Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Earthworks Unlimited: Problems and Prospects of Geoengineering

April 16-17, 2015, 9:30AM-5:30PM, 9:30AM-12:30PM
Harvard University Center for the Environment 24 Oxford Street, 3rd Floor


Workshop Objectives

Geoengineering, a suite of technologies aimed at mitigating the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change through deliberate human intervention, has attracted wide attention and given rise to sharply polarized debate. Proponents argue that prudence calls for these technologies to be rapidly developed, through appropriate forms of research and experimentation; opponents point to the troublesome ethical and political implications of imposing uncertain solutions on a culturally heterogeneous and economically and technologically unequal planet. Despite their global implications, geoengineering debates have remained sequestered in relatively few European and North American centers, and serious cross-disciplinary conversation is still in its infancy. This workshop brings together scholars from different regions and from fields including science and technology studies, political science, law and engineering to address the following major questions:

  1. What is at stake in geoengineering controversies and what accounts for differences across nations and regions?
  2. What specific issues are raised by geoengineering as a site of public experimentation?
  3. At what scales should the governance of geoengineering be imagined, and using what kinds of material and social infrastructures?
  4. How does geoengineering engage with ideas and practices of global constitutionalism?



Thursday April 16


9:30-10:00   Coffee and Registration


10:00-10:30            Welcome and introductions


10:30-12:00            Geoengineering and its Controversies

Stefan Schäfer (IASS Potsdam): International Conflict and Cooperation on Solar Geoengineering

David Keith (Harvard,SEAS/HKS): Reflections on STS and public discourse about geoengineering

Gabriel Dorthe (Harvard,STS): Who’s the Sorcerer? Rationality, Transgression and Faith in the Debate on Geoengineering

Commentator Margo Boenig-Liptsin (Harvard, History of Science/STS)


12:00-1:00   Lunch


1:00-2:30     Geoengineering as a Site of Experimentation

Steve Rayner (Universty of Oxford): Can We Find an Acceptable Framework for Geoengineering Experiments?

Jack Stilgoe (University College London): Geoengineering as a Collective Experiment

Sebastian Pfotenhauer (MIT):Trust(ing) Experiments: Public Witnessing and Scientific Credibility in Geoengineering

Commentator: Zoe Nyssa (Harvard, STS/HUCE)


2:30-2:45     Coffee


2:45-4:15     Scales and Infrastructures

Clark Miller (Arizona State University): Of Metaphor and Machinery: Imagining vs. Implementing the Global in Geoengineering

Shobita Parthasarathy (Unviersity of Michigan, Ford School): Geoengineering, the Patent System, and the Public Interest

Joakim Juhl (Harvard, STS/SEAS): Geoengineering: Innovating at the Planetary Scale

Commentator: Joshua Horton (Harvard, HKS)


4:15-4:30     Coffee


4:30-5:15     Plenary Discussion: Geoengineering and Interdisciplinarity


Friday April 17


9:30-11:00   Geoengineering and Global Constitutionalism

 Julia Dehm (Harvard Law School,IGLP):The UN Climate Framework and its Constitutive but Disavowed Sites of Governance

Vlad Perju (Boston College): Geoengineering: The Perspective from Global Constitutionalism

Phil MacNaghten (Wageningen University): Is SRM a Governable Object? And What Does this Reframing Mean for Research Funders?

Commentator: Claire Stockwell (Harvard, STS and University of Oxford)


11:00-11:15                        Coffee


11:15-12:15                        Roundtable discussion (Led by Sheila Jasanoff, David Keith)


12:15-12:30                        Concluding Remarks

Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard Kennedy School)

Co-sponsored by the Program on Science, Technology and Society and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences