Climate Engineering: A Nexus of Ethics, Science and Governance

Monday, 14 December 2015: 14:25
310 (Moscone South)
Thomas P Ackerman, Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, Seattle, WA, United States
Climate engineering (or geoengineering) has emerged as a possible component of a strategy to mitigate global warming. This emergence has produced a novel intersection of atmospheric science, environmental ethics and global governance. The scientific questions of climate engineering, while difficult to answer in their own right, are compounded by ethical considerations regarding whether these questions should be addressed and governance questions of how research and deployment could be managed. In an effort to address this intersection of ideas and provide our students with a rich interdisciplinary experience, we (T. Ackerman and S. Gardiner, both senior professors at the University of Washington) taught a cross-listed course in the Atmospheric Sciences and Philosophy departments. The course attracted 12 students (mostly graduate students but with two upper level undergraduates), with roughly equal representation from environmental sciences, ethics, and public policy disciplines, as well as two post-docs. Our primary goal for the course was to develop a functioning research community to address the core issues at the intersection of science and ethics. In this presentation, we discuss the course structure, identify strategies that were successful (or less so), and describe outcomes. We consider this course to be primarily pedagogical in nature, but we also recognize that many of the students in the class, perhaps even a majority, are intending to pursue careers outside academia in areas of public policy, environmental consulting, etc., which added an extra dimension to our class. Here, we also discuss the possibility of developing and teaching such courses in an academic environment that is stressed financially and increasingly dependent on metrics related to class size and student credit hours.