‘There is something deeply perverse,’ Hamilton writes, ‘in the demand that we construct an immense industrial infrastructure in order to deal with the carbon emissions from another immense industrial infrastructure, when we could just stop burning fossil fuels.’ But, actually, we couldn’t. Not because it would be too expensive, and not only because billions of people would promptly die – from starvation, disease, cold, heat – but also, as Hamilton observes elsewhere in Earthmasters, because one immediate effect would be a sharp rise in global temperature. One of the effects of burning fossil fuels is the maintenance of a thick haze of sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere, which keeps the sunlight out and the temperature down. Sulphates last only weeks in the atmosphere; carbon dioxide endures for centuries. We are in a multiple bind. Both emissions and atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases need to be severely reduced. Cutting one without the other would be either fruitless in the long term or dangerous in the short term. We may well need to find other ways to keep the temperature down without fooling ourselves into believing we’ve made the problem go away. And we need to do all these things at the same time.