Everyday geoengineering: five climate change innovations from Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future

From the stabilisation of Antarctica’s sliding glaciers, the mass adoption of regenerative agriculture, to a new age of solar-powered sail and the return of the airship, Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest climate fiction previews the technologies we may — before too much longer — be using in the real world.

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Comandante Ferraz Antarctica Research Station | Estudio41

1. Solar engineering

The book opens with a gruesome description of an Indian heatwave in the summer of 2025 that kills 20 million people in a week.

2. Harnessing the power of the Sun

After the tentative success of its experiment with solar engineering, Robinson’s India goes on to become ‘a fully recycling solar powerhouse’, working to turn its abundance of sunlight — India gets more than any other nation — to its advantage.

3. Stabilising sea levels

Far from the heat of India, others take on one of the most intimidating climate change challenges: stabilising the relentless erosion of the Arctic and Antarctic ice layers.

4. A new age of sail

Some of the book’s most beautiful passages chart the transition away from diesel powered ships and planes to new models that recall and update earlier modes of travel: ships propelled by sails able to harness sunlight as well as the wind, and a new generation of airships.

5. The carbon coin: a new green currency

One of the book’s most important innovations is not a technology but a financial initiative. Few novels concern themselves with the intricacies of quantitative easing, but a central storyline follows the Ministry’s long struggle to convince the world’s central banks to rewire the global financial system to direct capital away from fossil fuels.

Dark technology

Through these and many other projects progress is made: carbon buildup is stabilised; the immediate fear of a big rise in sea levels is averted; the decisive shift is made from hydrocarbons to renewable forms of energy.

A London-based business writer and essayist. Find me at translucence.io and @_translucid.

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