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Protecting the planet for our children and other species

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The science, governance and ethics of engineering planetary sun–shades.

Peter Davidson FREng Former Senior Innovation Advisor to the UK Government Chief Economic Advisor and Director General of the Research Councils

The extent and the rate of climate change are uncertain. Predicting gradual change is always difficult; and determining the tipping points where substantial change might happen is problematic.

Research has just begun on technologies to provide a means of cooling the planet to reduce impacts of climate change. If major climate change happens, it will be the world’s poorest people and least robust ecosystems that will be most affected, both because of where they are situated and their lack of resilience.

Two technologies with the potential to provide a rapid, low-cost response to unforeseen changes are:

(i) seeding the stratosphere with sub–micron light scattering particles

(ii) the nucleation of additional cloud cover over the oceans

Encouraging features of both technologies are that they have natural analogues; they can be switched on or off quickly; and they are both relatively inexpensive.

Research on these technologies will be described, with discussion of the main issues and risks associated with their development, testing and implementation.

Everyone is welcome. Free for members, £2 on the door for non-members. Followed by refreshments (that means smoothies, cheese and grapes!).

This talk is part of the SciSoc – Cambridge University Scientific Society series.

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