"Fortune, fame, fear, fanaticism and geoengineering" by Dr Jane Long

Past Event

30 March 2012, 2:30pm - 3:30pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

This seminar is hosted by the Oxford Geoengineering Programme

Summary: Ethical issues associated with geoengineering have been identified. The focus has largely been on two issues: the prospect of unequal and damaging effects particularly on underrepresented populations and the possibility that focusing on geoengineering would distract people from the hard and necessary work of mitigation. These are real problems, but there are at least four other issues that deserve focus as we plan a research program. These are related to basic human desires and motivations, which might be summarised as "fortune, fear, fame and fanaticism", and represent forms of vested interests from which we will need to protect ourselves. We will need to be careful that decisions about geoengineering are not corrupted by any of these. "Fortune" refers to profit making and being sure that choices are not influenced by parties who might make significant amounts of money through a choice to modify climate, especially using proprietary intellectual property. This form of vested interest is better understood and has established methods for dealing with some, though perhaps not all, the problems. The next two forms of "vested interest" are less well understood. "Fear" refers to the need to develop institutions that are not afraid of admitting they are wrong. We do not want the institutions we have managing geoengineering choices to be unable to stop a bad choice because it reflects badly on the vested interests of the institution. Finally, "fame" refers to the desire for scientists and engineers and other advocates to be a major influence in "saving the world". The desire for fame will require that we develop institutional methods to assess ideas independently. Fortune, fear and fame concerns should drive the charters of institutions charged with developing any geoengineering choices for our future. "Fanaticism" refers to the propensity to make decisions based on ideology rather than rational consideration, especially in dynamical, complex, difficult to understand situations.

Speaker: Dr Jane Long, Associate Director, Energy and Environment Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Watch live online and participate by visiting oxgeoeng.webex.com, click on the event and enter password "martinschool"