Unprecedented International Conference
Focuses on Social and Ecological Ramifications of
Discussions Address Risks and Social Implications of Field Research
Washington, D.C., March 29, 2010 – The Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies held last week in Pacific Grove, CA concluded a week of conversations and discussions on climate intervention and guidelines for research and experimentation.
The Conference, held at the Asilomar Conference Center, began on March 22 and ended on March 26th. The conference was developed by Dr. Margaret Leinen of the Climate Response Fund, a non-profit based in Alexandria, VA (www.climateresponsefund.org) in partnership with Guttman Initiatives (http://www.guttmaninitiatives.com). The scientific program was organized by an international scientific committee chaired by Dr. Michael MacCracken of the Climate Institute, based in Washington, D.C. (www.climate.org). The scientific committee also set the conference agenda and led the participants in developing a statement of the conference and draft guidelines.
The conference marked the first broadly attended meeting by leaders in a variety of fields convened to discuss the critical issues surrounding climate intervention and remediation research. More than one hundred and fifty renowned scientists and researchers from the world’s leading academic institutions joined environmental groups, philosophers, ethicists, and specialists in economics, risk, governance, business and policy to identify the risks and social implications of research into climate intervention and remediation, sometimes called geoengineering.
”We are gratified at the commitment of all the participants,” said the CRF’s Dr. Leinen. “The week they have devoted to consideration of our global future has produced a solid foundation for a broader understanding and discussion of climate intervention and remediation. We are encouraged to continue in pursuit of our mission to support discussion and dialogue about the thoughtful governance of research in climate intervention and remediation.”
Climate intervention and remediation is a new field of research, including physical and natural sciences as well as social science and humanities, born in response to the imminent threat of human-induced climate change. It involves research into the purposeful management of the global climate should societal efforts to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions ultimately fail or come too late.
“This conference has been important step in determining the special considerations and obligations associated with research on climate intervention and remediation,” noted the Climate Institute’s Dr. MacCracken. “There were many suggestions about how best to formulate the special obligations, and these will be synthesized by the Scientific Organizing Committee and circulated for review by the participants and for their support in the near future before being published.”
A Meeting of Many Minds
The gathering was an ecumenical international group that included research scientists who joined with scholars of public policy, risk, economics, history, ethics, and philosophy and with members of the business community and representatives of government agencies in the US and abroad to examine the scope and consequences of climate intervention and remediation. The presentations, plenary sessions, and small group discussions filled 12-hour days, covering a range of subjects including approaches for potentially counter-balancing at least some aspects of human-induced climate change, the legal and societal issues raised by research needed to verify the approaches, and public perception of climate change.
In addition, there were constructive specific discussions on how to counter-balance warming, changes in precipitation, and other consequences of the ongoing emission of greenhouse gases and on the variety of approaches for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to sequester or store it in the ocean or the land. Participants aired doubts and fears about how research could be governed and proceed and emphasized the need for transparency and consideration of all issues from local to global perspectives.
“What will happen when we get an unambiguous signal of a climate emergency?” asked Robert Socolow, Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. “We are not ready.” He urged the group to start with “the best traditions of the scientific method,” and then to push beyond to ensure that all climate intervention or remediation research be considered, measured and iterative, including discussion with those outside of the research community.
Such sentiments inspired Paul Craig, a member of the Sierra Club’s National Energy Committee and Professor Emeritus of Engineering at the University of California at Davis, to observe, "I came here expecting to see a bunch of engineering types proposing to engineer the planet. But instead I saw a different conversation in which the word ‘humility’ actually appeared in slides. I'm leaving with a very different view of the way that these attendees are thinking about geoengineering."
After hearing input on its first draft, the Scientific Organizing Committee issued a Statement summarizing its conclusions and invited other participants to join them in supporting it. Many conference participants have expressed interest in signing onto the SOC statement; their names will be added and dated as they come in. The Committee also intends to develop a document on principles for climate intervention/remediation research that will also be circulated to participants for their input and, eventually, their signature. The conference's Scientific Organizing Committee will produce a report on the proceedings, slated for release in early summer. They will also submit a summary document to a peer-reviewed journal. The conference, which many participants began to call "Asilomar 2.0," has already sparked discussions of organizing "Asilomar 2.1," to continue and extend the discussions initiated over the past week.
About the Climate Response Fund
The Climate Response Fund, a non-profit foundation based in Alexandria, VA, was established in 2009 in response to the growing concern about climate change and the complex political, economic and social issues surrounding international scientific studies and methodologies for climate response. The CRF acts as an unbiased and neutral resource to those exploring, studying, and engaging in research related to climate change intervention.
The Climate Response Fund was joined in strategic development of the conference by Guttman Initiatives and by The State of Victoria/Australia. Other organization partners include: The Climate Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund (www.edf.org) and the UK Royal Society (www.royalsociety.org). Guttman Initiatives also provided implementation assistance.
For more information please go to: www.climateresponsefund.org