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Engineering Solar Radiation Is a Crazy Idea
April 18, 2019
Engineering Solar Radiation Is a Crazy Idea
Engineering Solar Radiation Is a Crazy Idea

Geoengineering is an ambitious set of experiments proposed by scientists to help mitigate the effects of climate change. And one type in particular, called solar geoengineering, has been the subject of debate. This process involves, among other techniques, injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere to reduce the amount of sun and heat that reaches the planet. The goal? To decrease global temperatures. Proponents argue this process would be inexpensive and effective. Plus, they say, it could limit changes in glacier melt and lessen the intensity of tropical storms. But challengers argue these techniques do not address the underlying issues of climate change, and they worry that solar geoengineering could alter weather systems or possibly even cool the planet too much. They also point to governance issues: Any country could engage these strategies, triggering the possibility of unintended consequences that could affect us all. Is solar geoengineering a radical idea? Or is it likely to emerge as an important, supplemental tool in the fight against climate change?

Post-Debate
Winner

Against The Motion
75 %
19 %
For The Motion
6 %
Undecided
Pre-Debate
Undecided
39 %
37 %
Against The Motion
24 %
For The Motion
Breakdown
Against The Motion
29% - Remained For the Against Side
16% - Swung From the For Side
30% - Swung From Undecided
For The Motion
5% - Swung From the Against Side
7% - Remained For the For Side
7% - Swung From Undecided
Undecided
3% - Swung From the Against Side
1% - Swung From the For Side
2% - Remained Undecided
Post-Debate
Winner

Against the Motion
50 %
43 %
For the Motion
7 %
Undecided
Pre-Debate
Against the Motion
37 %
37 %
For the Motion
27 %
Undecided
Breakdown
Against the Motion
27% - Remained For the Against Side
10% - Swung From the For Side
13% - Swung From Undecided
For the Motion
7% - Swung From the Against Side
23% - Remained For the For Side
13% - Swung From Undecided
Undecided
3% - Swung From the Against Side
3% - Swung From the For Side
0% - Remained Undecided
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Engineering Solar Radiation Is a Crazy Idea
With Clive Hamilton, Anjali Viswamohanan, David Keith, and Ted Parson
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Is Solar Geoengineering Cool? Or Crazy?
Oxford’s Anjali Viswamohanan, UCLA’s Ted Parson, and best-selling author Clive Hamilton make their cases for and against solar geoengineering.
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Defining Solar Geoengineering
Harvard’s David Keith explains the processes and chemicals associated with solar geoengineering.
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Research & Modeling
Harvard’s David Keith, Oxford’s Anjali Viswamohanan, and best-selling author Clive Hamilton go head-to-head on the implications of solar geoengineering research.
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Global Governance
What country will govern solar geoengineering? Our panelists debate.
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Dr. Evil & Solar Geoengineering
What happens if individuals with enough money and resources engineer the planet’s climate? Our debaters respond to a question from the audience.
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Making Their Cases
Our debaters make their final remarks for and against the motion “Engineering Solar Radiation Is a Crazy Idea.”
About The Debaters
For The Motion
An image of Clive Hamilton
Clive Hamilton − Professor & Author, “Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering”
Clive Hamilton is a professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra. Previously, he founded the... read bio
An image of Anjali Viswamohanan
Anjali Viswamohanan − Scholar, Oxford
Anjali Viswamohanan is a Chevening scholar at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University and an energy... read bio
Against The Motion
An image of David Keith
David Keith − Professor, Harvard & Founder, Carbon Engineering
David Keith has worked near the interface between climate science, energy technology, and public policy for 25... read bio
An image of Ted Parson
Ted Parson − Professor, UCLA
Edward Parson is the faculty co-director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA,... read bio
Main Points
For The Motion
  • Solar geoengineering is just a Band-Aid on top of a larger issue, and it will not address the underlying behaviors, practices, and products that lead to excessive greenhouse gas emissions.
  • There are too many possible unintended consequences associated with solar geoengineering, including changing weather patterns, cooling the planet too much, or further depleting the ozone layer.
  • Solar geoengineering technologies could fall into the wrong hands: Rogue actors or governments around the world could potentially wield them without the consent of affected communities or nations.   
Against The Motion
  • Solar geoengineering imitates a natural process that already exists. Introducing reflective particles into the stratosphere could mimic the global cooling effect documented after volcanic eruptions, helping to decrease global temperatures. 
  • Compared to the economic cost of managing global warming, including drought, ocean acidification, and increasingly turbulent tropical storms, solar geoengineering is a more affordable way to mitigate the effects of climate change. 
  • It is too risky not to test solar geoengineering. Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest that as global temperatures continue to rise, the results will be catastrophic for humanity in the decades to come.
Devil’s Bargain
Eric Holthaus / February 8, 2018
A Big-Sky Plan to Cool the Planet
Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman / February 16, 2018