Geoengineering is a new and rapidly developing area of science and technology. Proposals range from placing giant mirrors in space to reflect sunlight, to fertilising the oceans with nutrients in order to soak up atmospheric carbon dioxide. On Tuesday 19 January Professor Steve Rayner, Director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society and a co-author of the Royal Society's recent report on the social and ethical implications of geoengineering, took part in a panel discussion at the Royal Society on the science and governance of this increasingly important field of research.
In an earlier interview for the BBC's Today programme Prof Rayner said: "We don't have a complete understanding of what's involved in each of these technologies. A consensus is still far away, and there's disagreement about whether we should even do the research. … The range of options is very broad and the implications of actually doing them are quite different."
Asked his opinion on whether geoengineering research should take place, Rayner emphasised the importance of keeping all options open. "What you don't want to do is get into a situation in a couple of decades where there's a planetary emergency and we have to implement something of this order without fully understanding it."
The Royal Society panel discussion covered issues including the science, technology and governance of geoengineering, and the possible benefits, drawbacks and uncertainties of the various options that have been proposed. The debate was chaired by Professor John Shepherd, Chair of the Royal Society's recent report on "Geoengineering the Climate". Other participants included Professor Brian Launder, Dr David Santillo and Professor Corinne Le Quéré.
You can watch the full debate on the Royal Society website.