My Story in Science Mag on Asilomar
My story in Science today on last week’s geoengineering meeting at Asilomar in California (subscription required, but if you contact me at email@example.com I can send you a PDF. ) The gist:
Most conferees believe the possibility of climate tipping points has placed geoengineering on the global agenda. And so last week’s meeting—The Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies, or Asilomar 2, as it was dubbed—was driven both by fears of climate catastrophes and the potentially dangerous steps that scientists or politicians might take to avert them. It was “a meeting … we all wished was not necessary,” conference organizer Margaret Leinen of the Climate Response Fund in Alexandria, Virginia, told the participants.
Leinen’s organization was formed last year to fund geoengineeringresearch projects, which fall into two broad categories. The first involves efforts to block the sun’s rays, using techniques such as spraying aerosols in the upper atmosphere or brightening clouds with sea salt. The second approach aims to remove carbon from the atmosphere by means of schemes such as growing algae blooms in the ocean. The conference even coined separate phrases for the two activities: “Climate intervention” describes the sun-blocking methods, and “carbon remediation” covers the CO2-sucking methods.
As the fund began to hit up potential donors, however, several said that the nascent field needed a set of ethical ground rules before practitioners developed research plans. As a result, the goals of last week’s meeting were both specific and ambitious: Set up voluntary guidelines for a host of geoengineering methods that had never been deployed on a large scale, or in some cases in any setting outside the lab.