10 February 2014

J. D. Bernal on Geoengineering and Climate Change

I am re-reading J. D. Bernal's 1939 classic, The Social Function of Science. In it I found this interesting passage on geoengineering and climate change:

He writes of the future tasks of science and explains (pp. 379-380):
It will no longer be a question of adapting man to the world but the world to man. For instance, the present Arctic with its wastes of tundra, glacier, and sea ice is a legacy of the geological accident of the Ice Age. It will disappear in time, leaving the world a much pleasanter place, but there is no reason why man should not hasten the process. By an intelligent diversion of warm ocean-currents together with some means of colouring snow so that the sun could melt it, it might be possible to keep the Arctic ice-free for one summer, and that one year might tip the balance and permanently change the climate of the northern hemisphere.
Geoengineering peeps take note.


  1. Yes, isn't it great! That was a mega-project of the Stalin period, which also involved diverting the great rivers (Ob and Yenisei) southwards. I once did a book review of the final edition of Science in History, with lots of pictures and attractively boxed. I was able to do a variorum on various key passages. I think that towards the end his enthusiasm for Soviet mega-science was waning. Also, I had a really great experience in a chat with Bernal in 1963 or 64, when he was already old. I asked him how did he feel about science, now that his vision was being implemented in the Wilson government. The answer turned out to be more prophetic than I could realise at the time.

  2. Former USSR fashioned a scientific proposal to make USSR land mass warmer and more hospitable for humans via blocking ocean currents in Arctic.


    Here is a paper discussing a 1962 document outlining potential of detonation of 10 H bombs in arctic to cool the planet.


  3. Sounds a bit like Project Chariot:

    another idea that belongs to the waste bin of history.

  4. Ah, for the good ol' days of the Mad Men!


    ...which could be again, if only Lyndon LaRouche was named President for Life:



    Some wonderfully weird boosterism from that second piece:

    "• Drilling 50 tunnels with a total distance of over 1000 miles displacing 860 cubic yards of rock (MB note: better check the math on that one, boys!), employing and an unprecedented use of tunnel boring machines, and possibly new techniques."

    "The 2450 foot Idaho Saw Tooth Lift, necessitating 26,000 MW of power, will require 65,- 400 MW modular plants, such as the GE-Hitachi PRISM."

    "With the Arctic's unique proximity to the singular electromagnetic conditions of the Polar Regions, the complex of electromagnetic relationships, which define the Earth-Sun-Solar System magnetic interactions and have determined the evolutionary processes of the biosphere, will finally be integrated into the power of man's understanding and economy."-->What the...??! I hope these people are in Colorado, where that kind of smoking is legal. ;-)

  5. Help me out here: why is it that they should take notice?

  6. Jos:

    Perhaps it has to do with changing standards or perceptions. At one time, there was an interest to induce global warming. Today, there is a fear of the same. Tomorrow, there may be cause to reject both positions. Let's appreciate the choice and luxury of moderation.

  7. n.n. , it's more than that.

    At one time people wanted to change the world to suit humans better. Now many want even the changes made to be rolled back, knowing that it will cause hardship to humans.

    Too many people deify "Nature" in the opinion of many. Some talk of "balance", but that balance is definitely moving away from the human side.