News of the WeekClimate Studies

'Asilomar 2' Takes Small Steps Toward Rules for Geoengineering

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Science  02 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5974, pp. 22-23
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5974.22

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In 1975, molecular biologists grappling with how to unlock the secrets of recombinant DNA without creating infectious, runaway bioagents laid the groundwork for a regulatory framework that allowed research—and ultimately the biotech industry—to flourish. Last week, nearly 200 experts in geosciences and other scientific and policy disciplines met in the same spot to confront a new kind of risky research: large-scale geoengineering projects aimed at countering the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And although the climate scientists may have accomplished less in a week than did their biologist forebears, they did make progress. The conference organizers declared that geoengineering research is "indispensable" but said that it should be done with "humility." Governments and the public should work together to decide what schemes are "viable, appropriate, and ethical," the statement added. Cuts in greenhouse emissions should be a priority, it said, mirroring statements by the American Geophysical Union and the U.K. Royal Society.