Is Solar Geoengineering a Viable Tool in the Climate Policy Arsenal?

Watch the Event Recording Here.

As the planet nears the critical warming threshold of 1.5C (3F), a class of controversial climate interventions, often described under the umbrella term of  “Geoengineering”—the intentional manipulation of Earth’s planetary environment to offset the warming effects of carbon pollution–are coming increasingly into focus on the national and international policy stage. Such manipulations potentially include what’s called “solar geoengineering” or “Solar Radiation Management” , which refer to efforts to reduce the surface warming by the Sun (e.g. through the periodic injection of reflective particles into the stratosphere to mimic the cooling by an explosive volcanic eruption). They also include approaches to capture carbon from the atmosphere, followed by subsequent storage beneath Earth’s surface or in the deep ocean, known as carbon dioxide removal.

In looking at solar geoengineering,  an argument in favor of increased research is that we will fail to reduce carbon emissions quickly enough to keep warming below dangerous levels and a “stop gap” means of holding temperatures below the danger limit is needed. Arguments against solar geoengineering include the potential for dramatic unintended consequences (e.g., increased warming in some regions at the expense of cooling over other regions, drying of the continents, and worsening of acid rain and ozone depletion, among others) and “moral hazard” (e.g. that the promise of future deployment of geoengineering can be employed by polluters as an excuse for reduced effort to decarbonize the global economy now). Among the thorny question that emerge in these discussions are: a) who gets to decide the planetary thermostat? b) How do we balance the potential for both winners and losers? and c) How do we guard against “termination shock” (the possibility that e.g. solar geoengineering infrastructure will fail due to war or political instability, subjecting us to massive and rapid warming in a matter of years).

We will explore these questions surrounding solar geoengineering  with a panel with diverse views and backgrounds on the topic. The panel seminar will be moderated by Stacy-Ann Robinson (Lightning Scholar at Perry World House, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Colby College), and include panelists Michael Mann (Presidential Distinguished Professor and Director of Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media), Shuchi Talati (Visiting Scholar at Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, scholar in residence with the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment at American University), and Michael Weisberg (Bess W. Heyman President’s Distinguished Professor and Chair of Philosophy, Senior Faculty Fellow and Director of Post-Graduate Programs at Perry World House).

The Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media is excited to host and sponsor this event with Kleinman Center for Energy Policy and Perry World House. This event will be both in-person and streamed live and recorded for later viewing.

This will be an in-person and virtual event.

Register here.



Stacy-ann Robinson is assistant professor of environmental studies at Colby College, having held previous appointments at Yale University and Brown University. She researches the human, social, and policy dimensions of climate change adaptation in Small Island Developing States, with a special focus on climate justice and adaptation finance, an area in which she is a certified expert. Her work has appeared in Nature, Nature Climate Change, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs): Climate Change, Climate Policy, and other leading journals. She is also a Contributing Author to Chapter 15 (Small Islands) of Working Group II’s contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Sixth Assessment Report, which was released in February 2022. Outside of academia, Robinson has fifteen years’ experience in the government, non-profit, and private sectors, including time spent representing the Government of Jamaica in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) of the United Nations General Assembly and the International Seabed Authority. She is the 2022-2023 Lightning Scholar at Perry World House.


Michael Mann is Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania, with a secondary appointment in the Annenberg School for Communication. His research focuses on climate science and climate change. He was selected by Scientific American as one of the fifty leading visionaries in science and technology in 2002, was awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geophysical Union in 2012. He made Bloomberg News‘ list of fifty most influential people in 2013.  He has received the Friend of the Planet Award from the National Center for Science Education, the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication from Climate, the Award for Public Engagement with Science from the AAAS, the Climate Communication Prize from the American Geophysical Union and the Leo Szilard Award of the American Physical Society. He received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement 2019 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2020. He is a Fellow of the AGU, AMS, GSA, AAAS and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is co-founder of, author of more than 200 peer-reviewed and edited publications, numerous op-eds and commentaries, and five books including Dire Predictions, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, The Madhouse Effect, The Tantrum that Saved the World, and The New Climate War.

Shuchi Talati is an emerging climate technology and governance expert and is launching a new NGO focused on building just and equitable decisionmaking processes around research and potential deployment of solar geoengineering. She is also currently a co-chair of the Independent Advisory Committee to oversee SCoPEx, an effort to provide oversight for the potential outdoor solar geoengineering experiment proposed by Harvard University. Dr. Talati is a Visiting Scholar at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a Scholar in Residence at Forum for Climate Engineering at American University. She most recently served as a Presidential Appointee in the Biden-Harris Administration as Chief of Staff of the Office of Fossil Energy & Carbon Management at the U.S. Department of Energy where she was focused on creating just and sustainable frameworks for carbon dioxide removal demonstration and deployment. She has also worked on climate governance at multiple non-profit organizations and the U.S. Senate. Dr. Talati earned a BS in environmental engineering from Northwestern University, an MA in climate and society from Columbia University, and PhD from Carnegie Mellon in engineering and public policy.

Michael Weisberg is Bess W. Heyman President’s Distinguished Professor and Chair of Philosophy, as well as Senior Faculty Fellow and Director of Post-Graduate Programs at Perry World House. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of Biology and Philosophy, advisor to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Nairobi Work Programme, climate advisor to the Republic of Maldives, and directs Penn’s campus-wide research in Galápagos. He is the author of Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World and Galápagos: Life in Motion, as well as a contributing author to the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report. Much of Professor Weisberg’s research is focused on how highly idealized models and simulations can be used to understand complex systems. He also leads efforts to better understanding the interface between humans and wildlife, between humans and the climate system, and how scientific issues are understood by communities in the Americas and in East Asia. Professor Weisberg received a B.S. in Chemistry and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California, San Diego in 1999, and continued graduate study in Philosophy and Evolutionary Biology at Stanford University, earning a 2003 Ph.D. in Philosophy.