Messing with Mother Nature: Climate Change and Climate Engineering

In the Stratosphere

Thursday, January 26, 2023, 7pm

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The scale of human activity on Earth is now large enough to alter global climate. The most significant activity is the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, particularly carbon dioxide, leading inevitably to a warmer climate. Given that human actions are leading to climate warming, one can conjecture that Earth’s climate can likewise be cooled by deliberate engineering. Of particular interest in the near term are actions that could lead to an increase in the reflection of solar radiation. Several such possible methods will be discussed using physical analogues and the results of complex global climate models. But, climate engineering research and potential deployment present ethical challenges in a number of unusual ways that must be considered as well. The intersection of climate engineering science, ethics, and governance is uncharted territory that requires careful and detailed study.


Dr. Thomas Ackerman is Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. He was Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Director of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO; now CICOES) at the UW from 2007 to 2018. From 1999 through 2006, he served as the Chief Scientist of DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program and was a Battelle Fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA. He was Professor of Meteorology at the Pennsylvania State University from 1988 to 1999, as well as Associate Director of the Earth System Science Center. Dr. Ackerman is the recipient of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal and the Leo Szilard Award for Science in the Public Interest, awarded by the American Physical Society. He is a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union.

Dr. Ackerman’s research interests span a wide range of climate issues from fundamental science, such as the life cycle of tropical cirrus and aerosol-cloud interactions, to applied issues, such as the impacts of nuclear war on global climate and solar climate engineering. Dr. Ackerman has published more than 180 papers in peer-reviewed journals.