Harvard-MIT Geoengineering Seminars

MIT and Harvard has launched a new seminar series on the science and policy of geoengineering co-chaired by Prof. David Keith (Harvard) and Prof. Steven Barrett (MIT). The seminar series is sponsored by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

Twitter: #HarvMITGeoeng

Upcoming seminars are announced by @MIT_LAE and are posted on the HUCE website.

Previous Seminars
October 28, 2013 at Harvard
Debating Climate Engineering

A debate featuring two prominent scholars in the field with differing perspectives on the subject.

August 7, 2013 at MIT
Debating the Future of Geoengineering

The big debate from August 7, 2013.

Solar geoengineering is a theoretical proposal for slowing down global warming by reflecting away a small percentage of incoming sunlight. A growing number of experts are researching geoengineering in an effort to understand its potential for reducing the risks of climate change, and the significant social and physical risks of this technology.

Panel Discussion moderated by Oliver Morton from The Economist. Panelists: Stephen Gardiner, University of Washington; David Keith, Harvard University; Alan Robock, Rutgers University; Daniel Schrag, Harvard University.

April 30, 2013 at Harvard University
Ken Caldeira, Senior Climate Scientist,  Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution

Ken Caldeira is a senior climate scientist in Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and a professor, by courtesy, in Stanford’s Environmental Earth System Sciences department. Professor Caldeira has a wide-spectrum approach to analyzing the world’s climate systems. He studies the global carbon cycle; marine biogeochemistry and chemical oceanography, including ocean acidification and the atmosphere/ocean carbon cycle; land-cover and climate change; the long-term evolution of climate and geochemical cycles; and energy technology. He is a lead author of the “State of the Carbon Cycle Report,” a study requested by the U.S. Congress. From the early 1990s to 2005, he was with the Energy and Environment Directorate at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he was awarded the Edward Teller Fellowship (2004), the highest award given by that laboratory.Caldeira received his B.A. from Rutgers College and both his M.S. (1988) and Ph.D. (1991) in atmospheric sciences from New York University.

April 2, 2013 at MIT
Contesting Geoengineering Governance
Steve Rayner, James Martin Professor of Science & Civilization; Director, Institute for Science, Innovation & Society, Oxford University

Rayner will consider various alternative framings of geoengineering (broadly defined to include both solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal techniques) and explore the “definitional politics” of including or excluding various kinds of technology under the “Geoengineering” heading, its relationship to mitigation and adaptation, and whether the category itself is helpful, robust, etc. His talk will also explore some of the emerging social science characterizations of geoengineering, particularly solar radiation management which may prematurely close down debate. The presentation will conclude with consideration of a range of alternative approaches to “next steps.”

February 12, 2013 at Harvard University
Smoke and Mirrors: Is Geoengineering a Solution to Global Warming?
Alan Robock, Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University

In response to the global warming problem, there has been a recent renewed interest in geoengineering “solutions” involving “solar radiation management” by injecting particles into the stratosphere, brightening clouds, or blocking sunlight with satellites between the Sun and Earth. While volcanic eruptions have been suggested as innocuous examples of stratospheric aerosols cooling the planet, the volcano analog actually argues against geoengineering because of ozone depletion and regional hydrologic responses. In this talk, Professor Robock will describe different proposed geoengineering designs, and then show climate model calculations that evaluate both their efficacy and their possible adverse consequences. No such systems to conduct geoengineering now exist, but a comparison of different proposed stratospheric injection schemes, using airplanes, balloons, and artillery, shows that using airplanes to put sulfur gases into the stratosphere would not be expensive. Nevertheless, it would be very difficult to create stratospheric sulfate particles with a desirable size distribution. Our GeoMIP project, conducting climate model experiments with standard stratospheric aerosol injection scenarios, is ongoing, but has already shown that temperature and precipitation responses would be uneven globally.

If there were a way to continuously inject SO2 into the lower stratosphere, it would produce global cooling, stopping melting of the ice caps, and increasing the uptake of CO2 by plants. But there are at least 26 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea. These include disruption of the Asian and African summer monsoons, reducing precipitation to the food supply for billions of people; ozone depletion; no more blue skies; reduction of solar power; and rapid global warming if it stops. Furthermore, the prospect of geoengineering working may reduce the current drive toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there are concerns about commercial or military control, and it may seriously degrade terrestrial astronomy and satellite remote sensing. Global efforts to reduce anthropogenic emissions and to adapt to climate change are a much better way to channel our resources to address anthropogenic global warming.

December 10, 2012 at Harvard University
International Governance of Climate Engineering
Edward A. Parson, Professor of Law, UCLA

Edward (Ted) Parson writes in the area of environmental governance and policy, with particular focus on international environmental issues, such as ozone depletion and climate change.  He is a leading expert on climate change law and policy, and his book Protecting the Ozone Layer: Science and Strategy won the 2004 Harold and Margaret Sprout Award from the International Studies Association.   His research has been highly influential in the drafting of the Montreal Protocol, the first international treaty to address the need to protect and reverse the damage to the ozone layer.

October 25, 2012 at MIT
The Risks and Efficacy of Solar Geoengineering
David Keith, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics (SEAS); Professor of Public Policy (Harvard Kennedy School)

Solar geoengineering may enable a significant reduction in climate risks by partially offsetting climate change due to increasing greenhouse gases, however this emerging technology entails novel risks and uncertainties along with serious challenges to global governance. A most scientific work on the topic has been published in the last half decade. I will attempt a rough summary of recent findings regarding (a) the climate’s response to radiative forcing by stratospheric aerosols, (b) methods of producing appropriate aerosol distributions, and (c) risks. In closing I will discuss the trade-off between solar geoengineering, emissions reductions and adaptation in climate policy.