Science and Technology Innovation Program


Considering Soft Geoengineering

November 08, 2012 // 11:30am2:00pm
Event Co-sponsors: 
Environmental Change and Security Program

A generation ago, the idea of engineering the global climate was almost universally dismissed as misguided. But many in the scientific community have recently concluded that climate geoengineering should be studied as a possible “insurance policy” in case we fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to prevent dangerous climate change.

This willingness to consider the use of climate geoengineering is provoking a strong reaction from some environmentalists, who argue geoengineering could have dangerous environmental impacts and may undermine political support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite many reasons for caution, a sweeping rejection of climate geoengineering may be unwise: There are many different kinds of geoengineering technologies with very different levels of risk – and some have low or no significant environmental impacts.

Robert L. Olson, a senior fellow with the Institute for Alternative Futures, explored these “soft geoengineering” technologies in a feature article in the September/October issue of Environment magazine, which included a discussion of potential criteria and examples of promising technology. Olson wrote that acceptable technologies would only lightly touch biological systems, have benign social impacts and be rapidly reversible if problems arise, among other criteria.

Please join us Nov. 8, 2012 for a discussion of these technologies with Olson, as well as two of the people whose geoengineering ideas are featured in the article, Leslie Field of Ice911 and Russell Seitz of Harvard University, along with Jim Thomas of the ETC Group, the technology watchdog group that has led international efforts to ban open-air geoengineering experiments.

This event is free and open to the public. A light lunch will be served beginning at 11:30 am.  


Image courtesy of NASA

5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
Event Speakers List: 
  • Senior Fellow, Institute for Alternative Futures
  • Consulting Professor in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
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