Engineering a cooler planet: Could we? Should we?


Oxford Martin School

Published on May 15, 2015

Mankind’s strategies of mitigation and adaptation may well turn out to be too weak and too late to avoid dangerous climate change later this century. So might we need to try a different route – geoengineering? We could for example reflect more solar radiation back into space by making more reflective clouds; or we could absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and bury it underground, to diminish the “greenhouse” effect.

Would such technologies work, and would there be side effects? And who would decide whether to do this, and when, if ever, to stop. These are just some of the questions raised by the idea of engineering the climate – could we, and should we?

Professor Richard Darton is Co-Director of the Oxford Geoengineering Programme, Oxford Martin School; Professor of Engineering Science in the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford; and Senior Research Fellow and Tutor in Chemical Engineering at Keble College.

He was the President of the European Federation of Chemical Engineering (EFCE) from 2006-2009 and 2012-2013. He is also a Fellow of IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers) and a member of its Council, and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Prominent in the international chemical engineering community, Richard Darton is a past president of IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers) and has spent periods as a visiting lecturer at the Mendeleev University and Kurnakov Institute in Moscow and also at the University of St. Petersburg. He has worked at the University of Sydney, Australia and at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. He is an Honorary Member of the Czech Chemical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

His research areas include dynamic surface effects at gas/liquid interfaces and he chaired the EFCE Working Party on Fluid Separations from 2001-2007. He is also a leading thinker in the concept of sustainable development. In 2011, Professor Darton received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his service to the engineering community and to chemical engineering in particular.

Professor Steve Rayner is James Martin Professor of Science and Civilization at Oxford University’s School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography and Director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, where he also co-directs the Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities and the Oxford Geoengineering Programme, both supported by the Oxford Martin School.

He is also Honorary Professor of Climate Change and Society at the University of Copenhagen and Senior Fellow at The Breakthrough Institute, a non-partisan environmental NGO based in California’s Bay Area. He previously held senior research positions in two US National Laboratories and has taught at leading US universities, including Cornell, Virginia Tech, and Columbia.

Trained as a political anthropologist (PhD University College London 1980), he describes himself as an ‘undisciplined’ scholar, committed to changing the world through social science. He has served on various US, UK, and international bodies addressing science, technology and the environment, including Britain’s Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Royal Society’s Working Group on Climate Geoengineering. Until 2008, he also directed the national Science in Society Research Programme of the UK Economic and Social Research Council. He is the Founding and General Editor of the Science in Society book series published by Earthscan.

He has received numerous awards, including the 25th Homer N. Calver Award from the Environment Section of the American Public Health Association, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Director’s Award for R&D Excellence and two Martin Marietta Energy Systems Awards for ground-breaking work in risk analysis and global climate change policy analysis respectively. He was included in the 2008 Smart List by Wired Magazine as ‘one of the 15 people the next US President should listen to’.

Oxford Martin School,
University of Oxford
www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk

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