Asilomar Conference on Climate Geoengineering

Last week, 175 experts from a wide array of disciplines convened at the Asilomar conference center in Pacific Grove, California for the International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies. I attended the meeting also and was impressed by the passion of the participants and the common resolve to approach climate geoengineering with the levels of humility that it necessarily warrants. Of course, one cannot be certain that the policymakers who would ultimately make the decisions in this context would do the same, and one of my primary concerns remains the potential moral hazard issue, i.e., assuming arguendo, that geoengineering technologies proved effective, would policymakers take their foot off the pedal (even though the pressure is pretty minimal currently) in terms of mitigation?

The first deliverable from the conference is the Statement from the Conference’s Organizing Committee.

The key points of the Statement are as follows:

  1. The risks posed by climate change require strong commitments to mitigation, adaptation to unavoidable climate change, and development of low-carbon energy sources. This needs to be done independently of any consideration of potential deployment of climate engineering schemes;
  2. It’s important to initiate further research on potential climate geoengineering options given the limited mitigation response to date and uncertainties of the climate system to further forcing. Relevant strategies include solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal, which fall under the broad rubrics of “climate intervention methods” and “climate remediation methods;”
  3. We lack sufficient knowledge of the risks associated with climate intervention and remediation procedures or their potential efficacy, necessitating further research;
  4. Governments collectively have the ultimate responsibility for climate intervention and remediation decisions; the decision-making process must involve broader public participation. Research should progress in a “timely, safe, ethical and transparent manner, addressing social, humanitarian and environmental issues.”

It is anticipated that a report on the meeting will follow, and I will make sure to report on this also. The lead organizer of the meeting, the Climate Response Fund, has also posted a number of excellent articles on climate engineering on its website.

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