Dr. Jason Blackstock and Dr. Wil Burns join the regular panelists to discuss geoengineering: deliberately intervening in the climate system on a global scale to counteract climate change. Recorded 22 October 2017.
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Welcome to Let’s Make The Future. I’m Daniel Valenzuela, and joining me are our regular panellists, Michael Olorunniwo, Hos Kouhani, Sara Thelen and Michael Currie.
I’m very excited to discuss our topic today, Climate Engineering, because it has the potential to impact the future of the planet in a way that no human-scale technology intends to.
Helping us to discuss this topic are our guests,
- Dr. Jason Blackstock, Senior Lecturer in Science and Global Affairs, University College London
- Dr. Wil Burns, Co-Director of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment.
Dr. Blackstock, could you please introduce your background as it relates to climate engineering?
Now, Wikipedia tells me that climate engineering, which is commonly referred to as geoengineering, also known as climate intervention, is the deliberate and large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climatic system with the aim of affecting adverse global warming.
We’d like to examine this issue through the three lenses of: Techniques, politics, and traction
What are the most plausible techniques for climate engineering?
- Do you think the current situation is “irreversible”, if yes in which sense/by which definition?
- Aren’t we already way too late? ISn’t most of the damage already done?
What is the worst-case scenario with climate engineering techniques? How does that compare with the worst case scenario for the current climate change trend?
- How would a geo / non geo engineered world look like in 50 year in best / worst case?
Also: are there saturation bounds of GE technologies? Will usage of GE require completeley new GE to continue? (dependency)
Are there expected increases in our ability to model the climate accurately, or will we always have to make this decision in a framework of great uncertainty? e.g. would greater computing power, AI techniques, help us to decrease the range of possibilities in our models concerning the climate and humans’ impact upon it, intentional or otherwise?
How many years of development effort would be required to get them ready for use in the real world? What would be your suggestion for the next steps? What makes you confident/what evidence would you need to make you confident regarding the understanding of the implications of GE, when we cannot even predict simple things about the climate? (e.g. nature catastrophes)
What is the monetary cost of these techniques?
Presumably, if governments decide to engineer the climate, they will need to sign a treaty, since such a project would affect all countries. Will negotiating such a treaty be difficult since the benefits and costs (and potential costs, aka. risks(!)) of climate engineering be felt disproportionately between the nations of the Earth? How do you think such decision making will (and should) look like?
- How would you deal with the voices that claim we don’t need to reduce our carbon emissions, as GE will be able to solve climate change / compensate for it.
- How should resource investments be split in between working on greenhouse gas reductions and geoengineering?
In society, why hasn’t the topic of climate engineering gained more traction? Sure, every few months there is an article re-introducing the topic, and recently there was a brainless disaster film “Geostorm”, but still, it hasn’t entered the zeitgeist in a way that would pressure politicians into doing anything about it.
Why are environmental NGOs generally against mitigation techniques and instead in favour of conservation to stop climate change, when human behaviour and the natural tendency of people to want a good life will trump any large-scale effects from conservation? We can’t recycle our way away from global warming.
What role does the ideology of humility, of environmental conservation play in keeping climate engineering off the table? In the 1960s, we imagined excavating artificial bays with nuclear weapons, and colonies on the moon. Have we shifted culturally to a modesty incompatible with large-scale engineering projects?
Will the adoption of climate engineering techniques become inevitable as the problem of climate change gets worse and worse? Would we be better off deploying those techniques today?
EXTRA (If there is time)
Is an answer to the Fermi paradox that all alien societies failed when they developed geoengineering techniques, because once enough members of a society possess such powers it is inevitable that one of them, for malevolent reasons or otherwise, triggers a catastrophe?
Other than climate, what are other geoengineering techniques? (e.g. gene drive technology, viruses?)
Harvard Scientists Say It’s Time to Think About Engineering the Climate
Solar Radiation Management (SRM) techniques:
surface: e.g. grow high-albedo crops
troposphere-based: spray fine sea water to whiten clouds
upper atmosphere-based: reflective aerosols
space-cased: space sunshade, mirrors
Cheap relative to carbon dioxide removal or mitigation in the short run.
Can help to buy time
Most experts and major reports advise against relying on climate engineering techniques as a simple solution to global warming, in part due to the large uncertainties over effectiveness and side effects. However, most experts also argue that the risks of such interventions must be seen in the context of risks of dangerous global warming.
Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative
Daniel tmp section
- How would you deal with the voices that claim we don’t need to reduce our carbon emissions, as GE will be able to solve climate change / compensate for it.
- How should resource investments be split in between working on greenhouse gas reductions and geoengineering?
- One of:
- Do you think the current situation is “irreversible”, if yes in which sense/by which definition?
- Aren’t we already way too late? ISn’t most of the damage already done?
- (probably deprecated for this discussion) The only form of geoengineering that is currently thought to definitely ‘work’ (SRM) is politically impossible and would have disastrous environmental impacts in many regions in the world, to the point where there isn’t even consensus if it would be better than business-as-usual.
- How would a geo / non geo engineered world look like in 50 year in best / worst case?
Also: are there saturation bounds of GE technologies? Will usage of GE require completeley new GE to continue?
- Because of global impact: how do decision making processes in GE look like? How do you think they should look like?
- What makes you confident/what evidence would you need to make you confident regarding the understanding of the implications of GE, when we cannot even predict simple things about the climate? (e.g. nature catastrophes)
Michael Currie Actual Conversation Notes:
2006-2007 the science just beginning to emerge
hit a plateau of the science of geoengineering. now it goes to politics
Dr. Burns: noticed geoengineering focus had increased
wrapping the planet in a blanket
Jason: top climate engineering techniques:
- carbon dioxide removal (CDR) (for much later)
- solar radiation management (SRM) (for now!!!)
– like volcanoes (sulfur aerosol injection)
– clouds (water droplets)
cost and benefit
moving people around
Michael C: Like Free Trade
why isn’t there a manhattan project
it feels like boiling a frog,
impacts to less than a dollar a day
Episode Machine Transcript (unedited and uncorrected)
In a world where the climate is out of control one technology might save the planet but it carries terrifying risks.
With the information we need.
Ladies and gentlemen let’s make the.
Well come to let’s make the future a discussion about future trends technologies and their implications for human society we are coming to you from all over the world featuring the voices of Danielle.
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Music and editing Christian Pelton and. This episode’s future trend discussion topic climate engineering with Dr Jason Black and Dr Drew will burns. Brought to you by filling dot.
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Won’t come to let’s make the future I’m genuine I’m very excited to discuss our topic today climate engineering because it has the potential to impact the future of the planet in a way that no human scale technology intends to helping us to discuss this topic our guests Dr Jason Blackstock senior lecturer in Science and Global Affairs of University College London and Dr Weil Burns co-director of the forum of climate engineering assessment Dr Blackstock Could you please introduce your background as it relates to climate engineering for Daniel thank you very much let me to be fair so my background in terms of education includes background and civics and all of.
That and in a massive administration and while I was coming out now I had Station looking at ways. To leverage both areas the technical area as well as the interest in policy it really drew me into the world of energy and climate change and it around two thousand six thousand and engineering or geo engineering referred to was just starting to emerge from many years of this background discussion but really emerged into a topic of conversation as being a potential response to the rapid rate of climate change that we’re seeing and expecting for the future and so in the early days of geoengineering starting to become a bit more mainstream I was involved in some of the initial work by if you like Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other groups that have no group doing technology a separate possibility and then increasingly working on the governance of climate engineering I haven’t been as involved in the last few years as we’ve sort of had a plan evolution on the science of geo engineering in many ways and now it’s really become more of a political discussion or a conversation about where the policies and politics life go but in the current era that hasn’t progressed nearly as fast but I know that link strongly to the excellent work that will and colleagues are now doing so hopefully a bit of a segue for can’t cool thanks very much for that segue Dr Burns could you please introduce yourself sure so my background educationally is an international environmental law and I’ve spent probably the last twenty five years or so focused primarily on the climate change issues and I came in to geo engineering about the same time that Jason did is as interest in the technologies began to be discussed in earnest around two thousand and seven and when I was at Johns Hopkins University running a program a few years after that it became increasingly obvious that the focus on geoengineering had increased largely as a result of despair about potentially passing critical climatic thresholds and at that point I became interested in developing a think tank that would ensure. For that not only would we have a technocratic discussion about geo engineering issues but we’d also look at some of the social issues and try to ensure participation by all potential stakeholders of the said come largely out of my work previously the impacts of climate change on small island states and the fact that there could be disproportionate impacts in terms of climate change and similarly potentially disproportion impacts in terms of some of the geo engineering options that we’re looking at so I and Simon Nicholson at American University established the forum for climate engineering assessment to look at both governance issues and to try to foster public participation on these issues and it’s now based at an American university OK thank you very much also welcome to the show I really like that counterweight to the technocratic view I think that’s great word thank you very much so we can tells me that climate engineering which is commonly referred to as to engineering will talk about today also known as climate intervention is the deliberate and large scale intervention in the Earth’s climatic system with the aim of affecting adverse and global warming We’ll talk more in detail about that no in the first part we will kind of try to structure this discussion in three parts or three lenses if you wish first we’re going to talk about techniques this will be more the engineering perspective and we were going to talk about politics how this is politically realizable what the political implications and political landscape at the moment say about this and then the traction so how will this actually will look like in potentially a few years I would love to hear just a bit of a backgrounder especially for our audience less familiar with climate engineering and what some of the most plausible techniques might be a numeration of some of the most likely or plausible climate engineering techniques to not only slow down the damaging effects of climate change but also even reverse it is an excellent question Michael let me start by just making sure that there’s a fundamental understanding of what’s driven the climate problem because I think that will help understand. Two different ways of thinking about geo engineering are the two broad categories of geo engineering are quite a bit during the commission of greenhouse gases particularly Theo to into the atmosphere ends up trapping heat on our planet it’s the amount of sunlight that comes into the planet they’ve exactly the same but it’s kind of like wrapping the planet in a blanket that ends up trapping some of that heat and warming us up and as a result most of the focus around climate change and reducing climate change or limiting it for the future is about limiting the amount of C O two we put up in the atmosphere basically how they. Get how much heat we track now there are two broad categories of quiet engineering technologies that are out there the first and these are more technical name but the first is carbon dioxide removal T.D.R. and it is what it says on the pit it’s about we put up the C O two in the atmosphere and we’re continuing to put up a lot more C O two in the atmosphere from burning coal burning fossil fuel from deforestation Except And as we put more C O two in the atmosphere the whole idea of D.D.R. is what can we get out again and I’ll come back in a minute and talk about that in relation to mitigation because like when you’re filling up a back if you’re filling up a bathtub really fast and you open up a small drain on the bottom but a little bit out you’re putting more in when you’re taking out the bottom you’re overall not having a big effect on how much you’re adding So carbon dioxide removal is an approach to geo engineering is something that definitely being explored the very fact that we continue to put so much into the atmosphere right now there’s a big debate about whether it’s worth even thinking about removing it from the atmosphere in Cali we’ve transitioned away from putting it up there to begin with so there’s often a conversation that goes well there are more cost effective ways to stop building coal plant them to stop emitting C O two from burning of fossil fuels when you can switch towards electric vehicle that are using renewable energy renewable energy to power all of our electricity that and so on one side of climate engineering there is the technology that may. Be useful far in the future to reduce climate change and even as you put it might reverse some of the effect that we’ve already started to feel and what feel more the future but that’s a long time scale we have to stop emitting at the O two in the first place and then start vacuuming it sucking it out of the atmosphere and it’ll take a long time decades the fuck out enough to make a real difference now that’s one type of climate engineering technology the other type of climate in theory technology doesn’t focus so much on the cause which is the O two in the atmosphere but rather on trying to reduce the amount of energy coming into the atmosphere in the first place so as I mentioned climate change given by Theo Q doesn’t reduce the amount of sunlight that comes into the atmosphere and keeps up our planet but there are techniques called again technical term solar radiation management S.R.M. our solar geo and Harry which essentially is about turning down on the sun for lack of a better phrase it’s about reducing slightly the amount of solar energy that comes through our atmosphere and get absorbed by the planet and there are a variety of techniques out there that have been thought about from putting big mirrors in space to basically giant reflectors but the most effective way that’s been considered is to put small particles in the upper atmosphere basically little droplet and those little droplets act as tiny little mirrors that reflect sunlight back into space now in order to do that there are two techniques that have been commonly talked about one which mimics volcanoes so when large volcanoes erupt it can put a lot of sulfur to the upper stratosphere turned into tiny little particles and those particles reflect sunlight away another way of clouds themselves are just water droplets and there have been experiments that have tried to look at can you create sensually slightly bigger slightly brighter cloud to be more reflective of the advantage of these types of solar techniques or as soon as you turn down the amount of energy to come didn’t you turn down the temperature of the plant so rather than taking decades to slowly Rimu. Carbon ten potentially have an impact in very year that you put those particles up we’ve actually seen historically in one thousand nine hundred in a tube or rapid and dumped a whole bunch of sulphur into the upper stratosphere that turned into small particles that lasted for about a year and a half and we saw about a half degree centigrade in the global average temperature the following year as a result so we know in principle in work we’ve never done an engineer version and there’s all sorts of questions but I defected who controlled what not but I’m guessing that’s where we’re going in that question that’s right I’m excited to talk about side effects but I guess this whole conversation revolves around the costs and the benefits here of the technologies so thanks for explaining that first of all we have C.D.R. carbon dioxide Robel that maybe a political much later on and solar radiation management which I think I’ve certainly heard a lot more about in the media and almost seems to be synonymous with climate engineering in that it’s really a political right no I guess the next question that I think might help us to calibrate our later conversation on the politics what is the worst case scenario if we choose to do climate engineering techniques for the first scabious that I would have on the specially in the context of solar radiation management techniques we have very little practical knowledge to make those effects might suppose point most of these things such as sulfur aerosol injection that Jason had referred to have largely been modeled in the laboratory there’s some discussion now of small scale field experiments including potentially in Arizona next year but to date we’re relying largely on the same kind of global circulation models that have some problems when it comes to assessing the climate impacts especially when we get to the regional level but with that in mind we do have some research indicates what some of the potential risks are of these approaches I stuck with me after I am side solar radiation management in terms of sulfur aerosol injection some researches indicate. That sold for aerosol objection to large scale if you were going to put ten to fifteen Terra grams of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere annually which may be necessary to return temperatures back to where they were imprinted Austral levels for example you could substantially increase evaporation and decrease precipitation especially in certain regional areas such as South Asia and in the tropical Amazonian areas in South Asia this potentially crimp Cheryl the operation of the monsoon in certain years and we have some reason to believe that there is empirical evidence that to Jason to refer to Mt Pinatubo and how it drastically reduced temperatures within a year we also saw the lowest street flow the Ganges River of the year after Mount Pinatubo occurred leading us to believe that that’s one potential serious impact in the monsoon is a phenomena that a billion people rely on in terms of food production so that’s one issue proponents on the other hand argue that if we did it a lower scale and didn’t aim to return our temperatures back to pre-industrial levels but just to hold temperatures at current levels for example we might not see that impact we also might see reduced runoff because of reduced temperatures and so the jury remains out on that issue a second potential threat is by putting large amounts of sulfur into the stratosphere we might increase the substrate that could be used to break down the ozone layer by the ozone depleting substances that are found in the stratosphere potentially delaying replenish move the ozone layer by somewhere between fifty and seventy years which could result in a massive additional number of cases of skin cancer and again proponents argue that that sulfur we diffuse some of the incoming ultraviolet the radiation and offset that impact but we don’t know and then the last potential big threat that we talk about in terms of solar radiation management is something called the termination of back if you were to create this protective umbrella but not simultaneously start massively ratcheting down are you. Missions you have a large build up of carbon dioxide in the interim and then if you terminated the use of these technologies either because some country threatened you because there were adverse impacts such as India for example or if the technology simply did not work any longer what would happen is you’d have a very large pulse of warming that would occur very rapidly there after some studies say you could see as much as five to six degrees Celsius temperature increases within one to two decades after terminate the use of these technologies which would make it almost impossible for example for ecosystems to adapt and then very quickly on the other side carbon dioxide removal one of the approaches that we’re looking at most is something called backs bio energy and carbon capture and sequestration so burning large amounts of bio energy feedstock such as forests or dedicated crops or residues to produce energy and then capturing it in the flue gas and then storing it underground or in the world’s oceans one of the major problem in this context is getting the bio energy feedstocks at scale if you were to do it at a scale that was large enough you might need seven to twenty five percent of the net primary productivity of the world to do that and that might mean diverting large amounts of cropland for example which could result in very substantial increases in food prices and deny some of the world’s most vulnerable people’s food or certainly substantially decrease caloric intake also to use Bex at that scale might require as much water as all the water we use currently for irrigation and also could have huge ecosystem impacts especially because we’d be diverting large amounts of forest land one study said it might be as much as an equivalent two point eight degrees Celsius in temperature increases so there’s lots of potential risks associated with these things but as you suggest the only way to look at this but perch perhaps is comparatively one of the impacts of a business as usual. Scenario and that’s very difficult to assess for a couple of reasons one I’m not certain of that’s the correct question to ask In fact I think it’s a bit of a dangerous question because one of the things that I worry about is those that are advocates of geo engineering say that those are our options it’s either what business as usual if we continue to party like it’s like ninety nine in terms of greenhouse gas emissions or he geoengineering I think there’s a third way which is to substantially increase our efforts to decarbonize the world economy and people like Mark Jacobson at Stanford for example albeit with controversial research says we could be carbonized through using things such as solar wind potentially by twenty thirty five through twenty fifty years but we need to substantially step up those efforts so that might be the relevant question is comparing geo engineering to a radical the carbon ization But in terms of business as usual scenario it’s very difficult to make those comparisons because some of the impacts that we’re talking about it terms of geoengineering they occur in some regional areas disproportionately whereas the impacts of a business as usual scenario in terms of climate change may occur in other areas and it’s very difficult at this point especially with the rudimentary amount of research we have on geo to accurately make those assessments so thanks for that cover hence of rundown of the risks of the scariest one in my books is what you call the terminations of fact which sounds pretty scary to me even if I don’t hear anything else about it so I’d like to actually touch upon what you mentioned there which is the scarce amount of research that currently exists or the relatively perhaps scarce amount of research that exists because in his introduction Jason mentioned that the science of geo engineering may have hit a plateau recently and now it’s over to the side of politics but I have to ask is it possible that we could somehow increase our ability to model the climate accurately in the next few years where we always have to make a decision about whether to deploy engineering techniques or climb. An engineering techniques in this framework of great uncertainty for example would crater computing power AI techniques with these sort of things coming on stream with this help us to decrease the range of possibilities in our models concerning the climate and humans impact upon it intentional or otherwise because hearing about the range of those possibilities if I was a politician I mean it would be pretty hard to convene an urgent sort of Montreal Protocol type conference to get rapid action to agree to do some kind of climate engineering technique in the climate of uncertainty that seems to exist I’m not sure who wants to take that question but please go ahead yeah they’re going to stick that out it will and then the end of it and I know it’s an excellent question How much do we actually know about how the climate system is responding to just what we’re doing now for example how much to the climate models that were part of the general circulation model these are large computational efforts understand the climate them they don’t all agree with we have dozens of models that are by different research groups around the world and we try and average those affect the way in which those models are built they look back over the last two centuries of data where we have detailed data and then back through geologic time to try and see how well they can capture behavior that we’ve seen in the past but being in terms of their complexity they are certainly complex models they miss a huge amount of detail one of the most obvious one that has been in the news over the last decade is that none of those models captured the rate at which we saw the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice over the last half decade or decade and there’s a whole bunch of reasons for that getting the dynamic ice sheet behavior and how ice will melt in particular conditions with ocean circulation patterns that disappearance or that in of itself is a scientific research project they could take it doesn’t the hundreds of researchers a day. To figure out and that’s just one piece of the global system so when you ask the question are we going to make enough progress in computational power in order to be able to affectively model the planet Well the answer is we may in fact have that computational power of bailable now but that doesn’t mean we have either a not detailed data about the behavior of each of these some of them that are important within the global climate system enough scientific understanding about the mechanisms that go along them to take to sea ice in such a great equal example because if you think about the north part of the planet that between Canada and Russia up top it’s actually just a big bowl of water and most of the time it’s covered in this big white sheet of ice and historically in how the late part of the twentieth century it was white pretty much all year round which meant that when the sun was shining on it whole poem for half of the year it was just reflecting most of that light away now with that ice and disappeared the dark blue water it’s kind of like switching your T. shirt from a white shirt to a black shirt in the middle of a six month sunny day the result is you absorb a lot more energy and that energy and heat beings are by the planet changes the dynamics of how fast things heat up so all of that say as an example we don’t understand the physics of all the different pieces of our climate and that’s something that’s going to take decades to centuries for us to get to the point where we really have all that even if we built a beautiful AI system without data AI is useless and we don’t have enough data about all of the pieces of the dynamics that go into it to build an effective model of it and that ties back to that question that you raise about a risk risk tradeoff I’m not sure I would quite frame it exactly the way we’ll did about the opponent but you and the advocate I think there are quite a few scientists working on it who are in. In the middle ground where they’re not advocates or opponents but they’re scared of how much we don’t know about where climate change is taking on and we’re seeing things like the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice we’re seeing things like one in a thousand year storms showing up every ten years and though that starting to become very concerning about exactly how much damage we might expect climate change to do to the society that we have distributed and at the same time of all the risks that will is articulated at least according to the model that we’re using and again I’ve given all the cabbage that’s why the models are all that accurate but those are the ones where you can forecast climate change and according to those if we started to use some of the climate engineering particularly solar geo engineering techniques it may lead to a lot of those damages particularly for the most vulnerable population at the end of the day our politicians are used to making decisions under uncertainty in fact they do it all the time there’s never certainty when you implement a plan or when you implement change in the federal base currency or when you implement Lobel policies to reduce poverty or any of the other things that you can think about all of them are done with uncertainty about the impact are going to have I think we don’t often give quite enough credit to the fact that this is not that different from many of the other policy areas that we face with one exception we have one planet it’s not like we’re talking about tweaking something at the national level where you have a bit more control and a bit more understanding and it tweaking something that could have significant catastrophic effect or society as a whole whether we do something or don’t do something and that leads to a much higher state in terms of the conversation thank you Jason and if I could just push on this maybe well you can mention if you agree or disagree with what Jason just said but I still wonder whether say doubling the research budget of institutes to vote. To studying climate engineering might have some impact on our ability to manage the probabilities and decide which technique might be better or worse I understand that I mean I like your definition of a politician Jason that is basically to act confident in the face of no information or uncertainty maybe I’m paraphrasing but I didn’t say what are you not no information but I agree.
With what you say that with no information or a different read.
Yes No names that’s right but I still wonder why there isn’t impetus for a Manhattan Project style amount of funding for an issue of this importance and if that wouldn’t have some serious impact on our ability to assess the problem perhaps will could give us his thoughts on this I mean I think it’s speculative what incremental increases in research would do but I think it would be salutary even those of us who have the serious reservations about geoengineering are afraid that one of the off will is that if in twenty or thirty years for example it’s clear that we’re not getting our act together in terms of mitigation and we begin to cross or come very seriously close to crossing critical climatic threshold we may Haneke and seek to deploy one of these technologies without having a really a fast them and then we may end up with a worst case scenario and so it would make sense I think to try to characterize some of these technologies more than we have one thing that’s clear is that when we look at something like sulphur aerosol injection for example which I agree with Jason is kind of the one that’s the scuffs the most on the solar radiation management side it would be salutary at least conduct small scale field experiments to see if putting these particles in the atmosphere respond in any of the way that we think they might in terms of reflecting incoming solar radiation away and the. That might give us an up and try to at least know if we should be looking at this and a larger scale beyond that to try to assess some of the potential serious crime risk or if it’s simply not even going to do what we think at the base which is substantially increased reflectivity it would make sense on the carbon dioxide level side for example to try to increase our research bio energy sources that might not require large amounts of dedicated land for example some of the research at University of California Berkeley looks at the use of L.G. or other what we call second or third generation biofuel resources if we could make substantial breakthroughs in that context it might substantially increase the prospects for using bio energy direct air capture something we haven’t talked about at all but it’s another carbon dioxide in mobile approach where we see a sensually introduce ambient air filter systems that use things such as calcium hydroxide that capture separate out the carbon dioxide and then store it directly or capture it could require very little land very few of those the other kind of risks we’re talking about in terms of such is water you hear bio diversity and could dramatically change the calculus we spent virtually nothing on that research now it would make sense for us to spend thirty to fifty million dollars for example to try to determine if that’s them viable approach given the implications climate change if I did a follow on from will comment just a quick follow up Michael you raise the example of a man can project I think that’s an example because in all of the examples that we’ll talk about what more research to do is help us understand and develop better technologies for doing some more research of this kind will not do it tell us what overall effect this would have on climate change so many cattle projects. If you’re really apt example the Manhattan Project taught us how to build the ball it didn’t teach us anything about what radiation spread throughout the atmosphere would do that happened after we set off the first ball and then we started studying that process and so I do think that and I completely agree with everything we’ll said in terms of an investment of research money in developing the technology and understanding the risks there are pros there cause many of the risks will articulated in a previous answer was specifically about risks that the technology has unintended side effects some of those we can test for but none of these address that core question that you had started by asking which is can we reduce the uncertainty about the impact on the Quite a bit of them using these technologies in the future and that’s a different question and I think it is important to disentangle them because investing in developing the technology we would then need to experiment with the technology at a relatively large scale to see what impact they were having and there’s no way to avoid that challenge it’s just like when you get a drug trial when you’re developing a pharmaceutical drug a Benchley you have to stick it in a human patient to see what it actually does it doesn’t matter if you tried it on monkeys or another thing is still tried the human being and then you see how it works well we’ve only got one and so that is one of the major conundrums that we’re going to face in the evolution of research it’s not developing the technology where the real challenge it’s the fighting how large the test should be to determine whether or not we want to use it permanently thanks very much we’ve talked now a long time about engineering which is really exciting and before actually you go to the political part I have one more question to Rep this up you talked about OK at some point we need to start with logics Perelman’s what evidence or what understanding regarding the impact would you need to be convinced to start a large experiment or also as a some question Jason was saying earlier that politics is now a days also includes more data bays and. It ends I guess for more like less understood but more data or AI based evidence for new regulations or kind of permissions as we also see for example with autonomous driving so some question would be traced you talked a lot about scientific and physical understanding that you would wish for would you think that an AI computed a positive outlook regarding the impact would convince you or do you think we always would need or wish for the scientific evidence about the understanding to actually proceed with large scale experiments I think there are three thing I would want before starting large scale experiments one. Understanding of the technology that only comes from developing a technology and experiment with small scale so exactly the type of research that will be articulated very well to agreement that they experiment was just that a larger scale experiment to run it and see what the results were or how it impacted the climate system and a willingness to look at that data that comes out in order to make a decision about whether or not continue it and there would have to be a careful discussion about what you measure impact on who what different groups and the furred saying is a political consensus that those measurements of what you care about should be oriented toward those who are the most vulnerable to climate change and equally the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of geo engineering in other words those who make less than a dollar a day those who are subsistence farmers I don’t think there’s any AI the nation out there that could convince me one way or the other of those three things because ultimately they’re so what politics and values integrated into Certainly the second to that it is ultimately a human vision and there isn’t just a binary Oh yes this would look good for the planet we should absolutely do it Will you also want to comment on that I think that’s an actual answer the only thing I would add is in terms of developing the political confront of I don’t want large scale. Well public deliberation beyond just government because a lot of times what counts as a substantial risk for people in politics and in finance are different than what are considered to be substantial risk by citizens and citizens are entitled to try to assess these technologies and express their opinions in a way that feeds into the political process albeit a difficult thing to do on the kind of scale that we’re talking about but I agree with Jason in all courts on the other things OK thank you very much so this was already heading clearly to the direction of politics so you both agree on the political basis that should be there but not talking more about the decision making so politically obviously as we discovered this will be extremely hard problems to tackle and also because the effects will be global and will be very risky and potentially very impactful So how do you think the decision making process between different countries may look like how should it look and also with the life impact would be disproportionately on the earth do you think there’s possibilities to compensate losers and leave the planet better as a whole where to begin let me start then you will by answering the question of how I think things will unfold as opposed to how I think they should shameful and I’ll come back and address that briefly there is a certain amount of pragmatism that we need to have about the way in which these technologies just like any other technology will get captured by political interests one way or the other there is no example of a technology in history that has emerged and not had a certain amount of cash or whether it’s corporate and financial capture private game or political capture in terms of with any nation political interest and ultimately in terms of national interest in international affairs I think the first place that we’re going to see and geo engineering and I’m just going to park the physically hear about solar geo engineering because it’s a bit easier because there are. Differences between a few categories and politics but let me focus on solar geo because that one that has the most potential ramifications we didn’t talk much in the science compound the technology about the costs and the most important thing to remember with solar geo engineering is the cost of just doing it just developing the technology could be incredibly low estimate some technology have been on the range of a billion dollars in a year in order to put up enough sulphur to add a considerable amount of control over the amount of cooling now billion dollars sounds like a lot to you and me but actually we’ve got numerous billionaires in the world who could afford this and that is not even a rounding error in terms of the debate on most U.S. appropriation bill that go before Congress in other words it’s incredibly small and given that if there is the chance for national governments to assess the risks to them but climate change is posing and make a decision about is it worth OS attempting to advocate or even potentially spending the money to do solar geo engineering to either cool temperature down or at least hold the temperature where it is now given the reality of those politics the way I think it’s going to emerge is the same way many large international political issues and emerging there will be a handful of countries and whether it’s the G seven G twenty you’re talking about a small number of countries that represent a large fraction of the population in the bath with already of the G.D.P. We’re going to have disproportionate influence because they’re the ones who will spend the money on the technology development and who will then make the decision as to what in their interests and advocate for a one way or the other I think where the question starts so that how there’s so many different scenarios that could emerge in terms of which country chooses to invest in R. and D. first and develop the technology and I don’t have a Chris. So Paul I don’t know which ones where we could all hazard guesses but I think that less relevant than just acknowledging that the technology will very very likely be developed in that way to some extent then the question become and this is where it starts to marry into the should question is once countries decide this is in our interests what do they do about it and they’re going to be a norm whereby the countries go OK this is in my interest I’m going to start doing it and then I’m going to tell everybody else about it and they’re just going to suffer because I’ve got a big military and they can’t do anything about it not a great norm to have but it is a norm that exists in some areas of international affairs decreasing way so over the last fifty years on average but we’ve seen a recent spike in that type of approach to international affairs and politics or are we going to see discussions that go this is really in our interest but we want to have a conversation to try and address issues as you raise Daniel about the sort of how do we deal with unintended and side consequences do we set aside fund basically a no fault insurance fund that we will not be able to attribute if we do solar geo engineering and then we see a drought in Africa or a drought Latin America or Western U.S. We are not good enough at understanding the detailed physics of the climate and what I talked about before to say oh because we put up this much sulfur and that’s what caused that but we can have a framework of no fault insurance in other words we don’t know if doing that cause that drought but now somebody’s suffering from a drought and we’re all in it together so we’re all going to provide support to address it now where I think things should go in fact they should be going there in climate change to begin with and which we have seen toward that in the Paris Accords and the commitment to be amount of money that would be invested by developed countries to create an adaptation fund and essentially a no fault insurance pipe on the development opportunity there. Are mechanisms out there that start to look like that but the question becomes does geo engineering get captured of the National this is another tool a power just like military force an economic force or does it become considered as part of the global commons for making the world a better place and there is no technological answer to that there is no magic oh this is the technology to develop and not this one it is purely a question of how we choose collectively to share ownership or not of the control Daniels’ you want to jump in no it’s just slightly shocking to hear a whole Easy also the political part gets really closely complex with so many different stakeholders involved in so many levels thanks will be answered Jason appreciates the constructive major off it even though there’s surely a lot more to talk about at this point but go ahead Michael it’s true how I can imagine how difficult it would be to adequately compensate the losers and I’m seeing a lot of analogies with the existing climate trees where they’re vulnerable to the accusation that they’re basically a slush fund for poor countries that the money ends up in the hands of dictators in poor countries and so I can imagine that the same complaints leveled against a treaty that compensates quote unquote losers could end up having the same problems in the case of a climate engineering treaty but nevertheless I believe that there is a case to be made for a plausible path to make that happen I’m squeamish about the entire concept of compensating quartern quote losers because what is compensation mean of this case let’s say that some of the most dire implications of sulfur are Phone Jepson occur we potentially shut down the monsoon and huge amounts of people’s children die as a consequence of drought how much are we going to give them for each one of their dead children we very politely talk about compensation of losers in legal regimes and kind of a sterile trash sort of way but we’re talking about human beings here in a lot of cases or if we imperil eco. Systems in terms of bio energy and carbon capture how are we going to quantify the quote unquote losses of biodiversity and who are we compensating in those cases I agree with Jason that there’s a role for this if we inevitably go down this path and decide we need to and the can actually having a no negligence regime would help us to get through some of the problems of causality but I find it unlikely that will do that and will probably require people to prove that quote unquote their harms have been created by geo engineering and that will be very difficult for some the world’s most vulnerable to do especially when they face a phalanx of lawyers from the developed countries that are likely develop these technologies and second of all I’m not certain that we can compensate people for some of the potential impacts that will occur in a way that would be perceived as just an equitable I believe Hamas has a question techniques since our models are not good enough of understanding the climate since we understand it is hugely complex and climate is basically the complete ecosystem of the planet in its totality so if you want to understand the climate you have to be able to model so many things that you’re not even there either physically mathematically or computationally so since our models are not going to enough how do we know interfering using technologies like S.R.M. What if we cooled down the planet too much what if we enter an ice age when they undergo two hundred years since we just can’t know why do we not it’s a danger maybe we can ask a discourse and say yeah we can fine tune S.R.M. we can now but speaking of politics why do we know that spend more on adaptations of human beings to the changes that we could crudely predict how it’s going to be for example we can have plants that they can make clean water out of Ocean and kind of adds. The problem of creating water that problem of climate change and farming in the planet that’s getting warmer and warmer because I believe human beings are creatures that they can after where Evo we have human beings who live in North Pole we have human beings who are given deserts so maybe we can understand that human beings could Sept that change and the global warming more than they try to keep it stable as it is because history has shown that them over there are few of them or we don’t on the second I mean we are spending some money on adaptation at this point and there’s far more of a focus on it than there was even a decade or two ago at one point a lot of our sea makers and a lot of N.G.O.s said let’s not talk about adaptation because it will detract from focusing on reducing our missions we finally realized of course that it wasn’t either or We were really going to reduce our emissions enough to get us where we needed to be and that we were going to have to adapt to a lot of the inevitable impacts of climate change as a consequence and so there’s more of a prioritization of adaptation in international regimes such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris agreement than there was before having said that we absolutely don’t spend enough and a lot of the commitments that developed countries have made in this context even the modest commitments haven’t been fulfilled and there’s a number of reasons for this first of all a lot of that the need for adaptation primarily at least at this point are in developing countries and most of the financial flows have to come from developed countries and it’s very difficult politically to sell transfers of funds from your country especially in times with increasing financial constraints to other countries including developing countries so it becomes a very political issue Second of all as you’ve suggested there’s questions of whether money will be used efficiently and that’s a major question an institution be set up for that and third of all it’s not entirely clear. In a lot of cases white and out of responses are going to make the most especially again because at the regional level we’re often not entirely certain what we’re going to see in the future even if some areas are going to be increased precipitation or decreased precipitation for example so how do you know what the adaptation protocols are going to make the most and how much you should spend on them so the finances difficult and the politics are difficult I wouldn’t answer the question a slightly different way which is to think about Human Adaptation given what we know and what we don’t the first part of your question was about it seems that we don’t know that much don’t know enough about the climate system and that’s true to an extent but think about how much we know and don’t know about the human body we don’t have a perfect model of the human body that allows us to fix all cancers and they all health issues there’s a lot of complex you know what we do know for example that we eat the body up to fifty degrees you’re going to die so we don’t let that happen so there are still some control that you can know quite a bit without knowing everything about the details and the nuances and I think that where it comes at the difference between knowing that climate change and allowing the planet continue to heat up is going to have a lot but potentially negative impact on biodiversity on ecosystems that they currently exist and means to the question of well wouldn’t it be better to keep the temperature from going up and therefore shouldn’t be considered climate so the geoengineering So there is enough understanding in a broad sense to have the debate but the details the devil’s in the details and that’s where we don’t know as much just as in medical science now in terms of that patients you are absolutely correct we adapt as human beings and in fact we all as an incredibly adaptive species and there’s been lots of climate changes over the last hundred thousand years.
And years of coming out of ice ages and back into them that homo sapiens have evolved throughout but it’s important to think about the time scale of one. Timescales on which we’ve adapted to different environment to living in Europe from the Savannah. Asia and North America through the ice ages we’ve had hundreds of thousands of years to adapt to those differing conditions and develop that type of activity and if climate change were happening on a timescale of two hundred years and it was a slow gradual process a few hundred years one could imagine gradually planning to abandon city that were on the coast and gradually move back to allow the level rise simply can sue Manhattan for example However it’s hard to convince people who are invested in Manhattan property and live there and live their lives there that they are going to have to move out during their lifetime and take their kids with them it isn’t a two hundred year process and a lot of the challenges of adaptation actually come down to the fact that we’ve now got seven billion going on nine billion people on the planet and it ultimately will require moving a lot of people around climate change continues and Greenland ice sheet metal three men will be one of the most fur pile areas for growing food nobody lives there and everyone has to move and it’s a relocation a transition on a scale that is unprecedented in terms of how we think about it when we think about migration day in fact we’ve got refugee migrant imagine that in a scale that ten or under times larger and you start to think about the types of adaptation or the way societies would need to adapt and that comes with a lot of pain and suffering great so what I’m hearing from Jason is I should sell my Bitcoin and buy property in Greenland so I’m going to go ahead and do that after this call why hasn’t the topic of climate engineering gave more traction in popular culture sure every few months there’s an article reintroducing the topic and it’s true Recently there was I don’t know if you guys have heard about this brainless disaster film Geo storm but still it hasn’t entered the psychosis in a way that would pressure politicians in to take. Any dramatic steps Manhattan Project or anything like that why is that do you think maybe we’ll you could take that on you have an institute that perhaps is attempting to make this happen movies like storm and the day after tomorrow and Snowpiercer the colony in some ways by trivializing these issues and making them seem so extreme probably detract from any kind of realistic discussion of what the actual to one of these technologies would look like I also think that there is an aversion on the part of politicians to large scale intentional interventions of this nature that potentially have very serious negative implications when they don’t want to take that on in from ways of course that disingenuous what we’re doing in terms of climate change is a large scale intervention on the planet that’s altering the climatic system but it’s not an intentional decision in the same way that Geo would with the kind of political implications that that would have and I think politicians are verbs to taking on those kind of intentional decisions with these kind of implications sin of CO mission as opposed to a sin of omission Yes I’m familiar with that in finance as well there’s a different risk reward instinct that goes into your brain when you’re thinking about those so serious Go ahead Jason I think Will is entirely right I think there are two added factors one the scale of other problems that are dominating the news that are just perceived to be so much more urgent and in many ways are urgent in people’s minds and political mind government there is a transition away from the stability of the ninety’s through the ninety into anything much less geopolitically stable world and that means a lot of conversations that would be required for more coordination remorseful abberation just don’t get into this I but the second thing is who should have this conversation who would have. This conversation I frequently have discussions with politicians and political advisors who say this is incredibly interesting but it’s not part of my file this isn’t something that I would take on even an environment minister feel that in some ways often we too big for them but it’s not quite a foreign minister and the head of state level there are so many other things so there is a big challenge with what desk should that sit on and who would ultimately be considered responsible for it it’s not that different from what we’re seeing though where concerns about AI technologies and who ultimately indifferent governance is responsible for managing the digital portfolio in the emergence of the Internet if they emerge as they are right the difference there is you can see the AI You can either physical manifestations of the technologies of the Internet of Things in your home and the momentum with much those technologies are evolving right in front of people and in the news is just so much faster that that it creates for impetus for government to respond I think the flow burden problems are much more difficult to bring to the front of the agenda thank you very much for that response regarding AI and how tangible the impacts were responsible use in case of damage are I’m thinking about the peril or discussion earlier about on comparability O. For example for fatal events this opens up a new discussion which we’ll have to have No but I also think we’re over time and this is kind of a nice ending actually because it proves that it is a good idea to cover this topic now here on the show thank you all for a highly interesting discussion we covered many topics from techniques to ethics to politics and got some really cool insights with the current situation as well as potential future scenarios which you’d like to say something about how people can find more about you to Jason you go ahead while more information about the work that we do in my department at U.C.L. science technology and very public policy is available at the U.C.L. website you just search U.C.L. week at T A P P L find information not. I mean though what we do on climate but also on urbanization and on AI will range of other technology and policy issues Thanks very much but you will so were at the forum for climate engineering assessment or you are always the assessment org And our website includes reports on our governance work and our public participation work as well as a lot of resources on geoengineering clearing overviews of the technologies and some of the discussions of the issues that we’ve talked about today OK Thanks that was it with our let’s make the future episode about geoengineering good day and good night respectively everybody and thanks for listening Yes From my perspective as well thank you very much also and on behalf of everyone else as well thank you so much for taking the time I did this morning for the seeding I guess this morning for most of you so yes I have a great day and thank you everyone thank you very much for good work.
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