Time for a Technical Fix? The Science and Ethics of Solar Geoengineering

Thursday, April 25, 2019 - 5:00pm


Marion Hourdequin

Professor and Chair, Philosophy, Colorado College

David Keith

Professor, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Kennedy School, Harvard University

Shuchi Talati

Fellow, Union of Concerned Scientists

As the current effects and future threats of climate change grow, we must consider every possible approach to bring our planet back from the brink. Theoretically, we could reduce the impact of climate change through solar geoengineering: introducing substances into the atmosphere that would reflect some of the sun's rays away from the earth. What are the potential risks and benefits of this technology? Who will decide whether and how we can use it? 

David Keith has worked near the interface between climate science, energy technology, and public policy for twenty-five years. Best known for his work on the science, technology, and public policy of solar geoengineering, David led the development of Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program. He took first prize in Canada's national physics prize exam, won MIT's prize for excellence in experimental physics, and was one of TIME magazine's Heroes of the Environment. David is a Professor at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard Kennedy School, and founder of Carbon Engineering, a company developing technology to capture CO2 from ambient air.

Marion Hourdequin, Associate Professor and Chair in Colorado College Philosophy Department, specializes in environmental philosophy. Her research and teaching interests also include ethics, comparative philosophy, animal studies, and philosophy of science. Prof. Hourdequin's current research focuses on climate ethics, climate justice, and the social and ethical dimensions of ecological restoration. She is the author of Environmental Ethics: From Theory to Practice (Bloomsbury, 2015) and editor, with David Havlick, of Restoring Layered Landscapes (Oxford, 2015). She serves as an Associate Editor for the journal Environmental Values,  and is on the editorial board of Environmental Ethics.

Shuchi Talati works on solar geoengineering research governance and public engagement with the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr. Talati works to guide sound governance and public engagement on research into proposed solar geoengineering approaches to limit global warming. Prior to joining UCS, Dr. Talati completed a Congressional Science Fellowship in the offices of Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN), where she helped lead responses to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and also worked on legislation on carbon capture, utilization, and storage, including direct air capture technology.


The program will be moderated by Suzanne Jacobs, a physics PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her bachelor's degree in physics at the University of Michigan in 2011 and then stayed for a brief stint to study the mechanics of glacier calving under Dr. Jeremy Bassis before coming to MIT for a master's degree in science writing. After interning at MIT Technology Review, she switched coasts to write for the Seattle-based environmental news website Grist. In 2016, she moved yet again to Austin, TX, where she studies the physics of swarming bacteria. She occasionally writes about her experiences in graduate school on her blog, f of Q. 

This program is a J. Herbert Hollomon Memorial Symposium, a memorial instituted by friends and family of the late J. Herbert Hollomon. Herb Hollomon was a distinguished scientist, public servant and MIT faculty member. This endowed memorial symposium has been held every few years for almost 25 years with topics that have included: 

Humans Need Not Apply? AI and the Future of Work
Green Technology: What? How? Why?
The Atomic Bomb: Myth, Memory, 
History, Food Scarcity: Fact of Fiction?
Forging Sustainable Communities
Energy and Climate: What Role for Conservation Policy?
Weapons of Mass Confusion
The Ceaseless Society
Pioneering Solutions to Global Challenges
Gene Patenting: Balancing Access and Information