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The Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies

In the beginning, I had my doubts. The Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies, held last week at the Asilomar conference grounds near Monterey, Calif., was touted as an “unprecedented” gathering of 175 scientists, environmental groups, philosophers, and public policy wonks to discuss the governance of geoengineering — that is, large-scale, intentional manipulation of the Earth’s climate to offset rising temperatures. The meeting was obviously set up to channel the spirit of the first Asilomar conference in 1975, during which biologists drew up voluntary guidelines to help reassure the public that genetically modified organisms would not be released into the world. Asilomar 1.0 is remembered as a landmark event in the evolution of scientific ethics and a turning point in the public acceptance of biotechnology.

Asilomar 2.0 seemed to pale in comparison. For one thing, geoengineering may be a scary idea, but the dangers were nowhere near as immediate as the unintentional release of genetically modified organisms. As David Keith, head of the Energy and Environmental Systems Group at the University of Calgary and one of the pioneers of geoengineering research, put it, “There is no threat of genetically altered clouds replicating virally in the atmosphere.” For another, no one seemed exactly sure what the goal of Asilomar 2.0 was, other than to convince the rest of the world that geoengineers are not mad scientists bent on destroying whatever is left of the Earth’s “natural” climate system. A few days before the conference began, questions were raised about whether the conference was in fact a quiet way for the organizer of the conference, The Climate Response Fund, to raise money to fund geoengineering experiments (a last-minute statement from the CRF’s board put an end to that controversy).

“if the public comes to see geoengineering as, as one attendee put it, 'a crazy idea cooked up by rich Anglo Saxons to dominate the climate,' then they will all be rightfully tarred and feathered.” [1]

Media Gallery



Goodell, Jeff. "A Hard Look at the Perils and Potential of Geoengineering." Yale School of the Environment (2010).
"Statement by the Board of Directors of the Climate Response Fund." The Climate Response Fund (2010).
"Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention." Climate Institute (2010).
MacCracken, Michael. "Summary: The Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies." Climate Institute (2010).
"The Asilomar Conference Recommendations on Principles for Research into Climate Engineering Techniques: Conference Report." Climate Institute (2010).

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Jim Lee, ClimateViewer News
Jim Lee
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