Workshop in Missoula

The Ethics of Geoengineering:
Investigating the Moral Challenges of Solar Radiation Management

Workshop in Missoula, MT
October 18-20, 2010

To stimulate in-depth discussion on the ethics of Solar Radiation Management (SRM), we held a 3-day workshop at The University of Montana from October 18-20th, 2010.  Attending the workshop were a number of leading scientists and scholars who shared their expertise on Solar Radiation Management technologies and helped us focus discussion on the particular ethical issues they raise.  We also brought 7 highly qualified graduate students to Missoula to participate, based on their academic preparation and their proposal submissions on the ethical issues raised by SRM.   

Sections of the workshop were devoted to 1) the complex problems SRM creates in social, procedural, and environmental justice, 2) the question of whether anthropogenic global warming is appropriately viewed as requiring a technological fix, 3) a range of issues related to public trust in science, 4) the question of how best to manage the risk and uncertainty associated with SRM, and 5) the implications of SRM for our understanding of ‘nature’ and its bearing on our relationship to the planet.  During the three days in Missoula, we made a start on a white paper on the ethics of SRM.  The workshop included two well-attended evening lectures that were free and open to the public and brief interviews with a number of the workshop participants.  

The workshop served to provoke discussion and initiate collaborations.  For example, after the the event several participants submitted recommendations to the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative.  A number of workshop participants will also be contributing to a journal special issue and an anthology on the ethics of SRM.  Project social scientists will soon begin investigating public views on geoengineering, with a focus on the views of representatives of vulnerable people in arctic indigenous communities, small island developing states, and rural communities in sub-saharan Africa and the U.S. southwest.  The goal of the social science is to learn how people in those communities consider risk, justice, and global governance when thinking about geoengineering. 

Each aspect of the project will be interdisciplinary, combining philosophical and social science research, guided by our scientific advisors.

National Science Foundation