injecting sunlight-reflecting sulfate particles into the stratosphere, intended to mimic what large volcanic eruptions already do every once in a while. In a more science-fiction-like vain, another proposal would place numerous small “sunshades” in orbit to prevent a small amount of sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface. For many climate scientists, however, the goal of studying geoengineering isn’t to determine whether any particular proposal is practical or safe, but “to show, with authority, that all such paths are dead-end streets,” and that the focus needs to be on requiring large reductions in people’s fossil-fuel energy consumption.
Much of the climate community still views [geoengineering] with deep suspicion or outright hostility. Geoengineering, many say, is a way to feed society’s addiction to fossil fuels. ‘It’s like a junkie figuring out new ways of stealing from his children,’ says Meinrat Andreae, an atmospheric scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany.
In fact, as Nature reports, Andreae urged Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen not to publish a recent article on climate geoengineering, fearing it would distract policymakers from what Andreae sees as the urgent need to cut fossil fuel use. Every scientist who expressed an opinion in the article thinks reducing fossil fuel use is the policy of choice for mitigating human-caused greenhouse warming.

What is so striking is how these scientists, who rightly highlight the need for careful scientific analysis in characterizing the climate effects of GHG emissions, unwittingly forsake science when thinking about how to mitigate climate change. Instead, they jump right from “burning fossil fuels causes dangerous climate change” to “therefore the best way to stop climate change is reducing fossil fuel use.”
Hmmh. Foresaking science. Let's go read that Nature article, shall we?
If a burst of sulphates might allow the world to postpone the effects of emissions control for a few decades, would a consistent effort allow the world to do without control altogether? Wigley points to at least one reason why not. Carbon dioxide does more than just warm — it also acidifies the ocean3. Even if the warming effects of ever-increasing carbon dioxide could be cancelled out, the effects on corals, shellfish and eventually the entire marine food web would still be disastrous. And even the most vigorous proponents of geoengineering do not suggest that it can defer any need to reduce emissions indefinitely. "If you are digging a hole and want out of it, certainly slowing your digging rate is good," says Gregory Benford, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Irvine, who is also a noted science-fiction writer and something of a geoengineering enthusiast. "But," he continues, "you need a ladder."

Even a strictly term-limited scheme has potential pitfalls. Wigley's model deals only with average global temperatures, and there is much more to the climate than that. For decades, climate scientists dubious about geoengineering schemes have pointed out that the pattern of warming expected from carbon dioxide, and the pattern of cooling expected from aerosols, would differ in both space and time. Aerosols cool things only when the Sun is shining, and they cool things most where the Sun shines brightest. They thus cool only in the day and more in summer and the tropics. Greenhouse gases warm things night and day, and their effect is greater at the poles. The two factors could thus cancel each other out in terms of global average, while fundamentally changing the way that the climate works region by region.
One model, however, showed that this would be the case over only 15% of the earth, so it's potentially doable as a short-term solution as long as we're willing to accept that those living in the 15% are screwed. I forget...how much of the planet is covered in water again? To stay on the safe side, it is proposed that we might try it at medium altitudes over the arctic first, where it might have the greatest benefit and the most rapid flushing out if things go bad. Sounds interesting, and possibly worth trying but it is in no way the panacea Joel Schwartz makes it out to be, since we'll still have to drastically reduce carbon emissions, albeit over a slightly longer timeframe. Schwartz, of course, wants to inject some fear into this situation.
In other words, we should worry about the risks of climate change; we should worry about the risks of geoengineering; and we should apply our most meticulous and careful scientific thought to characterizing these risks. But we should not consider — indeed we should remain utterly unaware of — the risks of forcing wealthier people to stop using, and preventing poorer people from starting to use, the fossil-fuel energy that played a leading and essential role in the vast improvements in human health, prosperity, and life expectancy during the last hundred years.
...at least for wealthy people. People will die if we stop using fossil fuels. On the other hand, geoengineering will be easy! If anyone is looking for media is "hysteria" this might be a good place to start.
What is astonishing is climate scientists’ obliviousness that the exact same concerns apply to policies to ration, tax or otherwise restrict access to fossil-fuel energy.

What accounts for scientists’ policy blinkers? It’s hard to know for sure, since we’re talking about what goes on inside people’s heads. I suspect part of the answer lies in an implicit assumption, even by many scientists, that alternatives to fossil-fuel energy are just as cheap and convenient, but that dark corporate and government forces have prevented them from being disseminated. Never mind the countervailing evidence such as the fact that decades of $5 and $6 per gallon gasoline in Europe has failed to create economically viable alternatives to gasoline- or diesel-powered automobiles. [...]

Climate scientists’ ignorance of the factors that contribute to long, safe, healthy, and prosperous lives for the world’s people is what makes them so dangerous in the debate over what to do about climate change. Their scientific credentials give them great authority on the world policy stage. Yet like the boyfriend who is in fact “high maintenance” while unwittingly believing himself to be “low maintenance,” climate scientists believe their policy recommendations to be based on science, rather than on unexamined prejudices that are yet to be subjected to scientific scrutiny. Only at our peril do we continue to dance to their tune.
Uhm, yeah. Maybe the IPCC assessment had something to do with it as well.
The IPCC’s economic models reckon, on average, that if the world adopted such a price the global economy would be 1.3% smaller than it otherwise would have been by 2050; or, put another way, global economic growth would be 0.1% a year lower than it otherwise would have been.

The world would barely notice such figures; so one might think that climate change can be easily sorted. The problem, of course, is that the numbers work only if they are applied globally. If a few countries—even a few big countries—adopt a carbon price, it will make little difference. All the world’s big emitters need to do it. Which brings the world straight back to the problem that sank Kyoto. No country alone can make a difference, and it is in every country’s interest to ensure that everybody else bears the burden. As the IPCC report convincingly argues, the technology and the economics of this problem are easily soluble. It is the politics that is so difficult.
Just sayin'.