In July 2016, SRMGI (The Degrees Initiative) partnered with the Jamaica Chapter of the Caribbean Academy of Sciences to run an SRM engagement workshop in Kingston, Jamaica. Following that successful workshop and partnership, we were invited to return to run a session at the 20th general meeting of the Caribbean Academy of Sciences.
This conference was held in Guadeloupe from 24 – 27 November 2016, and the themes were biodiversity, energy, risks and health. One of the main objectives of the conference was to bring together natural scientists, social scientists and engineers from the region to deliberate topics under the areas identified in the theme. The Conference also provided an opportunity, via parallel scientific sessions, for experts from the region’s universities, research centers and industry to come together to present their research for critical analysis.
Dr Trevor Alleyne, Foreign Secretary of the Caribbean Academy of Science, chaired the event that brought together 25-30 people – mainly scientists from a range of disciplines. Following an introductory presentation that covered the climate context, the science of SRM, and the socio-political issues it raises, group conversation considered what SRM might mean for the region and for small island nations in general.
In the plenary discussion, Dr Alleyne raised the issue of potential unintended consequences from SRM use, drawing parallels with the checkered history of weather modification. This theme was then taken up by the participants, who expressed their concerns that SRM use could lead to unforeseen problems:
“I think the unpredictability of the long-term effects would be my biggest concern”, one participant reflected. Another pointed out that humanity only has one planet to test SRM on and so they’d want to see a high level of confidence in the levels of safety and predictability. Others took up this argument: “I’m not saying it shouldn’t be considered as a research topic. It should be considered. We have to consider all options. But I’m saying when we make decisions, we have to be absolutely certain”. Another summarised the points of many of their colleagues: “so what is the level of certainty that can be associated with the model so that we can accept, ‘Okay, we have only one planet and we’re going to apply this’?”
The level of confidence in the safety of SRM, and the understanding of the range of potential downsides is a common topic that’s raised by participants to our workshops, where people commonly question both the physical and socio-political implications of deliberately intervening in the planet’s climate.
Discussions closed with a look ahead to the future, with one participant making a popular proposal that young people should start to learn about SRM when learning about climate change, as they are likely to be the people making decisions about SRM in the future. Dr Alleyne thanked the participants for their spirited discussion and called the session to a close.