The Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment is an initiative of the School of International Service at American University in Washington DC. Our overarching objective is to assess the social, ethical, political, and legal implications of emerging technologies that fall under the broad rubric of climate engineering (sometimes referred to as “climate geoengineering”). We produce high-quality and policy-relevant research and commentary, and work in a variety of ways to ensure that the climate engineering conversation maintains a focus on issues of justice, equity, agency, and inclusion.
The discussions on Geoengineering Watch illustrate how this new anti-geoengineering platform, grounded on the premise of existing and ongoing climate manipulation, relates to broader hostilities towards experts and concerns about class inequality. We can expect these underlying tensions around inequality to grow under the current administration, thus potentially attracting new people to an anti-geoengineering movement. It’s possible that forming an opinion on geoengineering becomes not an impersonal assessment of a technology, but an identity position.
The potentially useful role of social studies in evaluating climate engineering deserves further consideration. The stakes of not understanding and communicating with all the parts of society are higher than ever, and the time is ripe for more collaborative work on environmental futures writ large. I have a few ideas and questions about how to move forward.
We welcomed the response of Wil Burns to our recent article, “Five solar geoengineering tropes that have outstayed their welcome.” Ultimately, in his comments we have not found anything that refutes what we wrote. We remain convinced that the claims that we cited are unsupported by existing evidence, unlikely to occur, or greatly exaggerated.
The answer to this question is ‘yes’ because we did it, so perhaps it is more appropriate to ask whether such a class can be taught successfully. Climate engineering provides an interesting, and perhaps disturbing, case study of the nexus of science (can we do it), ethics (should we do it), and governance (how would we do it). The idea of co-teaching a class on ethics and science focused on climate engineering originated with Steve Gardiner in mid-2013, leading to a class that we co-taught at the University of Washington during Winter Quarter 2015. Our intent here is to summarize our experience and provide some lessons learned.
IN A NEW PIECE in the journal Earth Futures, Jesse Reynolds, Andy Parker and Peter Irvine take on what they characterize as “Five solar geoengineering tropes that have outstayed their welcome.” While I think it’s salutary to engage in an ongoing colloquy about the risks and benefits of solar radiation management (SRM) approaches, it will be my contention in this Comment that the article doesn’t wholly dispel many of the concerns outlined in the piece. Additionally, I believe it raises some additional issues that are ripe for debate as we continue to scrutinize the emerging field of climate geoengineering. In this Comment, I will address the authors’ take on three of these alleged “tropes.”