Archive for October 19th, 2010


Nicole Hassoun and Albert Borgmann

October 19, 2010

UPDATE 3:29: Borgmann now. He asks, “What are people thinking??” Uses the case of offering money for starving peoples.

UPDATE 3:18: Nicole‘s up.  She mentioned Colorado, because she thinks Montana is like Colorado, but not as cool. She’s talking about how some kinds of geoengineering are morally impermissible, specifically deploying Nature of Nature arguments. Artificial versus non-Artificial. She just did a funny little schtick with salmon pictures. Lots and lots of pretty pictures here. Thinking now, she’s got a similar stance to my own. Good on her. Except that, now, I see where she’s coming from a little better, now that I’ve asked my question.

Up on the screen she put several of her premises, one of which is “P1 Natural things and processes often have significant value.” And so I suppose I want to know where that value’s coming from, insofar as it will matter to her ultimate thesis (that there’s something wrong with acting without backward looking regard for nature).

So suppose that the reason that we have a problem with geoengineering is because we’re acting without regard for nature. This is the sort of thing, of course, that we do very often, and for some people, it’s not clear what’s wrong with this. The reason we do this is because there’s a sense in which nature doesn’t have interests (according to some people). My question isn’t whether or not nature does have interests, but what’s doing the justificatory work to get her to the point at which she can argue that there is something wrong with taking action without respect for nature?


Phil Rasch, Alan Robock, David Keith

October 19, 2010

UPDATE 2:58: I’m all flippertinibbet.

UPDATE 2:45: I just raised a somewhat elaborate question, which is a little hard to recapitulate given that it was extemporaneous, but I basically was suggesting, in response to a stance that Lauren Hartzell had taken with regard to the infancy of this conceptual discussion, that the role of philosophy in this discussion is to offer clarification with regard to the types of arguments that work, those that don’t work, and the extent to which these arguments can help decision-makers move forward. Andrew Light built on this point to say something about how this is done in other fields as well. Albert Borgmann is now building on this to integrate a somewhat Rawlsian position. Now Clark Miller is trying to say that we don’t have to start by rethinking these questions but instead can look at existing regulatory mechanisms. Nicole Hassoun said something pretty interesting, but more interesting was the observation that basically you need to get IRB approval to spray something on a person, but you don’t need to get IRB approval to spray something over their heads. Everyone wants to talk now. It’s like a fracking free-for-all here.

UPDATE 2:30: Alan Robock just said “nozzle testing” (he he). All three are talking about boundaries and when and where we can conduct research into geoengineering, but all I can think about is nozzle testing. He says now that one of his favorite principles is “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right,” and now he’s said more stuff about how ethicists haven’t done a lot to answer this question so far at this meeting, which has suddenly gotten a few people raising their hands very aggressively.


Lauren Hartzell and Andrew Light

October 19, 2010

UPDATE 11:15: Andrew‘s speaking, talking about how he’s moving some of his work over to policy work. Does mostly now philosophically informed policy making. He’s got three key questions:

  1. How do the basic questions concerning geoengineering raise the need for governance?
  2. What are the minimal criteria for effective governance ahead of large-scale deployment?
  3. Are there options on the table now for advancing institutions for governance?

Skipping most of his stuff to hit the conclusion. HE says that the classification begs governance. “Alternative classification incorporating global/local risk profile, reversability, etc., (to traditional CDR-SRM) are interesting because they bring to the forefront the pragmatic issues of assessing impacts of different techniques on humans, other animals, ecosystems and earth systems.”

Minimum criteria for effective governance, at least these six bare bones: Inclusive, open forum, streamlined, informed, autonomous, empowered. Consider these with regard to options for governance: Private/voluntary model (not autonomous or empowered; only partially open forum), unilateral model (only autonomous; doesn’t meet other criteria), multilateral-exclusive model (like START; questionable autonomy, only partially open forum, possibly streamlined). Lots of different models are currently in play: UN, IWC, CITES. Creating international body is a mistake, primarily for reasons of time. Doesn’t think IPCC and UNFCCC is the way to go. Andrew likes the ENMOD treaty. Here’s another primer that I’ve just googled.

The idea is that we’d just use this treaty to ban a lot of harmful stuff, but the scope isn’t only about harmful uses. The most interesting part of the treaty is Article III, which talks about how to modify the environment. This is a really interesting talk. I need to pay attention.


UPDATE 11:00: Hartzell is speaking about the precautionary principle, which she thinks is poorly defined and formulated. Generally, it’s thought to be the “better safe than sorry” view. She’s arguing that there are multiple different PP arguments, that it lacks clarity. Who bears the responsibliity, is it human health versus the environment, what are the threats of harm (there’s a paralysis objection), and it’s difficult to identify precautionary measures. There are, clearly, fancy categories and families of precautionary principles.

Mention of Gardiner, Manson, yada yada.

Defines Catastrophic Precautionary Principle: “Appropriate precautionary measures should be taken against threats of catastrophe, where threads of catastraphe….” gah! too fast… not enough coffee. Read the paper. Damn you, Lauren. You speak as fast as I do.

The question we should be asking is, “When, if ever will SRM techniques constitute appropriate precautionary measures against climate change.


Jane Long

October 19, 2010

UPDATE 10:00: Jane Long is talking about intentionality, which presumably refers to the claim that geoengineering is an intentional project, as opposed to unintentional. Jane believes that it’s really irksome to many people that geoengineering is intentional. Do we want to hold out for an international agreement or do we just want to move forward and establish some norms?

So now she wants to talk about what strategy might be like. She says we talk about mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation, she says, is strongly related to remediation.

One of the few goals that people have been able to agree on is the 2 degree goal. Apparently engineers serve clients.


Ashley Mercer, Wylie Carr, and Laurie Young

October 19, 2010

UPDATE 9:30: David Keith is doing science beside me. I’d copy down this wacky formula he’s writing in his free time, but there are too many symbols and I think I’d have to learn Latex in order to duplicate it. However, the take-home point is that he’s not paying attention, and I’m paying attention to him not paying attention, though he did just manage to ask a question and create the appearance that he’s paying attention. Very clever, David Keith.

UPDATE 8:54: Wylie‘s talking about what a fantastic tool social science can be. Laurie and Wylie don’t have a paper up because they’re from Montana, and Montanans roll like that. Social scientists don’t have many places to go for information or input on what people think about geoengineering. Basically he’s giving an overview of the Experiment Earth findings. They’re proposing something a little different. So they want to do some social science research into the attitudes and opinions of vulnerable populations, hopefully to make their positions accessible to researchers and deliberators so that eventually the work will be useful to those populations of researchers. Talking both about physical and social vulnerability. Looking at a range of questions regarding our current understanding of SRM, governance, justice, and equity questions, nature and technology, as well as how populations view risk and uncertainty, and questions about science and knowledge.

Laurie’s now speaking too, because she wants to solicit from the audience about what kinds of questions we’d like to see people give answers to. Planning to do interviews with representatives of vulnerable populations and with climate advocates. This will avoid conflicts resulting from lack of knowledge. Petra asked a question and used the term ‘narratives’. Kyle asked whether there are vulnerable populations as co-PIs. Naomi Klein is asking whether and how this information will be used.

UPDATE 8:40: Day two, Ashley Mercer‘s in the house, talking about epistemology and Hume. Better to read the paper, but here’s the upshot. Suppose she’s in conversation with engineers. Some are naive engineers, who just accept that it’s something that can be done. Some are wise engineers, who ask all sorts of kooky moral questions about what to do. Effectively, we’re not just creating knowledge, as some naive engineers might believe, but we should like to become wise engineers (clearly, because wise is good and good is wise), which will acknowledge that as we create knowledge we create normatively charged knowledge. Or something like that. I got caught being a White Paper administrator earlier in the session so I didn’t have a moment to type some stuff up on the events of the morning. Now Wylie’s talking.