Avoiding dangerous climate change: Is geo-engineering the answer?

November 10, 2009

There's a growing realization among some climate scientists that the window for taking effective action on climate change is closing fast and the world is barreling toward a tipping point where dangerous consequences are all but inevitable. Some argue that mitigation alone (reducing greenhouse gas emissions at their source) won't solve the problem, but geo-engineering (deliberately manipulating the climate system and/or global carbon cycle) may be what is needed, at least as stop gap measures, to reduce the threats posed by climate change.

On Nov.19, McGill University's Faculty of Science will host the fifth annual Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium: Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change: Geo-engineering or Mitigation? during which four of the world's foremost experts on climate change will discuss the scientific, economic and ethical ramifications of geo-engineering our climate.

What: The 2009 Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium, Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change: Geo-engineering or Mitigation?

When: Nov. 19, 5 - 7 p.m.

Where: McGill University Main Campus, Leacock Building, 855 Sherbrooke St., W. Room 132, Montreal, Quebec.

Panelist Bios:

Professor David Keith, Canada Research Chair in Energy and the Environment at the University of Calgary, has worked near the interface between climate science, energy technology and public policy for 20 years. His work in technology and policy assessment has centred on the capture and storage of CO2, the technology and implications of global climate engineering, the economics and climatic impacts of large-scale wind power and the prospects for hydrogen fuel. Prof. Keith spent most of his career at Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University before returning to Canada in 2004 to lead a research group in energy and environmental systems at the University of Calgary. He has served on numerous high-profile advisory panels such as the UK Royal Society's geo-engineering study, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Canadian 'blue ribbon' panels and boards. Canadian Geographic named Prof. Keith Environmental Scientist of the Year in 2006.

Professor James Fleming is an historian of science and technology and Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Colby College, Maine. His teaching bridges the sciences and the humanities, and his research interests involve the history of the geophysical sciences, especially meteorology and climate change. He currently holds the Roger Revelle Fellowship in Global Environmental Stewardship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and is a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars where he is working on "A history of weather and climate control." Prof. Fleming is the founder and first president of the International Commission on History of Meteorology and the editor-in-chief of its journal, History of Meteorology. His books include Meteorology in America, 1800-1870 (Johns Hopkins, 1990), Historical Perspectives on Climate Change (Oxford, 1998), and two new titles: The Callendar Effect (American Meteorological Society, 2007), and Intimate Universality: Local and Global Themes in the History of Weather and Climate (Science History Publications/USA, 2006).

Professor Alan Robock is a Professor II (Distinguished Professor) of climatology in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University and the associate director of its Center for Environmental Prediction. He has published more than 250 articles on his research in the area of climate change, including more than 150 peer-reviewed papers. His areas of expertise include the effects of climate change on human activities, detection and attribution of human effects on the climate system, regional atmosphere-hydrology modeling, soil moisture variations, geo-engineering, climatic effects of nuclear weapons and the effects of volcanic eruptions on climate. He serves as President of the Atmospheric Sciences Section of the American Geophysical Union and Chair-Elect of the Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Philip Rasch, Laboratory Fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is an internationally respected scientist in climate modeling and atmospheric chemistry. He has served as a senior scientist in the Climate and Global Dynamics Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research where he focused on understanding the connections between clouds, chemistry, and climate of the Earth system. He co-chairs the Atmospheric Model Working Group of the Community Climate System Model project. He has served in editorial positions for international journals and on advisory panels for the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and NASA. Dr. Rasch was a contributing author for significant scientific assessments for NASA, the World Meteorological Organization, and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Event Moderator

Professor Nigel Roulet, James McGill Research Professor of Biogeosciences, Department of Geography, Associate Professor, McGill School of Environment, is currently the Group Chair for grants and scholarship programs in environmental science for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and is one of 11 scientific advisors for the Government of Ontario's Far North Act that is to preserve the biodiversity and climate regulation function of more than 250,000 square kilometres of the Boreal Forest biome. His research interests focus on the interaction of ecosystem hydrology, climatology, and ecology of the temperate, boreal, and Arctic ecosystems. He was a lead scientist in the Fluxnet-Canada and Canadian Carbon Project research networks and co-principal investigator of the Canadian Global Coupled Climate Carbon Model (CGC3M) network. Nigel has participated in the last three scientific assessments of climate change with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Prof. Roulet was the Director of the Centre for Climate and Global Change Research at McGill University from 1996 until 2002, and Director of the McGill School of Environment from 2003 to 2008.

The annual Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium is supported by the Trottier Family Foundation. Lorne M. Trottier, co-founder of Matrox Electronic Systems Ltd., funded the symposium as the realization of his vision of a "public forum to inform, inspire debate and raise public awareness on contemporary issues confronting society." Dr. Trottier and the Trottier Family Foundation have been extremely generous McGill University benefactors over the years. The Lorne M. Trottier Building, dedicated in 2004, was the product of a $10-million gift to the university. In 2006, that was followed by a second generous donation of $12 million to establish the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology in the Faculty of Science, the Lorne Trottier Chair in Aerospace Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, and associated fellowships for graduate students in both faculties.

The symposium will be available via delayed webcast. Discussion will be in English and simultaneous translation to French will be provided. Seating is limited.
Interviews with the panelists may be arranged prior to the symposium. Please contact:

Allison Flynn
Media Relations Office
McGill University

McGill University

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