Christopher Avery and David Keith

October 18, 2010

UPDATE 3:24: David Keith is on the scene. He says this is a new talk for him. I don’t believe him, but whatev. This is how the hotshots roll. He doesn’t provide an abstract, so you can rely on yours truly for notes. He’s telling a story now. You’re not missing anything.

Starting with a few comments. He’s an expert who thinks that he’s narrowly an expert, but it’s not clear to him that he has a lot to say that will contribute to this conversation. He’s just quoted Tom Watson and basically called him an idiot for ever suggesting that the world only needed five computers. Now he’s telling a story about a plane crash, and about how a pilot broke the tail off a plane by overreacting. The moral of the tale is that controls of airplanes should be sticky to keep everyone from freaking out.

We now have a political cartoon depicting coneheads and time machines. Hard to explain.

Speed: How quickly can SRM act? No good answer. It’d be great if it could act quickly… but it’s not clear if it can.

He’s looking at five knobs on our SRM climate engineering machine:

  1. Speed: there are dangers to having it act too fast (like a sticky tail rudder on an airplane).
  2. Localization: it would be nice if you could have local control of the climate. (I’m chilly, so I’m putting on my sweater.)
  3. Temporal Risk Profile: worst type of risk profile is like thalidomide
  4. Requirement for collective action
  5. Certainty of outcome
  6. Feasibility of counteraction (we’ve moved beyond five knobs somehow)
  7. Detectability and verifiability
  8. Techie knobs: spectral, zonal, direct/diffuse

Keith’s main concern is that once this comes into play, it’ll be used for whatever ends we want it to be used.

UPDATE 3:15: Christopher Avery is arguing that there already is a form of governance: intellectual property. Pretty interesting proposal. His argument proceeds by looking at a variety of cases in which there already have been several geoengineering patents. So he’s now asking how we can govern IP differently. Now he’s considering a different analog: atomic energy. Suggestions:

  1. Stop issuing broad patents. These stifle innovation.
  2. Create an interagency geoengineering tast force
  3. Add geoengineering to existing sensitive application warning system within PTO
  4. Offer non-patent based innovation incentives (like the X-prize)

The time to act is now. Geoengineering is at a crucial moment in its development. The time in which we can act, he says, is quickly passing. If geoengineering is a ship, IP is the rudder. Cute metaphor.

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