In 2019, a team will launch a high-altitude balloon into Earth’s stratosphere that could lead to powerful technology to cool the planet...and a dangerous game for humanity. “Plan C for Civilization,” is about emerging technology the scientists moving it forward, and the problems we create when we interfere with nature.
In 2019, a team of Harvard scientists will launch a 300-foot balloon from a dusty tarmac in the southwest U.S. and send it 70,000 feet into the stratosphere. It's the first outdoor experiment of an emergent climate technology called “solar geoengineering.” Once a fringe scientific theory, this team joins a growing list of reputable scientists who believe solar geoengineering could become a vital tool in the battle to reduce global temperatures by reflecting sunlight away from Earth. As the experiment gathers controversy and resistance, it signals a future where “climate tech” could give us unprecedented leverage over the environment. Frontline communities in the global south are already feeling the pain of rising temperature and climate extremes, and solar geoengineering aims to limit those risks and save millions of lives. But interfering in Earth's complex climate system carries huge unknowns, and a lot of potential risks. Some predict it could trigger a cascade of geophysical effects that ripple across the planet, further destabilizing climate. Others argue that the lure of "quick fix" technologies will perpetuate business as usual, undermining the critical work of cutting emissions and spawning dangerous geopolitical outcomes: exploitation, profiteering, weaponization. Is this a threshold we’re willing to cross? PLAN C FOR CIVILIZATION follows the push to move solar geoengineering out of the rational cocoon of the lab and into the messy, irrational world of a society in crisis, when faith in science and institutions is eroding and truth and democracy are under attack. Our film goes from inside the lab and the team’s internal debates out to the public arenas where activists, politicians, and conspiracy theorists work to steer solar geoengineering off course, or manipulate its viral potential. Through a dynamic interplay of intimate character drama and stylish interviews with voices from across the globe, a complex debate opens up about power, technology, and the messy, sometimes dangerous ways we try to control nature.