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Ken Caldeira Lecture: Geoengineering Earth's Climate: Crazy or Necessary?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
06:00 PM - 07:30 PM

Gould Welcome Center
50 West 4th St., 1st Floor Barasch Theater

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Regina Drew

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NYU's Educating for Sustainability lecture series is pleased to invite you to a presentation by climate scientist Ken Caldeira on
"Geoengineering Earth's Climate: Crazy or Necessary?"  The lecture will take place on Tuesday, February 14 from 6:00 - 7:30 PM in NYU's Gould Welcome Center, 50 West 4th Street, 1st Floor Barasch Theater.

The lecture is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.  Please RSVP by clicking the "RSVP Now" button in the upper right-hand corner.  The Educating for Sustainability lecture series is presented by NYU's Environmental Studies Program and the NYU Sustainability initiative.


Greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere causing the Earth to get hotter and hotter. We hear about things like the potential for ice sheet collapse, threats to tropical agriculture, methane degassing from melting permafrost, loss of coral reefs, and dieback of the Amazon rain forest. Meanwhile, fossil-fuel emissions go up and up, and the political debate centers on things like how to transport tar-sand oil from Alberta down to the US and how fracking might make even more fossil fuel available for our consumption. Relying on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to bring climate risk to acceptable levels seems perhaps to be based on an overly optimistic view of the potential for human cooperation.

Volcanic eruptions have shown us that small particles in the stratosphere can cool the Earth rapidly. Engineering analyses suggest that the cost of emplacing such particles in the stratosphere would be less than one ten-thousandth of global GDP -- essentially in the noise of the global economy. Climate models suggest that such emplacement would eliminate most climate change for most people most of the time.  Results of such climate model simulations will be presented.

Discussion of this topic is often polarizing, with the mainstream generally considering these ideas crazy and unwise. Consideration of these options seems strongest at the two ends of the spectrum, with some environmentalists feeling that protection of Arctic and other ecosystems depends on this kind of drastic action in addition to redoubling efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and with some more business-oriented folks thinking that these strategies should be developed as emergency measures in lieu of serious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This talk will discuss what is understood scientifically about these geoengineering proposals to counteract some of the effects of high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and place this scientific knowledge in a broader political and ethical context.

Ken Caldeira is a staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution, where his job is "to make important scientific discoveries." He also serves as a professor (by courtesy) in the Stanford University Department of Environmental Earth System Science. Caldeira is a lead author for the upcoming IPCC AR5 report and was coordinating lead author of the oceans chapter for the 2005 IPCC report on Carbon Capture and Storage. He was a co-author of the 2010 US National Academy America's Climate Choices report. He participated in the UK Royal Society geoengineering panel in 2009 and ocean acidification panel in 2005. He was a lead author of the 2007 U.S. "State of the Carbon Cycle Report. Caldeira was invited by the National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board to deliver the 2007 Roger Revelle Lecture, "What Coral Reefs Are Dying to Tell Us About CO2 and Ocean Acidification." In 2010, Caldeira was elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

Read more about Ken Caldeira on his website: