April 30, 2013
to be posted on nobabies.net

Clive Hamilton
Professor of Public Ethics
Charles Sturt University

Dear Professor Hamilton:
I read with strong agreement your article.  (Clive Hamilton No, We Should Not “At least do the research” NATURE vol. 496 no. 7444 April 22, 2013 page 139)  You point out that doing research on climate engineering would entail building an interest center the primary concern of which would be survival of itself at public cost.  And what in the world makes us think that were research to be done we would put the results to prudent use when we simply do not put the fact that carbon emissions warm the planet to good use? 

There is another issue you did not come down hard on that troubles me every time I read of some such proposal.  We were recently told that the climate had not warmed for the past ten years even though the carbon emissions we persist in spewing out should have warmed it.  So our models are fundamentally limited.  Into that mental vacuum it would be folly to enter with the intent of making changes.  Controlling carbon emissions is different; there we are talking about refraining from continuing into unknown territory.  That seems prudent. 

The kind of thing that worries me here is that if the world should have got warmer and didn’t, maybe had we indeed drastically reduced our emissions the world would have become cooler.  The climate does change.  If a decade of cooling were to herald the return of the ice time then we might be jolly glad we didn’t mount effective but irreversible measures to make it cooler.  But of course reducing carbon emissions is still a good idea; we don’t know what will happen with rising emissions so we shouldn’t go there.

We just don’t know enough to tamper safely, and until we have a few extra planets and this one is expendable, we never shall know enough.  I was most pleased to read your message.


M. Linton Herbert 

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I received a prompt and courteous acknowledgement form Clive Hamilton.