Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Update from Planet Under Pressure

For the past few days, I have been attending the Planet Under Pressure 2012 conference in London. While geoengineering has not figured prominently here, two individual sessions were devoted fully to the subject. The first of these, titled "Geo-Engineering: Engineering Constraints," focused primarily on the apparent technical limits of specific strategies, in particular CDR techniques. Enhanced weathering came off especially badly, with one presenter noting that the physical infrastructure required to support global-scale silicate weathering would effectively constitute the largest industry in history. Other carbon approaches such as A/R were also criticized for inherent ecological, economic, and resource constraints, and the general tone was one of discouragement regarding current technical potentials.

The second panel was titled "Geo-Engineering Governance," and looked at various institutional and policy dimensions of the field. Presenters discussed governance at conceptual levels (e.g., the Oxford Principles on research) and practical levels (e.g., regulation under the LC/LP). This session was characterized by greater agnosticism toward geoengineering compared to the engineering panel. Several presentations were excellent, particularly those on geopolitics and SRMGI, and left the impression that research on the governance aspects of geoengineering is in some ways beginning to outpace engineering and technical work.

Other items worth noting include:
  • Word that the Japanese government has finalized plans to fund two research projects, one focused on modeling and the other a general assessment of geoengineering technologies.
  • SRMGI will hold two final meetings this year in Africa, bringing its dialogue Phase I to a close. The Royal Society is looking to obtain funds for a more regularized Phase II.
  • The ETC Group is promoting an International Convention for the Evaluation of New Technologies (ICENT), which would of course apply to geoengineering technologies.
Lastly, below is an image of the poster I presented at the conference, titled "The Global Politics of Climate Engineering." (I am happy to provide a PDF version upon request.)

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