Distinguished Lecture Series: Dr. David Keith
Moderate, Temporary, and Responsive Solar Geoengineering
Abstract: The combination of inertia and uncertainty makes the coupled climate-economic system dangerously hard to control. If the climate's sensitivity is at the high end of current estimates it may be too late to avert dramatic consequences for human societies and natural ecosystems even if we could quickly cut emissions to zero. Emissions cuts are necessary to manage climate risks, but they are not necessarily sufficient. Prudence demands that we study methods that offer the hope of limiting the environmental risks posed by the accumulation of fossil carbon in the atmosphere. The engineered alteration of the earth's radiation budget-geoengineering-offers a fast means of managing climate risk, but it entails a host of new risks and it cannot fully compensate for the risk posed by carbon in the air. I will review the science and technology and of solar geoengineering and argue that systematic management of climate risks entails the capability to implement these technologies. Finally, I will speculate about the elements of a geoengineering research program needed to build and regulate such capability.
Bio: David Keith has worked near the interface between climate science, energy technology, and public policy for twenty five years. 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. Best known for work on solar geoengineering, David’s analytical work has ranged from the climatic impacts of large-scale wind power to an early critique of the prospects for hydrogen fuel. David has built a high-accuracy infrared spectrometer for NASA's ER-2 and developed new methods for reservoir engineering increase the safety of stored CO2. David is Professor of Applied Physics in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Professor of Public Policy in the Harvard Kennedy School, he spends about a third of his time in Calgary, where he helps lead Carbon Engineering a company developing technology to capture of CO2 from ambient air.