May 17 2010 6:00am

GGG#020: Climate Change! Geoengineering! Terraforming! (Guest: Eli Kintisch)

Eli Kintisch, author of Hack the Planet, joins us to discuss some of the ambitious and risky geoengineering schemes that are being proposed to address climate change. Dave and John talk terraforming.



0:00 Introduction by

0:38 Dave and John introduce the show

Interview: Eli Kintisch

02:00 Interview begins

02:11 How Eli got interested in science and became a science writer

02:51 Eli’s favorite science fiction authors and “climate porn”

03:30 Worst-case scenarios: methane, mega-droughts, and the death of the rainforests

05:27 Regarding geoengineering, and how the book came to be

06:17 Proposed methods of geoengineering

08:00 Small-scale environmental engineering and how it’s gone wrong

11:38 The history of geohacking; turns out it goes back a long way

13:32 Countries with competing interests in where to set the thermostat

14:51 Eli’s opinions of other books in the field

15:46 Regarding Michael Crichton’s State of Fear and Carl Sagan’s treatment of other planets

17:01 Eli’s take on terraforming: the ultimate hubris

18:12 How immersion in the subject has impacted Eli personally

19:12 The conspiracy theorists

20:18 Geoengineering vs. cutting carbon

21:53 Is there climate-related speculation happening now?

22:41 Coastal cities and adaptation to climate change

23:13 Waterworld and what generations down the line might be dealing with

24:02 What about super-cooling the planet? The problem of thermal inertia

25:58 What can we do as individuals?

26:41 Eli would love to hear from listeners at

26:57 End of interview

Dave and John talk about geoengineering and terraforming

27:08 Geoengineering and the Gulf oil spill

28:45 People’s natural revulsion toward geoengineering

29:56 Lex Luthor’s misguided effort at geoenginering to increase property values

31:28 The Day After Tomorrow, and scientists as heroes

36:25 The difficulty that SF faces today, and the optimistic futures of the Shine anthology, edited by Jetse de Vries

38:51 The importance of the cautionary tale: Soylent Green; Anathem

40:57 Glaciers, sea levels, ice, and fresh water: Ice Pirates; The Millenial Project

43:34 Terraforming 101: AIR.

45:08 Regarding Mars: Total Recall; the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

46:25 Example of terraforming in Star Trek: the Genesis Torpedo in Star Trek II; ST:TNG

47:32 More about Mars: Red Planet and Mission to Mars

49:47 When terraforming becomes routine: Isle of the Dead by Roger Zelazny; Slartibartfast’s award-winning fjords

51:34 Zelazny’s “The Keys to December” and the unforeseen consequences of geoengineering

53:02 Altering humanity to suit the environment: Frederik Pohl’s Man Plus; “People of Sand and Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi

53:54 The origin of the term “terraforming”

54:17 Gene Wolf’s Book of the New Sun

55:07 Stuck in the Solar system: terraforming what we’ve got, and the example of Firefly

56:49 Mike Resnick’s Kirinyaga

57:43 The ethics of terraforming

59:45 Show wrap-up

Next week: Nnedi Okorafor, author of Who Fears Death

Thanks for listening!

John Joseph Adams ( is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is currently assembling several other anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, The Living Dead 2, The Mad Scientistís Guide to World Domination, and The Way of the Wizard. He worked for more than eight years as an editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is currently the fiction editor of Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010.

David Barr Kirtley ( is a writer living in New York who has been called “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His short fiction appears in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales, and in anthologies such as The Living Dead, New Voices in Science Fiction, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition.

Show notes compiled by podtern Christie Yant. Friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

1. elikint
Can't wait to listen guys -- looks like a fascinating discussion! Cheers, Eli
Gavin McMenemy
2. antihippy

That was a fascinating discussion and I particularly enjoyed the section with Eli.

Is that Eli posting above me??

I've taken a look at the website and I am going to have to read this book. Sounds great. Can't wait to see the safety card!
John Joseph Adams
3. johnjosephadams
@ #2: Glad you enjoyed it, antihippy. But yeah, that IS Eli posting above you.

@ #1: Eli, thanks again for coming on the show!
Josh Kidd
4. joshkidd
I think that there's a way in which fiction about climate change is more depressing than 1984 or other post-apocalyptic fiction. It's just so complex of a topic that stories aren't really effective as cautionary tales. In 1984, for example, we are shown what might happen to people under a totalitarian government. We can come away from the book with the idea that we should protect human rights and avoid concentrations of power. If the book is A Canticle for Liebowitz, we might decide that nuclear disarmament is a good idea. In either case, the direct action of lots of people would actually prevent the future in the book.

The global climate is so complex that cause and effect are disassociated. Eli said himself that if we stopped burning all fossil fuels tomorrow that we still might not see changes for decades and things would get worse before they got better. We can say that a carbon tax would be a good idea, but it doesn't necessarily make the distopian future go away. It just makes it somewhat less bad.

We also don't have a clear set of ethics around climate change, which you guys definitely touched on. Is our goal, as humans, to have as little impact on the climate as possible? What if the climate is already changing and we know that people are going to suffer because of it? Do we have an ethical imperative to intervene and intentionally impact the climate? Even if we could be relatively sure that our actions didn't have negative side effects?

In any case, it's a topic that needs ongoing discussion. It's good to see it brought up here.
5. KurtRoedeger
I enjoyed this podcast a bunch. Like last weeks, it is a topic that could be a podcast series all on it's own.

Thanks for doing these!

I have to admit though, that I'm a little worried there is only one more podcast on the schedule. I do hope there will be many, many more of these.
David Barr Kirtley
6. davidbarrkirtley
We don't add an episode to the list of upcoming shows until we actually have the interview in hand. (And we're not as far ahead of schedule as we used to be.) That's all. We have no immediate plans to stop producing episodes.
David Barr Kirtley
7. davidbarrkirtley
Actually, we just did an interview with George R. R. Martin this afternoon, so that's now been added to the schedule as Episode 22.
8. KurtRoedeger
Yay! Nerd Squeeeeeeee! Thanks David.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment